Why Ethiopia?
has been relatively untouched by adventure tourism. Most tourists have never heard of the adventure potential in Ethiopia, and few are aware of its geological, botanical, and zoological wonders. In the high desert of Tigray, the northern most region of Ethiopia, monolithic sandstone towers stretch up to 180m high. These towers have been partially explored for religious reasons, the result of which is a smattering of rock-hewn churches perched midway up escarpments in saddles and depression.
But their shear walls, complex faces and summits. Those vertical aspects that define climbing and climbers have remained virtually unknown. The red and gob spires splitting the azure sky are the towers of legends, the type of rock formations climbers’ dream of finding, so rare that few still exist in a virgin state. Intricate walkways and paths carved in stone lead in to these religious fortresses. For most visiting an ancient rock-hewn church is the closest they will come to climbing in Ethiopia. The churches are equally ancient and spread like a labyrinth over the region.

Climbing trips in Ethiopia
The mountains of Tigray (Debre Damo)
Ethiopia’s oldest monastery, Debre Damo spreads across the flat top of a prominent Amba not far from the Eritrean border. It can be reached only by climbing up a long leather rope that could be pulled up in times of distress to prevent access to the top. The monks now welcome visitors who come with peaceful intentions, but the only access for visitors is still by way of the rope. Women and all female beings are excluded from the monastic precincts; this custom applies also to several other but not all - monasteries in Tigray. (Proposed tour)

Gheralta
Gheralta is a range of up thrusts; it is 450 meters tall and more than 3 times that wide.
The Gheralta is an east –west chain across the central-north of the province. The Gheralta offers every kind of enticement to the adventurer; pinnacles vertical cliffs, flat-topped ambas, and long traverses across broken slopes. The chain contains at least a dozen rock churches. Most of them are still served by monks and priests, and some have extraordinary art dating back to the 14th century. There are also abandoned chapels and many hermits’ cells.

At the far Eastern end of this chain of peaks and pinnacles are three rock-cut Axumite tombs that have been adapted to serve as Christian churches. Over one, a large classic north Ethiopian –style church has recently been built, incorporating its Axumite sub-structure. Not far away, out side the small town of Hawzien to the East, an Italian investor has recently opened a beautiful lodge that offers comfortable accommodation and a magnificent view of the whole length of the Gheralta. It is excellent location from which to plan excursions. (Proposed tour)

Abune Yemata
The Sacred Site of Considered the most challenging climb of the rock hewn churches. Abune Yemata nestles into a sandstone spires west of Megab.
The climb to Abune Yemata is describes in guide books as a vertical slope followed by a passage (walkway) to the isolated church entrance.
From the base of the ascent, it is roughly 45 meters to a saddle, and then the final ledge. The rock here is solid, though polished even slippery.
The history of Abuna Yemata is both strategic and spiritual. Difficult to access, the church was a natural refuge for villagers escaping the fighting below. The church has been a site for humans to escape in other ways as well. The caves are scattered with skeletal remains of hermits who chose to die in the sacred area of the church. The sheer, stunning, vertical relief of Abune Yemata is not its only claim to fame. Frescoes dating to the 11th century cover the cupolas. Very little is known about the history of the rock-hewn churches of Tigray. But the priest tolds Abune Yemata was built over a period of eight centuries, starting in AD 800. It was carved by hand into a massive sand stone pillars; it has been a sacred site since the 1300s.

The mountains of Wollo
On all sides of the historic town of Lalibela rise splendid mountains that have never been climbed. Exceptions are Mount Esheton and Mount Makina, both of religious significance Mt Esheton’s flat topped summit (3219 meters) is clearly visible slightly to the South East of Lalibela. The mountain has two early churches that attract pilgrims. Esheten Maryam, rock-hewn in a cliff on the North side of the mountain 50 meters below the summit; and Nakuto la’ab, in a broad open cave at the base of the mount on the southern side, by tradition established during the reign of the Zagwe Emperor of that name who reigned briefly during the first half of the 13th century. Both churches have long been accessible over trails from Lalibela.
Mount Makina, about 40 kilometers directly to the East, is famous for a tiny church built in a cave below its summit, reaching requires a 2-3 hours hike over a trail leading up from the rock carved church of Genete Maryam.

Bale Mountains
Bale Mountains National Park is really a climbing area. At Dinsho Headquarters a one km nature trail has been designed up Dinsho hill. This gives a brief introduction to the plants and animals of the area, and the location of the main park.

Climbing on Gaysay hill is rewarding in terms of the views and chances of seeing wildlife at close quarter. The physically fit will find the steep climb to the Boditi summit (3520m) worthwhile for a spectacular view of the Gaysay river flats and south into the main Park area. The sanetti plateau is crowned by several peaks, Konteh Tullu – the striking volcanic plug formidable, but 20 minutes of steep scrambling from its base gives you magnificent views from the top

Mountains of Arsi
Arsi is Oromo country, a gently rolling plateau averaging a height of 3000 meters and punctuated by several mountains, all volcanic in origin. Midway down the plateau towards the south are two peaks, Mount Kakka and Mount Enquolo, both lightly forested and said still to shelter remnant herds of Nyala.

Munt Chilalo, a huge hulk of mountain that dominates the North part of Arsi.
Chilalo 4021 meters appears to be a gentle mountain. It is seldom climbed.
The great gash on top which separates Chilalo from the ridge that leads eastward to the Baada summit (4133 meters) offers excellent opportunities for rock-climbing and al manners of ascents and descents over precipitous cliffs and steep slopes.
A traverse of the entire Chilalo-Badda ridge from west to east would take 3 or 4 days.
The best track up Chilalo leads directly east from the center Assela (Capital of Arsi) (Proposed tour)


Mount Fantalle in Awsh National Park
Half day drive to East of Addis Ababa is the first of several volcanic mountains that rise from Awash Lowlands extending East ward Dire Dawa and Harar.

Fantale has a huge crater where stream and smoke still emerge from fumaroles on its floor. It can be walked around the entire crater on its rim, around 2000 meters. So the hike requires little exertion though it can take up to 2 hours. It would not have been dangerous to spend the night in the crater, for, in spite of steaming and smoking, it has not been known to erupt in modern times. (Proposed tour)

Mount Zuqualla at 2989 meters
Is the most prominent features of the horizon to the south when air is clear enough in Addis Ababa to afford a good view.
It is a long dormant volcano with a large lake in its crater. A small museum consisting of several Tukuls (huts) with displays has recently been opened a short distance south of the river. The area to the west is one of the most important sites of activity by early men in Ethiopia. It is accessible over a track that turns to the west, a short distance beyond the bridge.

Zuqualla is now regarded as sacred by Christians, as well as pagans and Muslim Oromo. It was the residence of one of Ethiopia’s most revered early saints, Abune Gebre Manfas Qiddus, reputed to have come from Egypt in the early Middle Ages and alleged to have lived for 600 years a top the mountain. He is pictured in Ethiopia iconography as an old man with long hair and accompanied by friendly lions and leopards. An animals festival in March celebrates Abo and draws tens of thousands of pilgrims who come to spend the night on top of the mountain several trails enable them to reach the top. (Proposed tour)

Lake Wonchi
About 60 kilometers west of Addis Ababa, fills a series of irregular shaped craters in a long extinct volcano whose edges rise over 3’000 meters. It is easily accessible on a highway that leads from Wolisso (Ghion) to Ambo and crosses the shoulder of the mountain.

Wonchi, like other lakes in the rift valley, become a refuge for Christian as originally pagan Oromo advanced from the south into central and North Ethiopia in the 16th and 17th century. The people who live in the crater still maintain features of medieval life. As island in the lake contain a church with early foundations. Dugout canoes made of cedar logs are used for transportation on the lake and the village around it can be reached over trails leading down the steep sides of the crater.

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