Simien Mts, Ethiopia
William Mackesy’s account of this walk
Up at 6 for a 7am breakfast. A leisurely pack in the dim early light.
5 of us are going to climb Mt Buahit, at 4,430m the second-highest in the Simien. So we load up on porridge and very jammy bread in the still-cold mountain air – the sun gets to Chenek late.
We set off shortly after 7.30. After a short road stretch, we strike right up a startlingly pretty valley, notable for its mixed heather and lobelia vegetation. Everlasting flower bushes, packed thick with their white, papery blooms, glow against the early sun.
This is a long, steady climb of 800m or so, easy enough at normal altitudes but a slog here. Fortunately, there are many excuses to stop and admire stuff. We reach the escarpment edge for some of the best views yet, courtesy of the vivid, slanting early light. We are a third of the way in an hour, that tipping point when you know you will make it so you know the slog is worthwhile.
We wind just behind the lip for half an hour or so, through gorgeous vegetation, every so often reaching huge views out over the morning landscape thousands of feet below.
We meet a group of geladas grazing, playing, grooming (with screeches as pain is inflicted), climbing the lobelias to pick at their upper fronds. Utterly delightful.
We rejoin the road for a stretch, then turn uphill for the real test. We trudge straight up the steeper upper slope, relieved to find magnificent walia ibex, the males with tremendous curved horns, to pause to admire. They are rare, but plentiful here and not shy. It is any excuse now, but they enable a lot of breath-catching.
Everlasting flowers are the main plants here, so these slopes are a delicate pale grey.
I am reduced to stopping for breath every 100 paces as the summit approaches. Fortunately, so is Jessica, so I am not humiliatingly alone.
Then we are there on top, 4,430m, in 3 hrs 20 (Bill must have got there in well under 3hrs, Paul not that long after – creditable given he has had a problem night). Stunning views all round: Ras Dashen, the highest summit, due east; the amazing escarpment lip we walked yesterday behind us; and a youth tending a rug-full of tat! We can't not buy, hard-headed cynics as we may be, given his effort to be there: what is says about the economy, though.
Our descent takes 1hr 30 – Jessica and I retrace our steps along the escarpment edge for the best views, while Bill, Serena and Paul head straight down.