Geech to Chenek
Simien Mts, Ethiopia
William Mackesy’s account of this walk
It is another beautiful empty-skied morning as I poke my nose out at 6.30. Breakfast is outdoors again, our busy-laden table incongruous in the wide, bright yet quiet expanse.
Our first hour or so follows yesterday's route back towards Imet Gogo, rather than, as some books suggest, dropping south-east from Geech across the river then following the road round to Chenek.
This is such beautiful and idiosyncratic landscape. We veer off right and traverse steadily downwards to the cutback right below Imet Gogo, the last stretch dropping steeply through lichen-dripping giant heather to the extraordinary head of the now-dry valley, where it tips off down the vast sheer cliffs we saw yesterday. It somehow feels the wrong way round for a gentle valley-head to end at its top end in an abyss like this. Surely they should descend to them?
Then it is climb time, a big one, some 500m to Inatye at 4,070m. Getanet later tells me that even locals find it tough. It would actually be straightforward were it not for the altitude. An excellent path heads right, diagonally up the hill, back from the escarpment edge, as we have a cutback to negotiate higher up.
We climb through beautiful giant heather, with glades and dapples of warm sunshine. I am very slow, plodding with two steps to each very long breath, stopping regularly to enjoy the beauty. Proper high-mountain progress, although I am well behind the rest of the group.
We emerge gradually into the rocky grassland above, climbing slowly through lavishly beautiful scenery towards the final platform at Inatye. We're over 4,000m. Amazing views all around, of course, but I at least am a bit too light-headed to fully appreciate them. Lunch on top, but I don't have a huge appetite.
It is time now for a long, gorgeous descent behind the sawn-off escarpment rim. We spend a while on the short-cropped grasslands of the summit plateau (we are near enough to habitation to be back in the world of pastoralism), then drop off into a marvellous traverse-descent around the back of the rim, catching glimpses out north-west across the ridges and rough farmlands far below.
The campsites and shacks of Chenek appear some way off and a long way down: it is to be a long and in places steep descent, then a final plod on exhausted legs up the road, to our bathetically dust-blown site, part-erected right by the road.