Hot Rock Climbing Expedition 2: Ethiopia


Ethiopia: The wildest, craziest mix of beauty on the planet

The deep canyons, eagles, and waterfalls, Mohawk kids cracking their whips after a herd of galloping horses. Graceful robed women with crosses and ornaments tattooed to their foreheads. That all has greeted us, as we crossed The high Simien Mountains.

Our next climbing destination was Aksum in Northern Ethiopia. To get there, and if you have a death-wish, take the road northeast from Debark. Parts of the way are chipped into the cliffs and precariously teetering over 1,000s of feet of air. And so we did it, with our Big Red Truck! After that experience, discovering new routes on some remote African crags seems like the safest activity in comparison.


As we were arriving in Aksum, we were greeted by a large granite wall rising from a flat plain at 7,000 feet. Therefore the temperature was perfect, and the quality of rock was once again incredible! Solid, hard granite with perfect splitters ranging from fingers to offwidth, as well as technical faces, and an endless bouldering fantasy.

The Hot Rock team discovered this place in 2008, so we warmed up on some existing routes, and soon enough started putting up new climbs. I picked a line up a slightly overhanging 90-foot wall with a sustained crack featuring a long, off-fingers crux. I am only wondering if I was more surprised with my own stubborn persistence, or with the patience of my belayer. I named the route the Time Traveler (see topo, climb #1), in honor of stepping back in time in Ethiopia as if entering the Middle Ages, my personal feelings, and all the bloody time I spent on the crack.


We also toproped a steep physical offwidth with a (very) deep hidden handcrack to the left (climb #2), which will make a fantastic lead for anyone with strong masochistic tendencies.

Our group spent a week there on one to three pitch climbs, and all the boulderers got their fix as well. Eventually, after much beer (Sudan was a strictly dry country), we said our goodbye to Aksum, and hit the road once again.

Next stop: The Lion’s Kingdom, Kenya