Trekking on Ethiopia’s 3rd highest mountain,
(Taking you over 4,000 meters). Abuna Yoseph – also written Abuna Yosef – is Ethiopia’s 3rd highest massif with a peak at about 4,300m and home to some of the last remaining Ethiopian Wolves. This trek is for fitter people who are happy to walk at altitude and can manage walking up and down hill. This can be a four-night circuit of the mountain or the mountain can be climbed as a finale to a longer trek (5, 6 or 7 nights) It can also be climbed in a two night trek.
TESFA has developed a ‘base camp’ for exploring the mountain, a few hours walk from Lalibela town. The base camp at run by the Ad Medhane Alem community is perched on the escarpment edge at just over 3,500m (11,500ft) overlooking the ridge that links Abuna Yoseph and the Ashetan Mariam peak that rises from Lalibela town.
The trek typically starts by the Seven Olives Hotel in Lalibela. Here you will be met by members of the community with donkeys to carry your luggage. The walk quickly takes you out of town and up onto the hill behind. The path up to Abuna Yoseph goes through agricultural land and some woodland. Higher up it goes through a lovely stretch of Giant Erica/Heather (Erica arborea). These heather bushes can grow into 5 meter high trees and form a highland woodland that is becoming rare as land is cleared and firewood gathered. This woodland is protected.
Above the Erica wood the path climbs onto a narrow basalt ridge (photo above) and onto a narrow plateau. Here you may be lucky and see Gelada baboon on the southern slopes, and very excitingly ‘Netch Zinjaro’ – which translates as White Baboon –can sometimes be seen not 50 meters away on the northern slopes. These white baboons are Hamadrus Baboons. At over 3,000 meters this is an unusually high altitude habitat for the Hamadras Baboon.
Beyond this ridge is another climb to reach the Ad MedhaneAlem site. Once there the views are magnificent – back along the ridge and on to Lalibela.
The walk up to Abuna Yoseph
The following day you should make an early start and walk along a well trodden path to the village of Wedebiye and its school. After this you really begin to get above the habitation and reach the mountain moorland.
It is probably 3 hours walk to get up to the Afro alpine meadows where big tufts of Gwassa grass and Giant Lobelia grow and Giant Heather trees grow on the slopes. You may elect to climb the smaller of the sharp Zigit peaks on the north west side of the massif (4,030m/13,220ft) in the morning. Between the two Zigit peaks is an extraordinary outcrop of basalt rock, broken up into pentagonal sided pillars.
From here you can walk along the northern side of the mountains home to big troops of Gelada baboon (groups of least 200 can often be seen.)
Now you are in the range land of the rare Ethiopian Wolf – you may hear their bark or be lucky and catch a glimpse of this most endangered canid. There are also big meadows of Giant Lobelia (like a massive cabbage on a stem) and in the distance the peak at Rim Gedel. (We have marked this on Google Maps!)
The land gradually rises towards the peak before a steep climb up the last hundred meters or so. Once you reach the 4,300 meter peak the panoramic view makes it worth the effort.
By the time we got down from the peak it was the ideal time to spot the Ethiopian Wolf, and the area to the south and west of the peak is one of the best places to see these illusive wolves.
Nearby is the Agaw Beret site, which was finished in 2012 (constructed by Frankfurt Zoological Society). This guest house/mountain refuge facility is run as are all the Tesfa sites by the local community and is nestled in a grassy area below the peak. You can rest here on arrival and go out for further Wolf spotting walks later and early next morning. Its often best to climb the peak next morning as in the afternoon cloud often builds up, reducing visibility.
From Agaw Beret it is a lovely walk to Tesfa’s new site –Tadios Amba which is on a ridge just to the south of the peak. This site is remote and has lovely views back along the south west flowing valley and back towards the peaks. Along the walk to add to the scenery are some basalt outcrops: volcanic plugs providing evidence of the volcanic origins of these mountains.
From Tadios Amba the walk on down to Geneta Mariam has some steep sections with views of the valleys opening up. There is an important church on this ridge: Mekina Medhane Alem, built in a cave and of the old style like Debre Damo and its more famous cousin in the area Yemrehana Christos. Further down the ridge on the edge of the village of the same name is the church of Geneta Mariam itself. Geneta Mariam is home to another of the Tesfa community guest houses, built on the spur of the escarpment just west of the village. From Geneta Mariam you can continue to Meket or head back to Lalibela. Its a 25 minute drive to the airport – so it is easy to catch the morning flights from here.