Walk in Wild Places | Ras Dashen, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Ras Dashen, Simien mountains, Ethiopia

The crowning glory of the Ethiopian highlands

November 2021 (TBC) Book now!

Ras Dashen or Ras Dejen (ራስ ደጀን in Amharic language) is the highest mountain in Ethiopia and tenth highest peak on the African continent. Situated in the Simien Mountains National Park, it is 4,550 metres (14,928 ft) high.

According to Erik Nilsson, Ras Dashen is the eastern peak of the rim of an enormous volcano. Its western counterpart is Mount Biuat (4,430 meters), separated by the valley of the Meshaha river. Snowfalls often occur during the night, which, during the hottest period of the year is normally completely melted by midday when temperatures on the mountain may be as high as 5 degrees. The dry winters see little snowfall, but if it does it usually lasts for weeks or even months.

The peak can be climbed in two days* by very fit and fully acclimatised parties. But you would miss out on the most spectacular trek if you do. If you want to experience dramatic scenery, abundant birdlife, and some very interesting animals, or need to acclimatise, then we recommend a five to six day, or eight to nine day trek culminating in an ascent of Ras Dejen.

The summit itself is a somewhat unimpressive ascent, reserved for those whose aim is to summit Africa's high peaks. If this is not your aim, then bypassing it and enjoying the scenery in the lower parts of the mountain, may provide a far more satisfactory trek. Contact us to to discuss your Simien Mountain Adventure.

* Although the peak can be climbed in two days, the Parks Board will nevertheless charge you for a 5 day trekking permit and scout fees. So will the guide and cook. The muleteer is more negotiable, the payment depending on how many days they have to trek to return to base.

Ras Dashen / Simien Mountain typical route itinerary

The itinerary below is for a 9 day trip, including two days exploring Addis Ababa and Gondar before the trek, to help with acclimatising to local conditions and shaking off long-distance flight fatigue.

Day 1 - Arrive in Addis Ababa, 2,400m.

We'll meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. In the afternoon, we'll visit the National Museum where we'll meet 'Lucy', our oldest known ancestor, amongst other fascinating palaeontological exhibits. Our second stop is to the Ethnological Museum (at Addis Ababa University), with its diverse displays giving insight into the various cultures which make up the country. Afterwards we'll take a drive through the Mercato, a chaotic spectacle where you can buy almost anything imagineable...

We'll have dinner in a local restaurant where musicians, dancers and singers perform traditional acts.

Day 2 - Gondar

We fly to Gondar in the morning, and transfer to the Government run Goha Hotel, with its superb view across the town and surrounding countryside. After lunch, we'll visit the Debre Berhan Selassie Church, with its frescoes illustrating the story of Christ. Our next stop, after a coffee at a traditional roadside coffee shop, is the Royal Enclosure, housing the impressive 17th century castles constructed during Emperor Fasiladas' reign. Our last stop is at the fascinating Fasiladas' Bath, used for Baptism ceremonies.

Day 3 - Drive to Sankaber, 3,250m/10,663ft in the Simien Mountains National Park - 4.5 hours.

We set off after breakfast for the Simien Mountains National Park and the start of our trek. The scenery is pleasant, with farms, and local villages seen along the way. Watch out for the many eucalyptus trees, used for scaffolding on large building projects, construction of houses and firewood. The Amhara are the main tribe in this area - Christian and Muslim living side by side with mutual respect for one another.

At Debark we'll stop off at the National Park Headquarters, to register and get assigned a scout who will accompany us on our trek. While we have coffee, our cook will do some last minute shopping for fresh supplies for our dinners.

A couple of hours further driving will bring us to Sankaber campsite where our tents will be set up and the cook will prepare fresh tea, coffee and popcorn. Those who feel like stretching their legs after all the driving, may be rewarded with sightings of Eagles, Griffon vultures, thick-billed ravens and spectacular views along the nearby escarpment.

Day 4 - Trek Sankaber to Gich** (Geech), 3,600m (11,811ft) - 5-7 hours

We follow a track east along a ridge first dropping into the Koba Valley, before climbing steeply to Michotis - on our left is the spectacular Jinbar waterfall dropping 500m into the Gich Abyss. Look out for falcons, augur buzzard, griffon vulture and lammergeier. We'll stop off for a relaxed lunch, before continuing to Gich camp, set on a plateau with stunning views across the countryside.

** Placenames spelled as per Simien Mountains map

Day 5 - Trek Gich to Chennek 3620m (11,812ft), via Imet Gogo (3,925m) and Inatye (4,070m) - 5-7 hours

Today's walk and campsite is the most spectacular stage. The 360 degree views from Imet Gogo, a rocky outcrop, is by far some of the most spectacular you'll have on this trek. We drop down into a valley covered with Giant Heather trees, before zig-zagging upwards to Inatye where you'll be able to enjoy further spectacular views and a relaxing lunch. From here it's mostly downhill to Chennek camp with its impressive views over the escarpment. Look out for giant Lobelia trees, Walia ibex, Gelada baboons, and the endemic Simien fox (also known as a Ehtiopian wolf) along the way.

Chennek camp offers the most impressive views (of all the campsites we'll be staying at). After a few dry days we can also treat ourselves to some beer and sodas this evening.

Day 6 - Trek to Bwahit Peak (4,430m) - return to Chennek camp - 5-6 hours

Bwahit Peak isn't the highest peak in the Simiens, but it does provide the more impressive views. The trek from Chennek camp first follows the dirt road that leads to Bwahit Pass before making its way up a ridge to the summit and views that seem to stretch to forever.

Day 7 - Drive to Chiro Leba, trek to Ambiko 3,145m (10,318ft) 4-5 hours

Today is a rest day. After breakfast we'll be driven to Chiro Leba, where we'll stop off for a break. From here we descend to the river, before we start the final 1.5-2 hours of walking to Ambiko, our campsite for the evening. Along the way we'll encounter various groups of people who will be walking or driving cattle, goats or packed mules to and from the village. Expect children to talk to you along the way, trying to practice their english.

Day 8 - Summit day! Ras Dashen 4,550m (14,928ft), return to Ambiko - 8-10 hours

Today is summit day. We start around sunrise for the summit, and return to Ambiko for a second night, weary but happy with our success! (It is possible to ascend the summit and return to Chiro Leba where we can get transport to take us back to Gondar on our summit day, but this requires a very early start.)

Day 9 - Return to Gondar / continue trek to lowlands, or start tour to other places of interest

From Platberg to Kilimanjaro - via Mount Stanley, Mount Kenya, and Mont-aux-Sources

Harry describes his journey to the top of Kilimanjaro. Experiences he had, like drinking tea with a marijuana farmer. Problems with trekking organisers, like running out of food. Some observations will make you smile; others touch you emotionally. Part travel story. Part guidebook. Information for trekkers and an easy read for armchair travellers.

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Key facts

Location

Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Height

4,550 m / 14,928 ft

Duration

9 days ...

Tour start in Addis Ababa and end in Gondar, lasting for 9 days (8 nights)
Price

Starts from US$ 3330

Group size

12 people (max) ...

(Note! This may vary for private trips where groups of 30 or more can be accommodated.)
Currency

Ethiopian Birr ...

Etb 100 = USD 2.92 (June 2020)
Visas

Required for all except citizens of Kenya and Djibouti ...

Visas on Arrival are only available at Addis Ababa airport for certain countries; all other countries must obtain visas from the Ethiopian Embassy closest to their country, or apply online for an Ethiopian eVisa

Personal equipment

Purchases for personal use (including snacks and drinks), and any meals not taken with the group.

Everything else, from the moment you land, to the moment you check in to return home, is included.

Price includes all accommodation, meals (except lunches and/or dinners not taken with the group), full support of English-speaking Tour Leader, Local trekking/climbing guide, plus assistant guides, cook and porters on trek, bottled/purified water on trek, all ground transfers, permits and hut fees, rescue insurance, tips to porters (so that you don't have to worry if you are giving too much or too little; you may of course tip individuals extra for special service).

Yes! Every person joining this trip is insured against cancellation, high-altitude rescue, medical emergencies, repatriation and loss of personal equipment!


Professional advice

I'll help you plan your trip, give you advice on equipment, and get you ready to give you the best possible chance to reach the summit

Professional team

I only work with guides that I have personally climbed with; who understand local conditions, are certified first aiders, and can be relied on.

Professional support

You'll be accompanied by an experienced European leader who knows the people and the conditions, and who can help you solve problems if they arise.