American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Africa, Ethiopia, Tigray and Adwa Regions, Nebelet, Summary of New Routes 2006–Winter 2008

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2008

Tigray and Adwa regions, Nebelet, summary of new routes 2006–winter 2008. Ethiopia is a hardcore adventure-climbing destination where you have to take the rough with the smooth, and there can be more rough than smooth. The sandstone in southern Tigray is a bit soft, except where it is well weathered. On some of the towers we did (e.g. Sheba), the rock was good. I love the climbing here because it’s so challenging. It is at the adventurous extreme of rock climbing, and it won’t appeal to the masses, that’s for sure. There has to be a place like this now that so many African climbing areas have been bolted.

Further north in the mountains of Adwa, east of Axum, lie the mountains of Adwa, a superb range of peaks composed mainly of solid rock: basalt, quarzite, and, amazingly, marble. Many are technical peaks and towers with no easy route to their summits. Most summits have now been climbed, but there is still huge scope for serious adventure/trad climbing on many untouched faces. Protection is sparse, but so far this is a bolt-free and piton-free area, and long may it remain so!

See map for location of the climbing areas.

Gobo Dura: 4km west of Axum is the 100m cliff where the giant stele were quarried. This gives good climbing on very hard rock and has now been visited by several climbing teams. Good for a shorter/more relaxing day.

Damo Gela: An impressive formation towering 400m above the plains, having one easy route to the summit (“climbed in the time of Haile Selassie,” according to locals) and a 10-pitch E1 taking the north buttress (Pat Littlejohn–Steve Sustad, 2006). The superb west face awaits an ascent.

Mai Gundi: 20 minutes from the road, with one route on the northwest face (5 pitches, E3, Littlejohn-Sustad, 2006) and another attempted. Easy route to summit via northeast ridge.

Abba Gerima cliff: Attractive and extensive crag overlooking the monastery (Ethiopia’s equivalent of the Vatican). So far two five-pitch E4’s climbed towards left side (Littlejohn-Sustad, 2006).

Dabba Guba: Striking dome set on a high mountain shelf and approached via gully bounding it on the west. Four-pitch E4 takes north ridge (Littlejohn-Sustad, 2008). Easy route to summit on S side.

Mt. Aftera: Not shown on the map as I’m not sure where it is. Eight-pitch 5.10 climbed on the west face by Mark Richey and Mark Wilford 2007.

Ganderta (“Jordan”): Superb and very accessible double-summited peak close to the road. Long E1 takes east ridge to east summit (easy descent). Five-pitch E2 takes south face of west summit (abseil descent). Littlejohn-Sustad, 2007.

Tahatai Logumte: Twin towers rising 250m from the plains. One-hour walk-in. North summit climbed by three-pitch HVS taking north ridge. South summit by five-pitch E5 starting from notch between towers. Abseil descents. Littlejohn-Sustad, 2008.

Samayata: At almost 10,000 feet, the highest of the Adwa peaks. 1.5-hour walk-in to base of south face, which is probably the highest in the area at ca 600m. Only route so far climbs south crest of lower of two towers near left side of the main face: 11-pitch El, nice “classic” climbing on great rock. Littlejohn-Sustad, 2008.

Umba Gwal Atse: Remarkable isolated tower of marble standing on the south side of the range. Two-hour walk-in. Six-pitch E2 wanders up shorter (200m) southwest side (Littlejohn-Sustad, 2007). The 300m northeast face is unclimbed and very challenging.

Rayu: Egg-shaped formation with easy route to summit on north side and big walls to south and west. Only route so far starts up southwest buttress, then veers left to a line of grooves and chimneys (8 pitches, XS, 6a, Littlejohn-Sustad, 2008). Scope for more superb extreme adventure routes.

Nebelet Tower: This spectacular twin-summited sandstone tower rises above the town of Nebelet (1.5 hours’ drive north of Hawzien). Six-pitch 5.10 route takes steep line of cracks and chimneys on southeast side, then a long traverse right to gain summit. Abseil descent. Richey-Wilford 2007.

Bouldering can be found at Gobo Dura and a few km from the Italian Hotel in Hawzien (hundreds of round but featured boulders in pleasant setting, reputedly “world class”).

Pat Littlejohn, Alpine Club

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