Abuna Yoseph - Ethiopia's 3rd highest massif.
TESFA develop 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.
In late June 2008, Rita and Evelyn from Austria (pictured on left) were TESFA's first clients to visit Abuna Yoseph, staying at the Ad Medhane Alem site. The dinning tukul, toilet and a sleeping tukul were completed, and under the supervision of TESFA's cook trainer Dejitnu, the community ensured that Rita and Evelyn were well looked after.
We started the walk in front of the Seven Olives Hotel - Up town Lalibela, and walked quickly out of the town up onto the hill behind. The path up to Abuna Yoseph goes through agricultural land and some woodland. Higher up it goes through alovely 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 we saw Gelada baboon on the southern slopes, and very excitingly 'Netch Zinjaro' - which translates as White Baboon - not 50 meters away on the northern slopes. These white baboons disappeared before we could get a photo or a good look, but it seems most likely they are Hamadrus Baboons. At around 3,000 meters this is an unusualy high altitude habitat for the Hamadras Baboon.
The following day was a huge one in many ways. We attempted to explore the whole mountain, climbing the smaller of the sharp Zigit peaks on the northwest 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 we proceeded along the northern side of the mountains and came across a huge troop of Gelada baboon, at least 150-200 could be seen, young ones with their mothers and big puffed up males taunting each other.
We also heard the Ethiopian Wolf bark and proceeded towards the meadows of Giant Lobelia (like a massive cabbage on a stem) from which the sound came and towards the peak at Rim Gedel.
The land gradualy 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 as luck would have it we saw three wolves. This rounded off a wonderful day. However there was a tough 4 hour walk back to the base camp. Our exhausted group arrived there well after dark, walking by torch light!
With Frankfurt Zoological Society, TESFA will develop a second site near to Rim Gedel during the last months of 2008. This will allow a more leisurely exploration of the mountain.