Ethiopia: On top of the world in the Simien Mountains

The Simien Mountains in Northern Ethiopia are vast and beautiful, and, like all mountains, they can be extremely challenging.

Few would undertake to scale them without proper weatherproof clothing and sturdy boots. But some people are made of sterner stuff… as I discovered when climbing the slopes of a mountain called Bwahit, at a height of 4,200 metres.

As we were crossing a particular area I scrambled up a short section of rock, looked up and saw a person, dressed in a shabby white robe stretching down to his ankles, observing me.

He was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian clergyman. His eyes twinkled merrily, and he smiled warmly. He was using a slender cross as a walking stick and was barefoot. I could see that the soles of his feet were like leather. We said hello to one another, paused briefly to catch our breath, looked at the beautiful scenery around, and smiled again. This wiry, resilient-looking man resembled a medieval pilgrim.