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Ethiopia: Ras Dashen Summit Trek

8th Oct 2022 - 20th Oct 2022

13 days/Ethiopia /Challenging

Overview

This incredible 13-day trip takes you through the rugged landscape of the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.

Our goal? Reaching the summit of Africa’s fifth highest peak, Ras Dashen (4543m)!

With the chance of spotting an array of wildlife such as the famous Gelada baboons, discovering a fascinating cultural heritage, and tasting unique cuisine, this challenge is so much more than just another mountain to tick off your bucket list.

There are a number of elements that add to the difficulty of this trip, and these are quite subjective so may not be considered challenging for everyone.

Environmental

  • Attitudes towards time-keeping and plans can be relaxed and may change at short notice
  • Remote locations with limited communications
  • Basic camping facilities
  • The days travelling and trekking can be lengthy
  • Trekking over rough, steep uneven ground
  • A wide variety of weather conditions from very hot to sub-zero
  • Exposure to high altitudes

Mental / emotional

  • You may experience culture shock
  • You may experience homesickness in your first few days
  • You will be trekking and living with a diverse group of people of different nationalities and backgrounds

You must be aged at least 18 to participate unaccompanied. It may be possible for you to participate if you are aged 16 or 17 years old if you are accompanied by a parent or guardian–please contact us for advice. There is no upper age limit.

The ideal candidate would be someone in good physical and mental health, who is open-minded, patient and adaptable with a positive attitude towards living in basic conditions while embracing ongoing physical exertion. You should be willing to embrace all the challenges of the trek and have an appropriate level of fitness, physical capability, and mobility.

This trek is accompanied by professional English-speaking local guides who have an excellent knowledge of hiking in the region. The guides are first aid trained and will support you throughout your journey. You will also be supported by an excellent team of assistant guides, cooks and porters who together make your journey possible. You will be accompanied throughout your challenge by a Different Travel Company UK tour manager.

The terrain will vary each day but in general, you will experience undulating terrain with an uphill gradient as you slowly gain altitude. Underfoot the terrain will vary from grassy plains to rocky and dry trails, barren gravelly tracks and scree.

No technical skill is required to reach the summit of Ras Dashen but there is a small, steep scramble up solid rocks to reach the table-like summit.

Despite being close to the equator, Ethiopia has an unexpected temperate climate due to it being elevated by the highlands. The dry season runs from October to May with temperatures averaging at 20°C during the day. If it does rain, this is usually a short, light shower.

However, temperatures will vary depending on the altitude, the weather and wind chill. For the days spent at an altitude of around 3000m and above, you can expect temperatures of around 15°C to 20°C, falling close to freezing point at night and with frosty mornings likely. As you descend to the lowlands temperatures are around 25°C to 35°C. Wind chill may make these temperatures feel colder.

It’s important to be prepared for all weather conditions and temperatures by packing technical non-cotton layers and waterproofs.

Although the temperatures and conditions above are historically accurate, climate change can impact the seasons so you may experience uncharacteristic conditions during the trip which are out of our control. Should this happen the guide will assess the situation and make decisions to ensure the best enjoyment and ultimately safety of the group as a whole.

Meals are provided throughout and will be a combination of Western meals and traditional Tanzanian food. Dishes may include, but are not limited to:
Breakfast: Boiled egg, omlettes, pancakes, porridge,  toast, sausages, fresh fruit, etc.
Lunch: If you have a packed lunch it may be sandwiches, boiled egg and cake, a carton of juice, biscuits and fruit. If it is a hot lunch it may be soup and bread, toasted sandwiches, eggs, cakes, fresh fruit, salad, stew, pasta etc.
Dinner: Soup and bread, salad, coleslaw, vegetables, pasta, rice, meat or vegetable stew, fish, eggs etc.
All your meals are freshly prepared by the trek chef. A mess tent with tables, chairs, plates, mugs and cutlery is provided.

You will stay at a hotel for 2 nights, in Addis Ababa at the start of the trip and in Gondar at the end. All hotels have en-suite facilities and are on a twin or triple-share basis. A single-occupancy hotel room may be possible subject to availability and payment of a single supplement.

You will then be camping for 11 nights during the trek. At camp you will stay in 3-man tents (two to a tent). You will need to bring your own sleeping bag and sleeping mat, or these can be hired locally if you prefer. Meals will be taken in a mess tent where a table, chairs, plates, mugs, cutlery and other equipment is provided for you. Meals are cooked by your own dedicated trek chef who will prepare hearty, delicious Ethiopian and Western meals.

The group will have its own pit toilet in a private tent. We will not be using the public toilets at the camp sites. Toilet paper is not provided so you will need to bring your own.

If you need to use the toilet during the trek day you must find a private area off the trail. You must never leave used toilet paper on the ground; this must be packed up into a nappy bag or sanitary disposal bag, pop it in your daypack and dispose of it properly at camp.

There will be basic washing facilities at camp but no showers. Please bring a pack of baby wipes to keep as clean as possible.

Commitment to physical preparation is fundamental for this challenge, to ensure your best chance of success, and enjoyment, during the trek.
Attempting to complete the trek without training will make each day more challenging than necessary, being inadequately prepared may prevent you from reaching the summit, and it may hinder the experience of your teammates. The ascent does not require technical climbing skills but it is a huge mountain at high altitude so you must take your training seriously and not underestimate the scale of the challenge.

It is essential that your training includes hill walking to include trekking up and down gradients; training on flat terrain will not adequately prepare you. Your training should replicate the trek as closely as possible so engaging in many multi-day hill walks of 7+ hours per day is the optimal training ground. Hill walks should be supplemented with strength training and cardiovascular exercises such as gym workouts, running, swimming, cycling, boot camps etc. You can download a number of free apps which help you train and track your progress. E.g. MyFitnessPal, MapMyWalk, C25K (couch to 5k run) etc.

This trek is graded as challenging which a number of elements that add difficulty to the trip.

You will be trekking on rough, steep uneven ground which is steep at times, you will be exposed to altitudes of over 4500m and staying at basic campsite. You will be required to trek between 5 to 8 hours on consecutive days with a wide variety of weather conditions from very hot to sub-zero.

The highest altitude on the trek is 4550m, the summit of Ras Dashen. For the majority of the trek you will ‘trek high, sleep low’ which means you trek to high elevations each day to expose your body to a higher altitude environment, then descend to a lower altitude to rest allowing your body time to recover and acclimatise. You will be staying at campsites no higher than 3600m.

It is generally considered that altitudes above 2500m are ‘high altitude’ and from this point, it is possible for individuals to experience altitude-related symptoms. The susceptibility of an individual to experience altitude-related symptoms is not clear-cut and can happen to those who have visited areas of high altitude many times before. Your local guides are very experienced in spotting the signs of altitude sickness but you must also take responsibility for reading up on the effects of altitude exposure so you can recognise the signs. A great source of information can be found at the NHS pages on altitude sickness or on the Travel Doctor website.

We require a medical form to be completed by everyone upon registering, and any pre-existing conditions, medications used and other medical issues must be specified. All your medical details are treated in the strictest confidence.

The information will be securely screened by a qualified medical professional, and details provided to your tour manager and local guides so our staff is adequately informed and prepared to support you during the trip. By completing this booking form you are giving consent for us to contact you confidentially with any follow-up questions regarding your health.

If you declare any medical conditions you may be asked to provide more information, or we may request to contact your GP. We must be informed if there is any change to your medical conditions or medications, or if any new conditions develop. If necessary confirmation of fitness to travel from your GP or specialist may be required.

In the event that your medical issues represent a concern for your safety and wellbeing or the safety and wellbeing of others in the group, you may be recommended not to take part. If this happens your deposit will be refunded. Please note that we will never unreasonably deny participation on a trip nor contravene the Equality Act 2010.

Essentials

E-tickets + pre-departure info
Passport + copy
Visa or $52 for visa on arrival
Insurance policy details
Pen for immigration forms
Cash (£) / ATM card(s)
LED head torch + spare batteries
Camera + spare batteries
Sunglasses (preferably polarized)
Mobile phone + charger

Clothing

Casual shoes for Addis Ababa
Trainers for camp (optional)
Waterproof walking boots*
Long trek trousers
Underwear and non-cotton socks
Breathable waterproof jacket
Breathable waterproof trousers
Non-cotton t-shirt
Non-cotton long sleeve base layer top
Non-cotton warm fleece
Warm insulated jacket (e.g.down)
Warm hat which covers ears
Sun hat
Buff (www.buffwear.co.uk)
Heavy gloves or mitts + liner gloves

Hygiene

Shampoo + conditioner*
Toothbrush + toothpaste*
Antiperspirant deodorant*
Shower gel/ shave kit / loofah*
Biodegradable baby wipes*
Toilet paper (1-2 rolls)*
Nappy bags for used toilet paper*
Sun cream (SPF 30+)*
Moisturiser lotion*
Hand sanitizer
Nail brush
Feminine hygiene products*

First Aid Kit

Prescription medicine
Anti-malaria medication
50% DEET insect repellent
Ibuprofen and Paracetamol
Plasters
Blister plasters (e.g. Compeed)
Imodium (Loperamide)
Rehydration (e.g. Dioralyte)
Muscle rub (tiger balm/Deep Heat)
Anti-histamine tablets/cream
Antiseptic cream (e.g. Savlon)
Indigestion remedy (e.g. Gaviscon)
Lip balm with SPF protection
Decongestant (optional)
Throat lozenges (optional)
Scissors/tweezers
Zinc oxide tape
Spare glasses/contact lenses

Optional

Books/playing cards
Video camera + batteries
Portable battery pack/power bank
iPod/MP3 player
Trekking pole(s)
Gaiters

Luggage

Suitcase/rucksack for luggage
Trek kit bag
Daypack/backpack (30-35 litres)
Combination Padlocks
Dry bags

Eating and Drinking

Energy snacks
2-litre water bottle (e.g. CamelBak)
2x 1-litre bottles
Water purification (optional)
Electrolyte tablets (e.g. NUUN)

Sleeping

Ear plugs
Sleeping bag (with comfort rating -10°C)
Sleeping bag liner (silk or thermal)
Sleeping mat (e.g. Thermarest)

Please note: This list is just a guideline and is not exhaustive. The items on this list do not take into account your personal preferences based on your previous trekking experience, or individual requirements. For information about items on this list please refer to the trip dossier or contact The Different Travel Company on info@different-travel.com

*Please ensure you pack your hiking boots into your hand baggage in the unlikely event your checked luggage goes missing or is delayed.

*Please consider eco-friendly or biodegradable options. Consider shopping at Little Footprint Gifts.

Itinerary

Day 1 (Saturday 8 October 2022):

London – Addis Ababa
Depart for an overnight flight to Addis Ababa.

Day 2 (Sunday 9 October 2022):

Addis Ababa (2355m)
On arrival transfer to a central hotel. If time permits we will drive up to Mt Entoto, the highest point in Addis Ababa, for a short acclimatisation walk around the park. We will have a welcome dinner together this evening with a trek briefing.
Meals: Lunch and dinner
Overnight: Hotel

Day 3 (Monday 10 October 2022):

Addis Ababa (2355m) – Gondar (2133m) – Sankaber (3250m)
This morning we take a short flight to Gondar and from there we drive to Debark (2850m) where we register for the National Park and meet more of our support staff. From here you will transfer approx. 20km to Buyit Ras, where our trek begins. It takes approximately 3-4 hours to reach Sankaber camp (3250m) and the views along the way are beautiful, passing close to the escarpment ridge where you are likely to spot the endemic Gelada baboons.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Sankaber camp
Trekking: 3-4 hours

Day 4 (Tuesday 11 October 2022):

Sankaber (3250m) – Gich (3600m)
Today’s trek starts gently as we trek through terrain dotted with heather, mosses, and white lichen which hangs delicately from the trees. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for the small and elusive antelope the klipspringer, the huge but graceful lammergeier (bearded vulture), and of course the Gelada baboons. As the trek progresses the terrain becomes steeper and soon you reach the impressive seasonal Jinbar waterfall, one of the highest in Africa. From here it is a steep climb to the Jinbar valley and Jinbar River at 3,190m. After a picnic lunch, we follow the river on an undulating trail up to the Muslim village of Gich, filled with traditional round thatched huts. The trail continues into the moorland where highland flora such as the giant lobelia become more prominent on the landscape as we approach Gich camp.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Gich Camp
Trekking: 6-7 hours

Day 5 (Wednesday 12 October 2022):

Gich (3600m) – Imet Gogo (3926m) – Saha (3785m) – Gich (3600m)
Today is an acclimatisation day and another incredible opportunity for wildlife watching. We start off with a 2-3 hour trek to Imet Gogo viewpoint at 3,926m, where we are treated to spectacular views down the valley and into the canyon which was formed around 60-70 million years ago. If we’re lucky we may spot the Ethiopian wolf, Walia Ibex, Egyptian vultures, or buzzards!
We continue our acclimatisation walk to the Lobelia Valley, named because of the thousands of lobelia which grow here before climbing a nearby peak, named Saha (3785m) which offers stunning views of the gorge and rock towers of the Simien Mountains National Park. After stopping for lunch we continue to our next peak, Keda Dit (3760m) before returning to Gich camp for a hearty dinner.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Gich Camp
Trekking: 5-6 hours

Day 6 (Thursday 13 October 2022):

Gich (3600m) – Inateye (4070m) – Chenek (3600m)
Today we begin a gradual climb through the Afroalpine meadows with impressive views of the gorge below Imet Gogo as we head to the Inateye Crescent. After initially descending to the lowest point we begin a fairly steep climb to Inateye (4070m). Keep your eyes to the skies as the area is an outstanding place to spot birds, particularly raptors including tawny eagles, lammergeter and augur buzzards. As we stop for lunch you’ll also be treated to incredible views of the Imet Gogo summit, Bwhait pass and the surrounding mountains. This afternoon we will descend back to camp keeping our eyes peeled for more wildlife along the way.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Chenek Camp
Trekking: 7-8 hours

Day 7 (Friday 14 October 2022):

Chenek (3600m) – Ambiko (3100m)
We leave the boundaries of the Simien National Park today on as we take a long, but interesting walk to Ambiko and begin our approach to our ultimate goal – Ras Dashen. This is your last chance to spot the endangered species that call the national park their home.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Ambiko Camp
Trekking: 6-7 hours

Day 8 (Saturday 15 October 2022):

Ambiko (3100m) – Ras Dashen (4543m)
It’s an early start this morning as we attempt to summit Ras Dashen today. Standing at 4543m, Ras Dashen is Africa’s fifth highest mountain. We will leave camp at 3am and trek for roughly 5 hours to reach the top by around 8am. We begin our climb in a loop to the southeast, through a gully, and then make our way north to the summit. It is a bit of a scramble up to two distinct rock summits, but you will have finally made it to the top! After a stop to take in the views and some celebratory photographs we will descend back to lower altitudes to celebrate our achievements of the day and camp for the night.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Ambiko Camp
Trekking: 7-8 hours

Day 9 (Sunday 16 October 2022):

Ambiko (3100m) – Sona (3200m)
It’s another long day today with almost 10 hours of trekking on challenging terrain. There are plenty of ups and downs today as we head to the superbly positioned camp at Sona. There may be chance to stop for some local coffee at Arquaziye along the way. Today is another challenging day as we trek an undulating route to Sona.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Sona Camp
Trekking: 10 hours

Day 10 (Monday 17 October 2022):

Sona (3200m) – Mekarebya (1900m)
We head mainly downhill today as we descent to the Ansiya river, a tributary of the Tekeze that drains towards Sudan. Once we reach the river we continue on flat ground along a trail with splendid views of the forest. We will explore the lowlands and see rare flora and fauna including the Cordia Africana tree and birds such as the African paradise flycatcher, pin-tailed whydah, Hemirpch’s and red hornbills.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Mekarebya Camp
Trekking: 5-6 hours

Day 11 (Tuesday 18 October 2022):

Mekarebya (1900m) – Mulit (2050m)
We descend further this morning to walk along a riverbed for a couple of hours, before we then start to climb again to reach Hawaza, from where you can see some impressive rock towers. It is then a flat path to the vibrant village of Mulit.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Mulit Camp
Trekking: 5-6 hours

Day 12 (Wednesday 19 October 2022):

Mulit (2050m) – Adi Arkay (1665m) – Gondar
Our final day of trekking, with just a short two-hour stroll downhill to Adi Arkay. We meet the vehicle here and drive to Gondar (Approx 6 hours).
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Overnight: Gondar Hotel (or similar)
Trekking: 2 hours

Day 13 (Thursday 20 October 2022):

Gondar – Addis Ababa – London
We will fly back to Addis Ababa this morning. Depending on flight times there may be some sightseeing opportunities before heading to the airport and the return flight to the UK.
Meals: Breakfast

N.B. This itinerary may change due to unusual weather patterns, the ability of the group, and so on. We will do our best to keep to the set itinerary however we cannot be held responsible for changes that might occur outside of our control. In all such circumstances your guide and tour leader will have the final say in the interest of the health and safety of the group.

Costs & How to pay

Registration fee: £475
and then either…

Self-funded: £2400 balance

or

Sponsorship: £4800

or

Flexi: £2400 trip costs balance plus £2400 sponsorship for a charity of your choice

SELF-FUNDED

This option is for those who choose to pay the trip costs (flights, accommodation, food, guides, etc.) themselves. There is no sponsorship required although if you wish to raise sponsorship for a charity you are welcome to do so.

  • A registration fee is payable at the time of booking.
  • The trip cost balance is payable to Different Travel 10 weeks prior to departure.
  • You are welcome to fundraise separately for any charity of your choice but this is not mandatory. Any fundraising undertaken cannot be used for your trip costs.

SPONSORSHIP

This option is for those who wish to raise sponsorship to cover both the costs of the trip (flights, accommodation, food, guides, etc.) and a donation to their chosen charity. There is a minimum sponsorship amount for each trip that you are required to raise in order to participate.

  • A registration fee is payable at the time of booking.
  • The minimum sponsorship must be paid to the charity 12 weeks prior to departure.
  • The amount the charity receives is at least 50% of the minimum sponsorship total.

FLEXI

This option is for those who choose to pay the trip costs (flights, accommodation, food, guides, etc.) themselves while still raising some funds for the charity.

  • A registration fee is payable at the time of booking.
  • The trip cost balance is payable to Different Travel, and the fundraising is payable to the charity, 12 weeks prior to departure.
  • Any fundraising undertaken cannot be used for your trip costs.

What's included

  • Return flights from London
  • Airport taxes and charges
  • Local transfers and transport
  • Accommodation (2 nights in hotels, 9 nights camping)
  • All meals as specified on the itinerary
  • English-speaking local guides
  • Mules, muleteers, cooks, scouts, and support crew
  • Current National Park entrance fees
  • Trekking permits
  • Different Travel UK tour manager

What's not included

  • Any necessary vaccinations or medication
  • Ethiopia visa (current cost US$50)
  • Drinks, laundry, souvenirs and personal expenses
  • Tips and gratuities (approx US$150pp in Ethiopian birr)
  • Transport to/from UK airports
  • Personal trek kit
  • Travel insurance
  • Any increases in Simien Mountains National Park fees between time of writing (April 2021) and time of departure

Got a Question?

If you’ve a question about this challenge that you can’t find the answer to within the given information then complete this quick form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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