Africa is big. Its animals are big, its rain forests are big, and its deserts are huge. Luckily, peak-bagging mountain bikers will find multiple rideable peaks that are big too. A good introduction to the epic African summit expeditions, Ras Dejen rises above the rest of Ethiopia and the Simien Mountains to a height of 14,928 feet. Despite being the smallest of the big African peaks, its height isn’t what makes it challenging; it’s the days of riding and painfully large amount of climbing that’s needed to get there.
According to the route a couple of Giro athletes and photographer Dan Milner took in 2014, the ride starts at the Aynameda Camp high in the Simien Mountains. Because only a couple mountain bikers have ever rolled knobbies in the National Park, expect a crowd of anxious and awestruck children at almost every village. While riders traverse their first windswept slope of the trip, an escarpment nearly 7,000 feet tall will be looming on the left side. Make sure to stop to fully appreciate the fantastically foreign land. On the dry, barren edges of the massive cliff, scrubby trees dot the area, rooted in rocky, pale brown soil among wispy blonde grass. Loud baboons with a rambunctious attitude will be sharing the view with riders. It’s hard not to get consumed by a grand sense of adventure amidst a scene like that.
From the Chenek Camp, riders begin the long slog up the ridge to Bwahit, Ethopia’s third highest point at 14,557 feet. On this day, they’ll have to navigate more rocks on this mean handlebar-pushing segment. Whether you actually summit Bwahit or not, the reward is just the same: a massive descent off the slopes of the 14er into the valley below, complete with big rock gardens and loose switchbacks.
The footpaths of Ethiopia's Simien Mountains provided the route for epic single track MTB adventure last year. We took a group of MTB riders to these hills to skirt round canyons, summit Ras Deshan, Ethiopia's highest peak, and experience life in rural Africa. Secret Compass will be returning to these peaks next October with a team expedition to ride and bikepack through the rugged valleys and highlands of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Brilliant photo by @dain_zaffke. For more photos, video and articles about this Ethiopia Epic check out giro.com @girocycling @rootoneproductions @pinkbike #Ethiopia #MTB #ride #Simiens #mountains #bike #adventuretravel #expedition #epic #explore #adventure #wanderlust #seetheworld #instatravel #travelgram #simienmountains #africa #rasdeshan #summit #bikepack #singletrack #SecretCompass #AchieveTheExtraordinary #UNESCO
Next, it’s time to summit Ras Dejen after spending the night in Ambiko. A mix a doubletrack and singletrack will guide you through a wild variety of terrain. The valley riding will be loose and dusty; however, higher up the dust turns into hero dirt, the giant lobelia trees lending the climb an other-worldly feel. After ferrying bikes up the last summit push, riders will plummet back down into Ambiko, testing just how good the hero dirt is on the way down.
The last couple days of the expedition challenge riders to get back to civilization. They must push their bikes out of the valley Ambiko rests in, and then push their way down the sketchy goat path that descends into the lowlands.
Although riders will hike-a-bike quite a bit, the rideable portions and the lifelong memories will certainly be worth it.