As I write this, I’m about to head off to Africa. It’s been three years since I last set foot on the so-called Dark Continent, but few places live larger in my mind than the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia.
This photo was taken on a climb to Ethiopia’s highest mountain, Ras Dashen. At 4550 metres above sea level, it’s often claimed as the fourth-highest peak in Africa, which is great, so long as you overlook a few unnamed summits in the Rwenzori. On the morning of this shot I was camped by a tiny mountain village named Chenek, about two days’ walk from Ras Dashen.
The previous afternoon we’d wandered into Chenek through rain and hail, tailed by village kids, but this next morning broke clear and fine. I wandered out to the cliff edge – in the Simiens, the escarpments drop away up to 1km below your feet – looking over a chess board of peaks. It was like an African Meteora, without the monasteries. As dawn came, gelada baboons began rising up the cliffs around me, materialising from the cliffs where they sleep to avoid predators. Through them strolled one of my hiking companions, heading to the cliff edge to share my dawn view, providing me with a lone figure to set against what, to me, is one of the world’s great mountain skylines.