The Bale Moutains in Ethiopia are high mountains, which are an area for a great trekking experience, with treks between 3 and 14 days. Quite unknown in Europe and even more in Canada and the USA it is a mountain plateau with very few visitors where you can still have a glimpse of the traditional way of life of the local people and unique wildlife

Rating of the Trek of the Mountains

Trekking in the Bale Mountains is easy and can be done by everybody who can deal with the high altitude of more than 4000m. My trek visited all important locations with the exception of the Harenna Forest, and can be done easily in 6 days. It is never more than 17km or 600m altitude difference per day. Difficult, steep or exposed passages do no exist.

The Bale Mountains are of vulcanic origin and rise over several plateaus with escarpments until you finally end at the Sanetti Plateau. All major peaks rise from the Sanetti Plateau up to about 4300m. This landscape is similar to the scottish highlands. The vegetation is sparse (exception is the Harenna forest) and is again similar to northern scotland or the fjaells of northern scandinavia, however with very different plants.


Keyrensa - Rafu Lavaflow, Sanetti Plateau


The path from Keyrensa up to the Sanetti Plateau and the bizarre Rafu lava flow are one of the highlights of the trek. You have to expect about 5 hours walking and about 400m in altitude difference, not to much, but you will feel the altitude as Raf is already higher than 4000m. After crossing a little river in the keyrensa valley in the morning this day is absolutly dry, no water at all!

The path does not follow the keyrensa vally, it crosses over to another valley in the north east, which will lead you up to the Sanetti Plateau. The Sanetti Plateau is shaped like a very flat dome with peaks and ridges dissecting it. As already mentioned the landscape looks a bit like northern Scotland or Scandinavian fjaells. After reaching the Plateau the Rafu Lavaflow will be visible very soon, first some smaller parts on the left hand side and finally the real thing on the right.

Camp is right at the lavalflow in a small village. On one side of the camp are the strange forms of the eroded lava on the other the barren Sanetti Plateau with Gaint Lobelias. A very memorable place!


You are now in the Denka Valley, which is really beautiful in the higher parts, later however you walk for more than one hour in a burned down juniper forest. It is nice to see how the forest comes back, but for me, as I was not prepared for this sight, it was very dissapointing.

The camp was pretty, the tents where pitched on a little meadow (we are now low enough for meadows...) close to a rock shelter which was used for cooking and as sleeping place for the horse handlers. Other hikiers told me, that they stayed a little higher up in the valley close to some huts. There is a little creek with quite safe water, as there had been no cattle or goats around.

The next day was not very exciting, two valleys are crossed and very soon farms with fields come into sight. After 4-5 hours you arrive at Dinsho.

This is the end of the Bale Mountains trek.

Equipment, logistics and recommendations


For the trek through the Bale Mountains the requirments for the equipment are not very special, as it is not very stormy, it does not rain very much (at least in the dry season) and only the nights are quite cold. It is not even necessary to have the most lightweight equipment on the market, as the horses will carry it.

A solid, waterproof tent, a good sleeping mattress and a sleeping bag (rated at least for usage until -5 C) is sufficient. Light trekking boots, which do not have to be waterproof are more than enough. All the same you should carry rain gear and take clothing you would choose for fall in the alps (do not be tricked, 4000m in Africa can be really, really cold.....),

As you will probably spend the evenings at the campfire, do not take anything too expensive as sparks and the smoke will take their toll.

Sun and wind on Sanetti Platea are unforgiving, sun protection, lip balm, good sunglasses, a hat are a must. If you want to get up early (as I have for my photography) take gloves and a warm cap.


It is more difficult to take the right cooking gear and food. It is expected that the client brings the food for the crew, at least for a certain extent. The selection of food in Dinsho is very limited. I bought everything together with a cook (my tour agency offered me his help, and it was very, very helpful) in Addis and I would recommend such a set up. In Addis it is easy to get pasta, rice, potatoes, vegetables, soups, lentils, spices, tea, coffee etc in the mercato area. Supermarkets or stores like in western countries are rare and very often have a limited selection of goods.

For lunch and my very first breakfast I bought peanuts, dates and dried grapes (sultanas), which I mixed to get a trail mix. Still in my sleeping bag I ate a little bit of this mix and drank hot ginger water, which I prepare the night before and keep it in a thermos. This was my breakfast before I go out for photography. At about 9 - 10 I returned and I ate the real breakfast.


The choice of the cooker was tricky. If you prepare your food on your own, you can bring any trekking stove running on kerosene or petrol. Unleaded petrol is not available, kerosene ca be bought at the bigger petrol stations, as it is used for cooking and heating. The handling of such a stove is a bit difficult and as I had to rely on the crew for cooking (I was out for photography) such a stove was no option. CampingGaz or similar stoves are rare and gaz is very hard or not at all to find. I looked for it for two days in Addis, in vain! I finally bought a standard gaz burner and rented a small gaz bottle from a store in Addis. My driver knew the owner and managed this deal. Everybody in Ehtiopia knows how to handle such a burner, it is rock solid, the container is heavy, but will not break and will last long enough even for a long expedition. For me it was the perfect solution. Standard pots from steel or aluminium will do, do not take anything highend titan or whatever. The crew will use it on open fire and the handling of the cooking equipment is rather rough (all the same, nothing broke and nothing was lost).


Most important: Bring whatever you find appropriate to clean the water. Again: there is no clean or safe water for days!

Your luggage will be strapped to the pack horses and sometimes the horses have to walk through narrow gaps between bolders and spiky juniper bushes. Sold bags for your equipment made from cotton or cordura, which can take such a treatment are recommended.

The trek can be announced upfront at the office of the Bale mountain guide Association, or you just show up at the office at the Dinsho lodge and ask for a guide for the next days. There are about 12 listed guides and the risk that they are all busy is very low. All the contact information can be obtained through the standard guidebooks. By now, sleeping bags and tents can be rented, I met a hiker with rented equipment, the tent was really fine, the sleeping bag however was not warm enough, the poor man spent some really cold nights.....




Most things I arranged upfront from Europe. By internet I picked a travel and car rental agency and it was a good choice. I can recommend this company! Very helpful and reliable: Abeba Tours. Ask for Tanya or Schemels, which where my contacts. My driver Amare was wonderful as well, highly recommended!

The guides in Bale are assigned per rota, normally... I was again lucky with my crew and my guide Mahmood Kabeto. I have his phone number an an email of a friend, which will be forwarded to him. I will hand it out on request, please use the Kontaktformular (I never publish such data....)



I hope that this will help all the people, who are interested to go to the Bale Mountains. I am always happy to receive feedback and up to date information about this destination, just use the Kontaktformular.


If you are interested in Bale, yoou might be interested also in the Rwenzoris, a much much more demanding trekking destination. After two long expedition I have some experience to share..... Rwenzori - Information for trekkers, hikers and climbers

Looking for a gift? Nature photography in the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda