With a rich history of climbing, the Tigray region of Ethiopia has always provided an incredible opportunity to discover another world. Priests and worshippers have scaled rock towers and cliffs since as far back as the 4th Century, creating churches and places of worship among the towers of stone that are still in use today.
Last autumn, The North Face athletes, James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini set out to explore the region, searching for ancient routes and new adventure, with the added challenge of bringing a new team member along – their young son Arthur.
Undertaking an expedition with someone so young brought its own challenges, both emotional and logistical. Yet for Caroline and James, their need to discover new climbing was matched by their desire to allow Arthur to experience a world of possibilities - with the locals giving a helping hand!
Their quest for adventure brought them to Excalibur, a near perfect tower in the Gheralta Range. However as the pair began up the route, it became clear the climb would be complex. Sandy conditions, loose rock and variable protection slowed their pace and ensured the first day was all about discovery.
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After working and plotting the route on the first day, they returned to the rock face to complete the climb – a unique experience for both and one that gave James a strong sense of perspective in such a historical landscape.
"I'm not a religious person, but having stepped on top of one of these towers for the first time and felt the power that it brings, I think I can understand why they would want to be up there."
James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini completed the first ascent of "Excalibur".
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