Friday, February 22, 2008

Ethiopia: The Land of Climbing Opportunity

"We have come to Ethiopia to rock climb."
Climbers are a dedicated crew. We’ll brave freezing cold weather, scorching sun, and dangerous heights in the quest for the perfect climb. I count myself as a climber, but I’ll be honest: I’m not actually a fearless one. I prefer single-pitch routes, am not too fond of leading, and am often made fun of because I won’t boulder higher than 4 feet off the ground. In fact, I’m the antithesis of fearless.

Majka (pronounced MI-kah) Burhardt, meanwhile, truly appears to be a fearless climber. I was lucky enough to meet her today when she dropped off copies of her new book, Vertical Ethiopia. She looks like a climber: compact, tan, and full of energy. I’d been waiting to get my hands on a copy of her book since she first told me about it, and it was well worth the wait. Its tall, glossy pages showcase photography by Gabe Rogel and vignettes by Majka about life and climbing in Ethiopia.

The book covers the 2007 quest made by Majka and three other women to find out if Ethiopia just might be the next climbing mecca.
"My childhood image of Ethiopia was shaped by photographs of dry and desolate landscapes, fragile, bony arms and legs, and distended stomachs. Later, when I was older, I thought of Ethiopia as synonymous with terror and communism, a country of constant war and oppression. I never occurred to me when I first begin climbing, in 1992, that I would one day find beauty, challenge, and adventure in Ethiopia."
Majka was lucky enough to have photographer Gabe Rogel tag along for her trip. I say lucky because when you read Majka’s words and then look at Gabe’s photos, you know that a great partnership has been formed. Half of the pictures in the book are of Majka and her friends, in various stages of climbing. The other half are pictures of Ethiopia--glimpses into the places and lives of its people. One of my favorite photos in the book is similar to the picture at left. The hands belong to a priest’s wife who was in the process of dyeing straw for baskets.

Whether you’re a climber, a traveler, or just a booklover, I guarantee that you’ll find something to enjoy in Majka’s book. And if you’re in the Boulder area on Monday night (February 25th, 7:30pm), stop by Boulder Book Store to hear Majka talk about her journey and to celebrate the release of Vertical Ethiopia. I’ll be taking my copy home to read over the weekend. And maybe I’ll even get in a few climbs if the weather stays nice…
"There is rock everywhere. It catches the morning sun and vibrates orange, red, and yellow. It cleaves the sky in towers and ridges; it fills the entire western view. There are cracks, buttresses, corners, and escarpments. An entire mountain waits to be climbed."

Text in green excerpted from Vertical Ethiopia by Majka Burhardt. Photography by Gabe Rogel.
Post by Mandy King, Events Coordinator at Boulder Book Store.

1 comment:

  1. A great review! Majka's hard work and tenacity are apparent in each page of this book: she was involved from "soup to nuts" from planning the expedition, page layout, editing and finally picking up the books from the airport. She is a powerhouse! The book is phenomenal and beautiful.