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Climbing Malawis Mt Mulanji


Yes, you are climbing a mountain and you need to concentrate. But I choose routes depending on the fitness of people, as you cannot hike alone up this mountain, so a good guide can make it better. Sometimes you are climbing high, about 1000 meters and sometimes the path is steep or difficult, which means you need a decent level of fitness. Some very fit people like to go to Sapitwa, the highest peak of Mount Mulanje, others just like to do around the mountain. So there is something for everyone.




Climbing Malawi’s Mt Mulanji



After climbing up a final huge hill, we cruised downhill for 30 minutes and eventually reached a wooden hut around 4pm. This would be our home for the night. From here we would launch our summit attempt tomorrow morning.


The terrain was much more difficult than yesterday. This is solid Class III climbing. That means that some moves could be aided by a rope, although it was not necessary. The initial rock slope was about 2,000 ft tall and took us about an hour to climb. We weaved through rock faces and even walked on sheer rock faces. We were very lucky that the rock was dry.


Most of the rock is a uniform granite, and in the absence of frost shattering, there are few cracks to place protection. Between good climbing in the larger crack and chimney systems with adequate protection, blank sections are encountered with only grass tufts for holds or running belays. A good number of bolted routes exist (though bolts were placed in the 80s).


We came to Tuchila around 3 pm and decided to have a rest, we had been climbing since 2 am! We bumped into some Lilongwe friends, which was a real unplanned treat and made sure we shared some food and drinks whilst watching the most beautiful sunset we had seen all trip! An early dinner and early bedtime, Nicolle was asleep before her head hit the pillow at 8 pm, the mountain had finally tired us out!


The escapism of not having signal, the views, the mental and physical challenge of climbing the peaks and the joy at completing it is unparalleled. The fresh air and mountain springs, the amazing mountains of food we were served each day, colourful flowers, beautiful birds, the promise of a serval around each corner from signs of the night before!


Mount Mulanje is located approximately one hours drive south of Blantyre, making it an ideal place to visit if you have limited time. The drive to the mountain is very scenic passing through tea estates along the way.Rising up to 3,000 metres, Mount Mulanje is one of Malawi's most spectacular sights, with its highest peak being Sapitwa at 3,002 mtrs. The mountain covers an area of more than 1,000 sq km. On its slopes grow the Mulanje cedars, some of them over 200 years old. Deep gorges, impressive waterfalls and trout streams cut their paths from its heights, while in the lush foothills are tea plantations. The Chambe, west face direct, is claimed to be one of the longest rock climbs in Africa, offering 1675mtrs of roped climbing.There are a couple of regular routes climbed, starting at Likhubula Forestry Station these are the Skyline Path to Chambe Basis and the Lichenya Path to Lichenya Plateau.Did you Know?The famous Author Tolkien wrote The Hobbit shortly after climbing Mount Mulanje


The Massif is popular for hiking and climbing, and has several mountain huts scattered across it which are maintained by the Malawi Mountain Club and the Malawi Forestry Department. Sapitwa peak was first climbed in 1894, and is now the most popular climb on the plateau.


Mt. Mulanje, Chambe West Face, First One-Day Ascent, Previously Unreported. We arrived at Mt. Mulanje in August, 1998, with one goal in mind: to climb the largest rock face in Africa in a single day. Alard Hüfner and I had been climbing and establishing new routes on the granite domes of Mozambique for the last month, and we felt that our granite climbing skills were as good as they could get. At 3 a.m., we left Likabula Forest Station with our guide and headed out on the dark potholed road to the base of the face. From where we left our car, it was a 45-minute walk to the start of the climb. The whole face is divided into two sections (600m and 1100m) by a large, 250-meter-wide band. Our aim was to reach the band by 9 a.m., collect some water in a nearby stream and complete the crux pitches by early afternoon.


After the first 200 meters of easy climbing, we were forced to rope up and lead. The climbing, however, did not exceed 5.7, so we decided to simulclimb. After negotiating two more difficult and unprotected sections (up to 5.10b) and unintentionally getting off route, we found ourselves on the large, wildly vegetated band at 9:15 a.m. At 9:45 a.m., after fighting our way through the bush, we reached the start of the prominent dike that dissects the main wall and forms the feature we were to follow. After spending an hour descending a dry streambed in the quest for water and, finally, finding a small puddle, we returned to the route somewhat behind schedule. The following ten pitches off the ledge are the crux: mostly 5.9 and 5.10 climbing, with an unpleasant aid section on two quarter-inch, rusty bolts, now hidden under a blanket of lichen, placed by the first ascensionist, Frank Eastwood, in the early 1970s.


Above, the climbing eases, and we moved back into simul-mode, swapping leads when the leader tired or ran out of gear. The climb mostly follows chimneys and wide cracks at 5.6 and 5.7, but on occasion you step out onto the breathtakingly exposed faces on good holds and knobs. We reached the summit just as the sun set into the hazy horizon. Exhausted, yet utterly pleased with ourselves, we followed the cairns down to the warmth of Chambe Hut, a mere two hours away.


Days before the team gathered on the summit of Mt. Namuli, Majka Burhardt and fellow professional climber Kate Rutherford completed the first ascent of a new technical climbing route on the southeast face of the mountain.


For visitors daunted by the prospect of climbing many thousands of feet onto the mountain, heavily laden with supplies and perhaps apprehensive about navigating the trails and climbs, help is at hands. Strong and willing young men from the local villages will carry your pack for a modest charge and some who know the mountain intimately, can guide you from hut to hut or to the summits of the highest peaks. If you are not familiar with the mountain or wish to climb any of the peaks, it is strongly advised to hire a guide.


Its highest peak, Sapitwa, can be reached without technical climbing experience, but does involve some tough and strenuous hiking. Ideally you should set aside a few days to explore a section of the Mulanje Massiff, but a comprehensive exploration could easily take a week. Porters and guides can be hired at either InfoMulanje or the Likhubula Forestry Station.


.........................................................................................The first step, well the first step for me at least, is to find people to climb Mulanje with. One reason for that is the number one rule on Mulanje - don't climb alone. Also, the point of climbing Mulanje is to enjoy it, so therefore best to share the fun.


Upon arrival in Malawi I was a little bit disappointed to find some difficulty in finding people who wanted to climb Mulanje. For most people there is the Mountain Club of Malawi who often have people going up. You can join if you are a resident in Malawi. Because we have young children I had in mind other families with young children or beginners who would be happy to climb slowly. I come from the point of view that going to Malawi and not climbing Mulanje is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. I was told of a tour group in Malawi that was neither going up Mulanje nor to the Lake. All I could do was stare at the person who told me this for a while - I did not know what to say. I think I am still adjusting to the way some western visitors think about Malawi compared with how we thought about and enjoyed Malawi when I was a child.


When climbing to the plateau look down to see your progressSomeone I played football with at primary school told me that the kind of westerners who are in the country now are different to those around when we were children.


When climbing to the plateau look up for inspirationThat affects things of course. One of my dreams on coming here was to enjoy Malawi the way we enjoyed Malawi a long time ago. That requires others to come to appreciate and share doing these things - another part of my dream. Don't get me wrong - a lot of the new things and new ways of doing things in Malawi are fantastic. However, they don't need to replace the wisdom of the past - they simply add to the already infinite appeal of Malawi. Can one add to the infinite appeal of Malawi? Of course. Perhaps considering this point helps us think about the full hotel with an infinite number of rooms.


Eerik (blond) is pleased to reach the plateau as is David. Matthew seems to be half waiting and half 'let's get on to the cottage'.By the time we reached the plateau there were other thoughts on our minds. We had not seen Ruth or David for perhaps an hour or more? We had not timed it. Amelia said that it was the longest period of time that David had been away from his mother. Although we had asked the porters carrying the two little ones to stay with us they had not managed to keep strictly to this request for the whole trip. We speculated that they could be upset now in an unfamiliar setting, with unfamiliar people and no mummy or daddy in sight. On the plateau therefore we tried to up our pace as France's Cottage is still a significant walk across the Chambe Basin. Finally we got there and they seemed perfectly happy. Ruth wanted to show us around. [NOTE: Porters going on ahead is a common grumble even when there has been an apparent agreement to stay together. The official porters and guides list has got a lot longer recently but we think it is better if the porters are familiar to those climbing or to those who are helping visitors with their plans].


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