Hiking to Mount Mulanje
Mount Mulanje is the best known and most popular mountain area in Malawi. The peaks are steep and rocky, and range in difficulty from moderate hikes to technical scrambles. The longest vertical rock wall in Africa is also found on Mount Mulanje – Chambe’s 1700m. Some people come to the base of the mountain just for a day visit, but the stunning scenery, clear paths and well-maintained huts make Mulanje a fine hiking area and many tourists spend more days.
There are 10 mountain huts on the mountain, and most of the huts have spectacular views of the terrain. All huts provide basic amenities for a comfortable stay including mattresses, cooking and eating utensils and other useful items. Water is plentiful from the many streams on the mountain but there is a need to take up all your food, sleeping bag or thick blankets and plenty of warm clothing for the chilly highland nights. There are mattresses for visitors in each hut, but for those without sleeping bags, it may be possible to book bedding (check with InfoMulanje).
Guides and porters are strongly recommended and can be hired from all accessible paths around the mountain as they have positioned themselves at the start of all popular paths. Most guides and porters have been trained to assist tourists.
One of the most popular routes is the Skyline Path from Likhumbula Forestry Station to Chambe Hut or France’s Cottage, which leads from Mulanje Town (past Kara O’Mula Country Lodge) to the CCAP and Lichenya huts, a steep 4-5 hours ascent.
Mulanje can be climbed at any time of year. The dry months from April to October are generally regarded as the best for hiking, though there is a danger of treacherous mists (called chiperone) enveloping the massif between May and July. During the wet season (November to early April), many paths become slippery and some may be temporarily impassable owing to flooding. The Skyline Path to Chambe is safe at all times of years as it crosses only one river, and there is a bridge.
Mulanje is not high enough for serious altitude-related illness to be a cause for concern, though people arriving directly from sea level may feel some mild effects at higher altitudes. Nevertheless, the mountain should not be underestimated, as at least two tourists have died while attempting a solo summit in the past decade.
Organising a hike up Mulanje is a straightforward procedure, either through InfoMulanje or through Likhubula Forestry Station, where you can book mountain huts and arrange porters and guides as required.
Further information about Hiking on Mount Mulanje
Mountain Club of Malawi (www.mcm.org.mw)
MCM also produced an exhaustive Hiking Guide to Mount Mulanje in 2017. This can be downloaded as a PDF.