Backpack Mulanje Massif

35 Miles Round Trip - 7608 ft gain - Loop Trail

Likhubula Forestry Office - Search Nearby - Added by Nate Trapp

An unpopulated and untouched cluster of mountains in southern Africa with stunning, rocky peaks, clean, clear streams, and captivating waterfalls 

Mulange Massif is a giant granite plateau with 15 major peaks overlooking the mainly flat surface with Sapitwa Peak being the highest at 9,850 feet. Depending on what time of the year you go, you could be the sole group exploring the 208 square mile Massif. The area is uninhabited by people. Only monkeys, servals, various birds, and other animals call it home.

Avoid planning your trip during the rainy season (November through April). The entire mountain system is granite and wet granite is treacherously slippery.

Start your adventure by checking in at the Forestry Office in Likhubula around mid-morning. Leave your tents at home because rather than tenting or hammocking on Mulanje, visitors instead book the 9 different mountain huts that are spaced out across the plateau. Each is stocked by caretakers with beer and coca-cola which can be cooled down in the streams. The hut reservations cost a little under $2 per night.  While booking your huts at the forestry office, ask the workers about hiring your local guide and porters. Guides are strongly suggested even for experienced mountaineers with gps and porters are a good option if you want to bring along extra creature comforts as well as support some of the locals. Never hire freelance guides or porters because they will have had no mountain safety training, are unfamiliar with the mountain, and will overcharge you. All guides and porters hired out of the forestry office are members of a workers’ union that sets standard rates for their services per day and set them on a rotation so they all have a fair shot at getting hired at least once per season. Guides’ rates are set at about $25/day and $20/day for porters. The office will strongly recommend you pay a portion of their wages beforehand so the hired men can buy supplies for themselves in the Mulanje town market. Use the time they spend buying supplies to either relax before you set off or follow them into town to buy food if you haven’t already. The People’s Market (the African equivalent of a WalMart) in Mulanje town is probably your best bet for packaged, western food.

There is no ‘best way’ to explore Mulanje Massif so ask lots of questions at the forestry office before you head out to help decide which parts of the mountain you’d like to explore. If you change your mind on the mountain, just talk to your guide and he can help you make a new plan that will run you by a different part of the mountain and end at a different hut. The only thing you can’t/shouldn’t change is how many days you’ll be on the mountain. You don’t want your guide or porters to run out of food or have the forestry office think you’ve gone missing.

The first day is very vertical no matter which path you take as it is almost entirely hiking up the sides of the plateau from the valley at 3,000 feet to the plains at 6,000 feet. This will be the most difficult day but the views overlooking the valley are amazing. Once at the top, the massif flattens out and the going gets much easier until you come to a peak and decide to summit, if you so wish. The plateau consists of rolling, grassy plains broken up by heavily forested ravines and mountain streams.

Gems:

Sapitwa Peak: The hike to the summit of Sapitwa and back to the hut at its base takes around 6 hours depending on how long you spend taking in the views at the top. Plan on sharing the hut with one and perhaps even several other groups as this is certainly the most popular spot on the mountain. Never fear though, there is plenty of room.

Kiwilankalamba Falls: Located near Likhubula on its own loop of trail near the base of the plateau, this waterfall is very worth making the trip out of your way for. The falls pour year-round into a mountain pool 200 feet deep that we found was perfect for cliff jumping and swimming. The falls were regarded as a holy place by locals centuries ago. The remnants of their offerings can be seen as clay rings buried in the trail and is all that’s left of the clay pots filled with fruit and grain intended for the spirits of the locals’ ancestors.

Tags

Camping
Backpacking
Hiking
Adult Beverages
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

Details

35 Miles
7608 ft elevation gain
Loop Trail

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