Memories of Mount Mulanje

It is about 45 years since our party moved from Zambia into Malawi, with the intention of climbing Mount Mulanje south of Blantyre.

Southern Malawi was very different from the plains of Zambia. Once one gets south of Blantyre the whole place feels almost Scottish!

Having said that the influence of Scottish missionaries – in those days – was still evident and the centre from which we began out ascent of the Mulanje Massif was a youth camp run by a young priest who had trained on the island of Iona in the Outer Hebrides.

Don’t get the wrong idea about this “climbing” thing – it wasn’t exactly finger gripping, crampons, harnesses with ropes and slings or anything like that.

It was a gentle saunter up the grassy slopes with the odd bit of scrambling. Nevertheless we were given a guide and our round trip took about 36 hours, with a kip in a hut overnight. We are looking at around 3000m at its highest point.

The guide book will tell you that the area has a sizeable timber industry based around the Likhubula Forestry Station. At one time there was a cableway to transport timber from the plateau, but this fell in to disrepair. Instead planks are transported manually down the slopes. As we went up local workmen would pass us on the way down carrying planks at speed down the track.

We were fortunate that the view from the top was unimpaired by cloud and I think all of us would have agreed that the view was stunning.

There were others going to the top and a school party that seemed to be having a picnic. A lovely sheltered spot – but what were they doing up there on what seemed to simply be a day out?

For the purists, my camera (film obviously) was a Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 with a SMC Takumar f/1.2 55mm lens. To be honest having just scanned the images from Kodachrome slides I am really quite amazed how many really accurate exposures there were – considering that the camera didn’t have auto-focus or auto exposure!

Well done to John, Simon and Paulette who managed to drag me up the hill.

Even so – good to see the pictures again. Think I will stick them in my album.