MOUNTAIN MADNESS: FIVE AFRICAN MOUNTAIN ADVENTURES

From diving with great white sharks to walking safaris through predator-rich Big Five country, there’s certainly no shortage of adventure travel to be had in Africa. However, few travellers think of the continent when it comes to lacing up a pair of hiking boots and hitting the trail. Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll discover that Africa boasts a remarkable range of memorable hiking and climbing destinations. For your next trip, leave the beach towels behind and pack a beanie for these mile-high adventures…


MOUNT KILIMANJARO, TANZANIA

Let’s get the tallest peak out of the way first. At 5895 metres, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and forms part of the ‘Seven Summits’, the highest mountains on each continent. Unlike many other peaks, there are a number of routes to reach the summit of ‘Kili’, each varying in length, difficulty and popularity. The Marangu and Rongai routes are the most accessible, and thus the most popular, while the more challenging Machame, Shira and Limosho routes will tempt more experienced hikers. Although the climb isn’t technically challenging, the lack of oxygen at altitude affects many climbers, and you’ll want to follow the guides’ oft-repeated advice to walk pole pole (slowly, slowly).


MOUNT KENYA, KENYA

Mount Kenya may take second place when it comes to height above sea level, but the craggy summit means it is viewed as the more challenging peak to climb. The highest point – Batian – can only be reached by technical climbers, with the altitude and snow demanding plenty of experience. However, the lower peak of Lenana can be reached on foot with no rock climbing required, and is a popular option for trekkers. The ascent through rainforest, bamboo, alpine meadows and high-altitude vegetation make it one of the most beautiful hiking expeditions on the continent.


SIMIEN MOUNTAINS, ETHIOPIA

Quinta-feira, dia 2 de março, feriado aqui na Etiópia: batalha de Adwa. Tirei folga na sexta e resolvi fazer uma viagem para Simien Mountains e Gondar. Esse post é sobre Simien. Antes de tudo, preciso dizer que eu nunca tinha feito hiking de verdade, com duração de mais de 1 dia e sem acesso a infraestrutura. Na quinta de manhã, entramos em uma van de 8 lugares, só que estávamos em 11 pessoas. Entre nós estava um casal de ingleses indo de bike de Londres até Cape Town (sim, isso mesmo, vocês não leram errado). A viagem de 2 horas foi sufocante: sem ar, janelas fechadas e apertados. Na entrada do parque recebemos mais 2 pessoas no carro, guardas armados que iriam nos acompanhar. Mais 2 horas de viagem. De tarde, começamos a andar em uma altitude de mais de 3.000 metros. E assim foi passando o tempo, sem acesso a banho, em uma temperatura que variou de 20°C durante o dia a -1°C na madrugada e dormindo em casas de lata em colchões duros. A comida era ótima (ou era a fome mesmo). Foram 4 horas no 1° dia, 8 no 2° e 4 no 3°, quase 25 milhas, quando finalmente chegamos no 2° maior pico da Etiópia, 4.430m acima do nível do mar. Pensei em desistir várias vezes, principalmente porque não consegui dormir direito no segundo dia, por causa do frio, do colchão e dos gemidos de 5 pessoas que estavam passando mal a noite toda, mas não desisti. Valeu a pena? Hoje, as dores no corpo estão falando que não, mas tenho certeza que em menos de 1 semana vou olhar pra trás e falar "caramba, isso foi animal". #etiopia #simienmountains #hiking #nofilter

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A vast landscape of rocky spires and deep ravines, the Simien Mountains National Park offers remarkable trekking opportunities for adventurous hikers. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Park offers a selection of trekking routes, the best guided by local villagers and linking remote communities with eco-tourists. For the adventurous and fit, multi-day walks take you beyond the Park to the summit of Ras Dashen, Ethiopia’s highest point at 4533 metres above sea level. Aside from the mountain scenery, the Park offers wonderful wildlife spotting opportunities: you’ll likely pass Gelada monkeys and Walia ibex, but also keep a keen eye out for an Ethiopian wolf, of which only a few hundred remain in the wild (read more about the Simien Mountains’ wildlife in our interview with the founder of Simien Lodge, Nick Crane).


DRAKENSBERG, SOUTH AFRICA

Whatever language you speak, this mountain range, stretching across South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, is intimidating. In Afrikaans Drakensberg translates as ‘dragon’s mountain’. In isiZulu this range of jagged peaks is known as uKhahlamba, ‘the barrier of spears’. However, neither name seems to deter the thousands of locals and visitors that arrive each year to explore the myriad paths and trails that snake up and around the slopes of this World Heritage Site. Part of Drakensberg’s appeal is that there’s something for everyone, from family-friendly day walks from Giant’s Castle through to the arduous Drakensberg Grand Traverse, a 10-12 day epic across 240 kilometres of the ridgeline. Only the fit need apply!


MOUNT MULANJE, MALAWI

#malawi #mountains #facetofaceproject #mountmulanje #rucking #oldmanwithawalkingstick

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Malawi justifiably earns a lot of attention for its mellow lake, but its mountains also deserve a look-in. Mount Mulanje adds a fascinating new dimension to the country dubbed the ‘warm heart of Africa’. Situated just 65 kilometres from Blantyre, this granite massif rises to more than 3000 metres and is richly entwined in local culture and beliefs. There are dozens of trails on the mountain, from day walks leading to tumbling waterfalls right through to multi-day high-altitude treks to reach the highest point at Sapitwa Peak. Although visitors are welcome to explore the mountain on their own, local guides are available for hire and are recommended for more challenging trails. As you wander, look out for the endemic Mulanje Cedar, as well as local wildlife ranging  from duikers to blue monkeys to kestrels.

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Richard Holmes
Richard Holmes is a freelance travel, food and lifestyle writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. His work on African and international destinations has appeared in a wide range of consumer publications both in South Africa and abroad.