Day 1: The route starts from Mulanje Boma. Pick up the trail at Kara O Mula – the former District Commissioner’s house, now a hotel and restaurant.
The path begins meandering along the upward edge of Chitakale Estate with glorious views across the tea fields. After some 500m, a sharp turn to the right starts the gruelling ascent to the plateau – 3 hours. A river crossing provides a good place to rest before the final climb. Care should be taken on the top section, which is particularly steep; grass tufts provide foot and scramble holds up rock slabs.
The Lichenya Plateau is perhaps the most expansive area of wood and grassland on the mountain. The route follows firebreaks across the rolling upland to Lichenya Hut, with views of Sapitwa and the vast surrounding high area ahead.
Lichenya Hut is the largest on Mulanje, and as such is popular with big groups. The Lichenya pools are a beautiful spot for a dip, though be warned that it’s a steep descent to return back up to the Hut.
Day 2: From Lichenya Hut the route gently climbs for around three km to the watershed and a right turn at the junction. This vicinity offers good views of Chambe peak and basin. The path crosses numerous streams as it traverses under North Peak, to arrive at the saddle connecting Chambe to the main massif. Take the right turn at this junction and climb steeply out of the forest to a pass. Upon reaching the pass it is a short and gentle approach to Chisepo Hut.
Day 3: Sapitwa is the highest of Mulanje’s peaks, standing at 3,002m. Its commanding position at the centre of the massif affords spectacular panoramic views. The climb involves some hard scrambling and the top section can be treacherously difficult to follow in bad weather.
From Chisepo Hut, the path crosses a stream and climbs upwards through bush and boulders to reach steep rock slabs. Continue up the slabs which form the broad northwest ridge of Sapitwa. From the top of the slabs it is a further 1.5 km to the summit over a boulder strewn wilderness, riddled with gullies, gaps and giant monoliths. The return to Chisepo Hut is along the same route. Thuchila Hut is some 3 hours further along an undulating firebreak.
Day 4: The route sets out to Chinzama Hut (2.5 hours), passing around the north side of Nandalanda peak and coming out onto the North West side of the Ruo Basin. Follow the firebreak through the grasslands moving parallel to the serrated flat ridge of Chagaru peak.
From Chinzama Hut it is a further 3 hours to Sombani Hut. Climb out of the Ruo catchment and see the Malosa Basin stretched out in front. The path moves down the right side of the valley with Chinzama peak on the right and Namasile on the left. Turn left at the junction and stroll the remaining 3 km’s to Sombani Hut. The stunning Mulosa Pools are about a 30 min detour from the junction.
Day 5: The route off the mountain drops from Sombani Hut to the village of Fort Lister (3 hours). Fort Lister is nestled in the gap between the massif and Mchesi peak.
Admire the impenetrable buttresses of Matambale over your right shoulder as you leave Sombani. Pockets of the endemic Mulanje Cedar also remain in this vicinity.
If you have a vehicle arranged to collect you a rough dirt road arrives at Fort Lister. If you are reliant on public mini-buses you need to walk down the road a further 2 hours to Phalombe trading centre.
Alternative peaks and descent:
There a many options along the route if you are seeking to extend the walk and climb more peaks.
From Chisepo Hut – Nakodzwe (2,964m)
From Thuchila Hut - Nandalanda (2,590m) or Khuto (2,757m)
From Sombani Hut - Namasile (2,685m) or Matambale (2,643m)
If your time is limited, the route can be shortened with a quick return to the main road at Thuchila from Thuchila Hut on Day 4.