Day 1: Thuchila Lodge up Elephant’s Head to Thuchila Hut (3-4 hours).
Day 2: Nandalanda peak (3-4 hours), down the Likulezi path to Tinyade Estate and across to Thuchila Lodge (3-4 hours).
Consider climbing Nandalanda peak on day 1 if time and legs allow. This walk could also be enjoyed as a 3-day trip, with a second night at Thuchila Hut making for a much more relaxed itinerary.
The route starts from the Forestry Office at Fort Lister - located at the top of the pass this starting point is more than 200m higher than any other route onto Mulanje. Whilst undoubtedly steep, this way offers the easiest access to Mulanje's plateau and huts.
The path begins gently, reaching a stream after 20 minutes. From here the broad red earth path climbs through woodland for about one hour – pick the gentler zig-zagging trail or the direct way up the middle. A small fire-lookout at the top of the shoulder provides a nice resting spot with fine views across to Michese and the plains of Mozambique.
The path then winds gently round into a valley, passing a cedar nursery and onto footbridges across a stream. It then climbs steeply up the far side of the valley, bearing right and then left to the top.
Upon reaching the plateau Namasile and Matambale proudly present themselves. The flat valley spread out between is Sombani Basin, with the hut is on the left hand side less than 2 km gentle walk away.
Day 2: Namasile (2,685m) stands grandly in front of Sombani Hut, appearing deceptively inaccessible.
Set out on the path leading down to Fort Lister, soon crossing the stream and bearing left onto a firebreak. Move onto gentle slabs and head up towards the major rock wall. The path skirts close to the edge of the impressive fluted wall and enters a broad gully. Shortly before reaching the top of the gully bear left.
The path clambers its way through a collection of giant boulders surrounded by dense bush. Beyond this it is steep grass and boulder slopes all the way to the summit. Namasile is in a prize position; the panorama from the summit includes all of Mulanje’s main peaks.
The standard route back to Sombani Hut retraces the same path, although there is another route (indicated with a red dashed line on
the map). This picks its way down a rocky ridge, bearing left into a col and down over rough ground to join the main path in Sombani Basin.
The nearby Mulosa Pools are some of the largest on Mulanje and well worth a side trip. The pools are about 3 km (one hour) from Sombani Hut, heading along the firebreak towards Chinzama / Madzeka before turning off left and over a rise.
A strong path exists from the village in Fort Lister directly up to the plateau (further West than the main route). A large portion is under the cover of woodland, and the top section is a great scramble over steep rock. This can be combined with the small but dramatic Litakala Peak.
Matambale Peak (2,643m, 5 hours, Difficulty 5).
Masasa (2,453m, 6-7 hours, Difficulty 3).
Litakala (2,308m, 4-5 hours, Difficulty 2).