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Africa, Malawi, Mt. Mulanje, Chambe West Face, First One-Day Ascent, Previously Unreported

Mt. Mulanje, Chambe West Face, First One-Day Ascent, Previously Unreported. We arrived at Mt. Mulanje in August, 1998, with one goal in mind: to climb the largest rock face in Africa in a single day. Alard H├╝fner and I had been climbing and establishing new routes on the granite domes of Mozambique for the last month, and we felt that our granite climbing skills were as good as they could get. At 3 a.m., we left Likabula Forest Station with our guide and headed out on the dark potholed road to the base of the face. From where we left our car, it was a 45-minute walk to the start of the climb. The whole face is divided into two sections (600m and 1100m) by a large, 250-meter-wide band. Our aim was to reach the band by 9 a.m., collect some water in a nearby stream and complete the crux pitches by early afternoon.

After the first 200 meters of easy climbing, we were forced to rope up and lead. The climbing, however, did not exceed 5.7, so we decided to simulclimb. After negotiating two more difficult and unprotected sections (up to 5.10b) and unintentionally getting off route, we found ourselves on the large, wildly vegetated band at 9:15 a.m. At 9:45 a.m., after fighting our way through the bush, we reached the start of the prominent dike that dissects the main wall and forms the feature we were to follow. After spending an hour descending a dry streambed in the quest for water and, finally, finding a small puddle, we returned to the route somewhat behind schedule. The following ten pitches off the ledge are the crux: mostly 5.9 and 5.10 climbing, with an unpleasant aid section on two quarter-inch, rusty bolts, now hidden under a blanket of lichen, placed by the first ascensionist, Frank Eastwood, in the early 1970s.

Above, the climbing eases, and we moved back into simul-mode, swapping leads when the leader tired or ran out of gear. The climb mostly follows chimneys and wide cracks at 5.6 and 5.7, but on occasion you step out onto the breathtakingly exposed faces on good holds and knobs. We reached the summit just as the sun set into the hazy horizon. Exhausted, yet utterly pleased with ourselves, we followed the cairns down to the warmth of Chambe Hut, a mere two hours away.

Mark Seuring, Mountain Club of South Africa