Mlema 3, African Light, Second Ascent. In September, we left for South Africa with the aim of climbing in northern Mozambique. The rumors we had heard said something about magnificent granite domes scattered in the vast plateau of Nampula, Mozambique’s northeastern province. Our team was composed of two members: Filip Šilhan and David Štastný. We arrived in Johannesburg on September 14 and met Alard Hüfner, the South African climber who was responsible for the only climbing in our area of interest.
With the beta of Hüfner and Mark Seuring, we began our journey at the end of September.
The best access to northern Mozambique from the Republic of South Africa is via Zimbabwe, the Tete Corridor, Malawi, and then into northern Mozambique—almost 3000 kilometers one way, including 500 kilometers of very bad roads. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is more than convenient; unfortunately, due to lack of money, we could only afford to buy a regular car.
Accompanied by South African climber Mike Mason, we reached northern Mozambique on October 10. Behind the town of Cuamba we found many granite domes looming from the autumn mist. Our goal was to open a new route on Mlema 3, which lay 20 kilometers behind the city of Mlema. Though there are no climbing restrictions and no permission is needed, it is necessary to inform the local secretario, as well as the tribal chiefs. Portuguese is the only language in which to communicate. Because of oncoming rains and lack of time, we overlooked this administrative stage. Actually, nobody complained.
Once there, we found the wall to be very vegetated. All cracks, scars, and ledges were covered with grass, bushes and shrubs. The rest of the wall is blank, compact granite. We climbed five pitches to the obvious ledge that Alard and Mike had named Bundu Ledge. From there we wanted to continue straight up, following the system of grassy cracks. At the end of the first pitch above the ledge, we were stopped by a blank section. Not willing to drill dozens of bolts, we returned to African Light and did two more pitches that day. The hardest pitch is a slightly overhanging crack on the sixth pitch (French 7a). We spent the night on Bundu Ledge without using the portaledges. The next day we all felt very sick, probably from food poisoning. Our progress slowed, but we were still able to continue. On the ledge beneath the huge overhang, we decided to leave our haulbags and climb to the summit. There are seven pitches from the ledge to the summit. We stood on the bald granite head, i.e., the summit of Mlema 3, on October 16 at 2 p.m. We abseiled down to Bundu Ledge, where we spent the night. The next day we finished the descent and got back to the village, having made the second ascent of African Light. Because of many clouds on the eastern horizon, we were very afraid of the rainy season, which was expected to start any day. It would be impossible to get back with a regular car on the muddy road.
There are tens of domes similar to Mlema 3; nevertheless, the exploration requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle and plenty of time. The climbing potential is enormous, but one cannot expect clean Yosemite granite. The essential characteristic of the climbing is 100 percent remoteness and desolation. Apparently, the region is about to see more climbers in the next few years.
Filip Šilhan, Czech Republic