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Africa, Mozambique, Sitting Chief

Sitting Chief. I was part of a joint Mountain Club of South Africa/British Mountaineering Council expedition to northern Mozambique and we were successful in climbing our objective, Sitting Chief (local name, Murupie). We had quite an adventure getting there with 10 of us in two cars. One car was a double cab Toyota Hilux and the other an old Land Rover Forward Control, which although big and slow, is strong and has loads of character. Just before the Zimbabwe border, the head gasket of the Hilux blew, so nine of us and all our big wall gear and equipment squashed into the Landrover for a very slow drive through Zimbabwe, Tete Corridor, Malawi, and finally Mozambique. After five days of travelling we eventually arrived at Lalaua, a village near Sitting Chief. About an hour later and to everyone’s amazement, Pieter Martin arrived in the Hilux. He had stayed behind in Masina to get the head gasket fixed and then drove 2500 km on his own to catch up with us.

The Administrator in Lalaua would not give us permission to climb the dome, as according to a Dutch company, who had carried out a survey, the neighboring area contained valuable minerals and no one was now allowed to enter. We therefore drove three hours on bad roads to the capital city of the north, Nampula, where we spoke with the Governor. He gave us permission to climb.

The climbing on Sitting Chief looked as though it would be interesting from a distance, as the face contained huge huecos. We split up into four parties and attempted different lines. It turned out that after a couple of pitches the rock became covered in thick lichen, which made for unpleasant climbing. All attempts were aborted at various heights. Next, we focused our energies on reaching the summit via a huge corner system. This provided for some interesting climbing up corners and chimneys at about grade 23. Pieter Martin, Peter Robins, and Dave Turnbull were first on the summit, followed by Leo Houlding, myself and Mark Seuring. The day before Ben Bransby and Andrew Donson had reached a point one pitch from the summit before turning back as it was getting late. Matthew Munting and Izak Steyn retreated from their route.

We then headed off to Mlema 3 to do some real climbing on African Light, the route that Mark and I had opened in 2000. However, it rained (yes, rain in the middle of winter). Andy, Ben, and Dave spent a miserable night bivouacking in the rain at the base of the climb. They had planned to bivouac on Bundu ledge but the rain caught them three pitches up and as it was getting dark, they abseiled down and sat out the night in the rain. With spirits dampened and the weather looking grim, we headed off to lake Malawi. Here we relaxed in the sun and did some kayaking with Kayak Africa.

After another three days of traveling (by now we were well accustomed to this), we arrived at Blyde River Canyon. Here, we opened some amazing routes. This was definitely the climbing highlight of the trip. A couple of climbs at 26 were opened on sight. Then onto the Restaurant, where after two days of clipping bolts it was time for the British contingent to leave South Africa, everyone in agreement that we had enjoyed a great time together and got on very well.

Alard Hüfner, Mountain Club of South Africa