Lessons on Grit From Mulanje Mountain

Mulanje Mountain is the most famous massif in Malawi. It is a national pride and is a source of tales taller than Mount Everest. Most of these originate from folklore. These yarns were composed way before Google Maps and at the time when people were not aware of the wonders of nature in the other parts of the world.

However, in today’s world, Mulanje still holds its own among the giants of the world. Though, its highest peak stands at a modest 3,002 m it offers some unique facts. For instance, Mulanje has a species of cedar which is only naturally naturally and nowhere else in the world. I believe the word for it is endemic. And the western face of one of its peaks called Chambe has the longest rock surface in the world. The peak itself (Chambe) requires a technical climb, and will not disappoint even to a professional hiker.

Mulanje Mountain, an exciting hiking destination.
Mulanje Mountain, an exciting hiking destination.

Mulanje therefore, without having to stretch its significance is a perfect place to reflect about life. In particular, I thought I could use it to highlight lessons that my recent hike provided. I was in the company of Daniel Dunga or Dan in short, the Managing Director of Continental Asset Management Limited. He is also an author of the most famous book on motivation in Malawi. He called the book Grit. Here are some three lessons learnt:

1. When you set your mind to achieve something, just go ahead and do it. Our Mulanje hike was in off season, being time for rainfall in Malawi. If we had waited for dry season, who knows whether this window of opportunity would still be there.

2. Tough is good. I’m told that all good things in life require a lot of effort to take off. One must therefore be prepared to push through the hard part. Mulanje is beautiful, but some parts of the trails we took were really hard. In order for us to progress with the hike we had to keep on going forward. Grit says you must be tough in order to tackle difficult challenges.

3. Persistence is the name of the game. This closely follows the previous point. In order to reach your goal, you have to keep pushing. Be there till the end. In our case, the goal was to reach the peak. And that is just what we did. We pushed till we reached Sapitwa Peak, the highest point on Mulanje mountain.

To this list, I would also add the following:

4. Be able to adapt. On the second day of our hike, we had planned to start off from Chambe Hut, and rest at Chisepo Hut. Then we would proceed to Sapitwa Peak, and return to Chisepo for a brief rest. Thereafter, we would walk back to Chambe hut. In our planning, all this was going to be achieved while there was daylight.

The hike on second day took longer than expected.
The hike on second day took longer than expected.

As the events were unfolding on that day, we only started off from Chisepo Hut going to Chambe at around 6 pm. We enjoyed sunlight for another hour then darkness came. We still had about two more hours to cover. At this point, everyone was tired, and only two members of the team had light. Rex, had a torch light from his mobile phone. Fortunately, I had an overhead light which I had bought in Tanzania in 2016.

So at first, Rex was at the head of the pack, followed by Dan then me, and John came last. After about a kilometer it was clear that this arrangement was not working. So I shifted to the back, and tried to provide light for the rest of the team. The challenge was now how to keep my head steady. Because of the rough terrain, it was necessary for me to look down on the path. But by doing that, the light would move in the direction of my head and leave the team ahead of me in darkness.

Eventually, we split into two groups. Dan went ahead with Rex, whose pencil light was all that was used for navigation. My light, which had been full for sometime started to dim, as the rechargeable batteries started running out of juice. This set of light, at the time it was purchased could stay on full beam for over six hours. This was barely one hour and some minutes. The last 3 kilometers would then have been covered in darkness. So I switched to the light on my phone. The challenge with this new source of light was that my hands were now not free to balance my body when negotiating slippery surfaces.

The last 3 hours from Chisepo to Chambe were not scripted at all. We had to adjust and adapt as we went along. What’s more, Dan had a strong pocket torch which he had left at Chambe hut thinking it could not be useful on this day. We had started some twenty minutes after six in the morning, and looking back, perhaps we should have started off a bit earlier. Most importantly, we should have spent the night at Chisepo hut instead of trekking in the dark. All in all, we made it back safely to Chambe Hut.

I would suggest that you do three things from these lessons:

  1. Buy yourself a copy of Grit (ebook version is also available). Get in touch with Dan on Whatsapp on this mobile number: +265 88 876 6766.
  2. Get up Mulanje Mountain, and see how many lessons about personal development you can come up with.
  3. Share with friends your experience.
Dan, the author of Grit (right) and I (left), having survived the previous night's walk.
Dan, the author of Grit (right) and I (left), having survived the previous night’s walk.

This article is a stand-alone after doing the series on our Mulanje Mountain expedition between 13 and 15 January 2018. This was done to satiate Dan on his request to cover a little bit more about the return journey after reaching Sapitwa Peak. Usually once I reach the peak, my story ends there. So the return journey has been covered as a lesson on personal development. I hope you have enjoyed this piece as much as the rest of them on Mulanje Mountain.

See you next time. God bless you.



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