My involvement with The CharChar Trust started not long after the trust was set up when I met Kelvin, the founder, at St. Andrew’s International High School, where I was Deputy Head Curriculum. Following the tragic death of his wife, Veronica and daughter, Charlotte, in an elephant attack in Zimbabwe, Kelvin created a trust in their memory. We helped put together the first set of materials to donate. The relationship grew when I became Headteacher. Kelvin stayed with us as he compiled the Chichewa English dictionary, and the school became the hub for distribution of literacy materials and CharChar chests. It gave me and my students great pleasure to visit schools to present the chests and partake in school celebrations. For some time now I have been thinking of ways to help, especially now as fundraising has become more challenging during COVID times. For that reason, I set up a challenge to support CharChar’s project “Literacy for Malawi”. To date, CharChar has positively impacted the lives of over 50,000 children in Malawi and they need our support to continue doing their incredible work helping children in the most vulnerable areas of Malawi to become literate.
The Challenge Itself:
Sapitwa Peak on the Mulanje Massif is the highest peak in South-Central Africa - a towering 3,002m. It is a huge, isolated cluster with 20 peaks rising more than 2,500m out of a disjointed plateau, and over 60 peaks in total. A great impression of impregnability is given by its precipitous flanks which rise abruptly from the flat plain below. The west face of Chambe offers the longest rock climb in the whole of Africa - 1,700m of sheer cliff. The peaks are steep and rocky, and range in difficulty from moderate hikes to technical scrambles. This will be my toughest challenge on Mulanje. Some years ago I did 9 peaks in four days (I was okay), the Kupweteka Traverse (5 peaks in one day – completely exhausted, could hardly eat at the end), so this is a massive challenge for me as I am several years older (65 this year) and both my knees are quite dodgy after a long hike (so recovery may be an issue). Here’s the day-by-day detail of my hiking challenge:
- Peaks Day 1: Commonly known as the Manene horseshoe – the main scrambling peaks are the aptly named ‘Turd’, Manene and Little Manene.
- Peaks Day 2: Recently I did Patasile and Chambe alone – that was a full day’s hard scrambling. This is more challenging as it takes in another four peaks, all of which I have never done before.
- Peaks Day 3: This includes a cave entrance to Chagaru. I have climbed this peak and the hard scramble Chipalombwe before but I don’t know if you can make it from one to another; no-one I know has done this. From Chipalombwe down vis Nandiwo should be okay. When there’s a will there’s a way.
- Peaks Day 5: I have done these four peaks twice before and it was dodgy both times. This time I am making the ascent of Nandalanda from the other side.
- Peaks Day 6: Doing Sapitwa via North Peak and West Peak first is not the normal route; I will have to work this one out at the time. Going from Sapitwa to Nakodzwe may not be possible; at this time of year there will be a lot of ice on the peaks, making it a much more challenging trip.
- Peaks Day 7: This is a crossover from hut to hut plus an ascent of Chambe, which should be straightforward if the weather is okay.
- Peaks Day 8: The Chambe bumps should be a straightforward day and I will come down off the Massif.
Special thanks to Mike Petzold (Peaks of Mulanje) and Drew Corbyn (Guide to Mulanje).
I hope anyone who knows the work of CharChar, or me personally, or my children (some of whom will be doing most of the peaks), or just want to help, will please donate following the link in this page. Let’s make literacy a reality in Malawi!
The aim of the challenge is to raise money for The CharChar Trust. Wellwishers can sponsor per day’s peaks or for the whole challenge. All costs for the trip (approx. 680 USD) will be borne by G. Benbow. All money sponsored will go to the CharChar Trust.