Tuesday 19 February 2013

To The Top of Rhodesia's Highest Mountain

By Martin Travers

Above: This aerial view of Mt. Inyangani and its approaches presents a clear picture of the route the Intending climber should take. The dotted line indicates the steep walk to the ridge, past the large waterfall. When the ridge is reached, a well-defined path leads just behind it to the summit itself.

The circular drive, from which the car park Is reached, is one of Inyanga's best known scenic drives. The last few metres to the car park are potholed, but can be negotiated with a little care.

RHODESIA'S highest mountain is Mt. Inyangani, the 2592 metre massive ridge that dominates the holiday area of Inyanga in the Eastern Highlands.

The Inyanga Mountains, of which Inyangani forms the highest point, are situated almost on Rhodesia's eastern border and run north to south parallel with it. They are part of a mountain chain that extends for over 300 km south, culminating in the Chimanimani Mountains.

Above: As can be seen, it may be found necessary to carry smaller children up the climb to the ridge, but this should present no problems to the normally fit parent. A stout pair of shoes with non-slip soles are recommended, as the path is quite rocky in places. An early start, before the sun rises too high and the day becomes too hot, is also advisable.

Wherever one travels in Inyanga — driving along scenic roads, fishing in lakes or streams, or walking over open, treeless uplands — the mountain can be seen.

Because it is the country's most lofty peak, it presents a challenge — a challenge that can be met by any holidaymaker who is moderately fit and determined.

The base of Inyangani is reached by a turnoff from the popular circular drive that winds through the Rhodes Inyanga National Park. A small car-park marks the beginning of what is an hour's hard steep walk, 430 metres to the ridge, the first part of the journey to the summit.

From the car-park one can look straight up to this ridge, and a small path marks an almost straight line to it. In actual fact, the ascent is a series of giant steps, with resting places that seems to be reached just in time to give the city-dweller's leg muscles and wind time to recover.

The climber should pause, however, for as each succeeding step is gained, the panorama westwards over the Rhodes Inyanga National Park, and beyond to the granite mountains of Juliasdale, gradually increases in scope.

On these exposed slopes, a varied plant life is seen — everlasting flowers, protea bushes, and Aloes(inyangensis and aborescens), many species of which are unique to the mountain. But one may not pick any plant — Inyangani is within a national park.

When the ridge is reached, the sharp-eyed may see dassies among the huge boulders that crown the summit. They disappear from sight when the shadow of a soaring eagle passes overhead.

From this point a small path wends southwards along the back of the ridge, an hour's walk at the most, to the beacon which marks the highest point. It is an easy walk, mainly through areas of tussocky mountain grass, and where the path leads over flat rock surfaces, the way is marked with white arrows.

Above: On the roof of Rhodesia, at the beacon marking the summit of Mt. Inyangani, 2 592 metres above sea level. Time to pause for a well-earned rest and enjoy the superb scenic views.

Above: From the summit there is a vertical drop of 600 metres to the treeless uplands below. To the south, as this picture shows, the ground drops a further 1 250 metres to the sub-tropical Honde Valley. Such views make the effort to climb Mt. Inyangani worthwhile.

It is with a feeling of justified satisfaction that one stands at the beacon, gazing westwards over grassy uplands and valleys 600 metres below, or southward to the sub-tropical Honde Valley, which is 1 800 metres below Inyangani. On a clear day the Pinnacles, giant monoliths which stand like petrified fingers in the centre of the Hondi Valley, may be seen.

Immediately below the beacon the Matenderere River meanders its way to lower ground, past an ancient fort that crowns a conical hill. To the east, the ground falls less steeply and dramatically away down to the plains of Mocambique.

Above: The streams of cold, clear water on the mountain are too much of a temptation to resist, especially on the way down, when thirst and tired feet are making themselves felt. However, avoid drinking quantities of liquid on the ascent of the mountain
The descent is made by retracing one's steps, and as it is less taxing, one has more time to enjoy the views, particularly on the steep path down from the ridge to the car park.

Back at the hotel, although one may feel stiff, the sense of achievement is very real, and one will have gained views of this lovely mountain holiday area that are hardly to be rivalled anywhere. Although the walk to the summit of Inyangani is relatively easy, one should take care when planning-to make an ascent. As with any mountain mass, clouds can accumulate suddenly and obscure the path completely. Sudden storms, particularly during the height of the rainy season, are very common.

It is always wise to notify the proprietor at one's hotel, or the national park warden's office, if there is any doubt about the weather. But don't forget to also let them know when you are safely down.

The ideal time to climb Inyangani is between the end of the rains (about late April) and the beginning of the rainy season (late October).


Photographs by MONTY COOPER

Source: Rhodesia Calls November - December 1974 made available by Denise Taylor. Thanks Denise

Extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris for use on "Our Rhodesian Heritage" blog.
Thanks to the author, the photographer, the publishers for the use of their material.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at orafs11@gmail.com

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

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At 24 February 2013 at 11:44 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Dave Hughes (UBHS) Writes:-

Boy does that bit bring back memories. In the mid 50's, while on a prospective officers course we, the team, had to carry a telephone pole to the beacon at the top and then get it back, undamaged , to the yard it had been taken from !
It is also where I started from when I walked along the Eastern border from there to Chimanimani before I settled down to doing a proper job !
All the very best.

At 24 February 2013 at 11:53 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Andre du Plessis (RhAF) Writes:-
Thanks for the photos. One just wonders why it was necessary to 'photoshop' some of them. Interesting nevertheless.

[ Sorry Andre I am not a millionare and therefore cannot afford Photodhop! Eddy Norris ]

At 24 February 2013 at 14:17 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Miles Orbell (RhAF) Writes:-

Heck, it was a long time ago I was there, but I remember it well, the scenery is very special, but didn’t quite walk all the way up, just enjoyed the views. I had to do National Service when I left school, at the grand age of 18, and was sent to the Inyanga Army camp, 3 Indep. Company, then spent most of the year in the Honde valley where we sprung some ambushes and got shot at, also always had to walk through some pretty serious terrain at night ,to get to our observation points, and got very attacked by those bloody Buffalo Beans, horrible things, when you walk into a bunch of them at midnight, make you itch like hell, then after a year I was accepted into the Air Force, was there for about seven years before moving to SA. Had to get away from the Mugabe and his sick tricks.

At 25 February 2013 at 06:47 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Anne Shaw (RhAF) Writes

Many thanks for this. My daughter Jean and I climbed to the summit in about 1997. I was very proud of the this achievement at my age then, being in my late sixties. Unfortunately the path was not well defined and we did have trouble at times finding it but it really was worth the effort. The views are breathtakingly spectacular from the summit. It is reported one can see the sea from the top on a clear day with very powerful binoculars? We carried a couple of bottles of water with us as advised.

There is a large bill board at the car park with warnings and advice of the does and don't before one sets off.

One was that no children under the age of 12 years old are permitted to climb the mountain at all. (I think the youngest in the photograph may be under the age of 12?)
Another was that if there is any cloud at all on the top or blowing in one should not attempt to climb the mountain.
Another warning was not to deviate at all from the marked path as there are quick sands off the track and people have been known to disappear forever.

I do know for a fact even experienced climbers have got lost on the mountain and that they have had to be found by rescue teams. This I gathered from a couple of the rescue volunteers was a fairly regular occurrence. It could be very tricky for them if the weather had changed and it could be dangerous. A night on the mountain could be a very chilly experience for a climber if lost in winter.

At 9 February 2017 at 14:38 , Blogger Daniel said...

Normal person can not imagine to go on highest mountains in the world Only daring persons will complete this challenge there stats are really amazing

At 25 December 2019 at 14:26 , Blogger rock said...

As a Zimbabwean born after 1980 i cant help but marvel at the stories i hear about Rhodesia. It certainly was a great time even for our black African fathers.


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