Mountain climbing and hiking for Baby Boomers in Africa

Climbing and Hiking in Africa is great for boomers

There are two words that will put in a nutshell why climbing and hill walking in Africa is so feasible for oldies: climate and porters. Lightweight survival kit is all you will ever need, and there is usually someone close at hand willing and able, and often legally empowered to carry it for you.

Then there is all the cerebral interest that is so often absent in northern hemisphere destinations. Floral and bird diversity are just two of these. Estimates vary on precisely what can be seen in different places, but in destinations such as Mulanje in Malawi, Chimanimani in Zimbabwe/Mozambique, the Drakensberg in the South African Midlands and the various Cape mountain groups it is absolutely guaranteed that at just about any time of the year the number of available bird and flower species run easily into the hundreds. At optimum periods this is usually highly amplied. There is a lot of fun to be had for the true nature enthusiast in African mountaineering and hill walking for boomers.

There are some drawbacks too

These, however, are probably universal. Kilimanjaro is overcrowded and so over regulated. The guides available are usually young men and women taking advantage of a job opportunity and rarely have any knowledge or interest in the environment. It is mandatory to embark with a guide, which has the effect of limiting a climber to a group. No opportunity for unaccompanied climbing is allowed. The principal reason for this is to allow for optimum local employment, which in the broader picture is a good thing. Older groups are hard to find, and an older person in a group of younger climbers can expect a general pace and appreciation differential.

Tanzania also has the ol doinyo lengai climbing trail. This can include a visit to the volcano itself, but perhaps more interestedly, a lengthy and moderately easy hike across the signature heartland of the Serengeti/Mara ecosystem in the company, usually, of a Maasai guide who can be expected to be much more engaged with the environment than any urban opportunist as one would more than likely climb with on Kilimanjaro.

Malanje in Malawi is a small mountain within a limited micro-environment, but inside of that lies a world or extraordinary bio-diversity in just about every form you can imagine. It is a wonderland for birdwatchers, flower enthusiasts or tree fundis, to say nothing of frogs, butterflies, reptiles, insects and orchids. This is a day-walk destination but overnight options are available. Guides are necessary, but Mulanje is much less commercial than Kilimanjaro and there is far less hustle here.

The same is true for Chimanimani in Zimbabwe. This is usually a very unexpected climbing and hiking destination for a visitor to Zimbabwe. Like Mulanje it is quite limited in scope, and a summit of Binga is a day walk for the most part. It is, however, also home to a celebrated diversity of flora and fauna with a combination of characteristics drawn from a number of diverse eco-zones. Unaccompanied access is permitted although for longer trips in a guide is always a good thing.

The Drakensberg in the midlands of South Africa is a magnificent escarpment range separating Lesotho from SA itself. It is perhaps the most accessible of all African mountain ranges, and the most liberal too. None of the overt commercialism of Mt Kenya or Kilimanjaro, and certainly none of the questionable conservation standards of Mulanje and Chimanimani. It has a similarly wide natural breadth and diversity as well as a well appointed support/hospitality sector. I would recommend the Drakensberg to any interested climber above a certain age.

The best mountaineering choice across Africa in my opinion is the Rwenzori Mountains that straddle Uganda and DRC. This is an increasingly popular African choice but it is a very touch climb and by far the biggest challenge on the continent; more so certainly that Kili. Rwenzori is characterized by bogs and it is these that make climbing extremely difficult almost all of the time. However, it is also the highest rainfall zone in Africa, which explains the bogs, but also give rise to giantisim and an unbelievable bio-diversity. A definite must for those with the muscle, but for those without…keep away!

For more info on any baby boomer and oldies African mountaineering and hiking get in touch!