Chimanimani

Part II of III Chimanimani mountains – a place of incredible beauty and the destination of our journey through Zimbabwe with the DAV rock climbing team ‚Felskader BW‘. So far we had just seen some stunning photos and local people praised it to the fullest – so we were very excited to see the Chimanimani...

Part II of III

Chimanimani mountains – a place of incredible beauty and the destination of our journey through Zimbabwe with the DAV rock climbing team ‚Felskader BW‘. So far we had just seen some stunning photos and local people praised it to the fullest – so we were very excited to see the Chimanimani mountains and to establish a lot of new boulders.

Crossing Zimbabwe

We had spent the last week in Bulawayo in the West of Zimbabwe. Now it was time to cross Zimbabwe to get to Chimanimani in the East. Despite building up our supplies there was one important task left to do before leaving Bulawayo: Dan advised us to change our US Dollars to the local Bond-Notes and ECO-Cash, a prepaid based mobile paying system used everywhere in Zimbabwe. Achieving superb exchange rates for the demanded US Dollars, you can save a lot of money. Someone stole some of our money in Bulawayo, so the exchange was welcome to compensate our loss.

We spent 8h of driving to get from Bulawayo to the Chimanimani national park. It’s a barren landscape you pass and from time to time you see some simple huts near the road. But you can see many people near the street: the roads are the lifelines of Zimbabwe and the most interesting things happen there – so the people spent most of their time there.

We avoided strictly to drive in the darkness because it is super dangerous. During our time in Zimbabwe, we saw a lot of bad car accidents and car wrecks near the street. A car accident would have been a logistic catastrophe to get some medical help and to leave Zimbabwe again. To avoid this risk, we spent the nights on more or less dubious camping places. Especially, at the ‚Masvingo caravan palace‘ halfway between Bulawayo and Chimanimani, I was happy the next day we could leave with all our belongings.

A bad discovery …

To spend the following 12 days in the Chimanimani mountains in an isolated hut, we had to carry all our equipment, supplies and crashpads up in the mountains. With a heavy 30kg backpack and a  mounted crashpad, we hiked up the steep hills for 3h (normally you would need 1 1/2h).

After hiking for 3h, we arrived in the amazing looking boulder fields with the beginning of the darkness. We smelled smoke in the fields and were looking forward to reaching the mountain hut at every moment. Passing a corner, we realized that the smoke came not from the hut: a bush fire was burning through the boulder fields and it was super fast. Being shocked that the beautiful landscape was burning down, we tried to fight the bushfire. At first, it seemed impossible, but with the help of the whole team, we stopped it. 

After arriving at the mountain hut some minutes later, we realized the whole situation. The fire was burning in the whole park and spread out in a circle pushed by the wind. Later rangers told us that smugglers and gold diggers sometimes light these fires to hide their traces. The fires continued burning in the mountains for days. A sad but also impressive spectacle …

The Chimanimani mountains

The mountain hut is a solid stonewalled hut isolated in the Chimanimani national park and only reachable on steep paths from the valley. Rarely some rangers or tourists showed up at the hut. Most of the time we were on our own, spending the time on the terrace and sleeping on our crashpads under the starry sky. 

We had to carry all our food up the mountains. To spent the 12 days, we had to do another hike down to bring up another 20kg of food for everyone. The food you could buy in the Chimanimani village was very limited and despite the vegetables super expensive e.g. we could not even afford oat flakes. The main food for nearly two weeks was toast, peanut butter, marmalade, avocados, rice, tomatoes, cabbage, and instant porridge.  

Endless boulder fields …

From the mountain hut, you can reach the boulder fields within a few minutes. The fields are endless and you can hike for ours and there are still new areas. The stone is grey like granite, but provides rich structures like sandstone e.g. honeycomb structures and chicken heads.  Unfortunately, it is as fragile as sandstone and sometimes the holds broke off easily. 

There are some established boulders, but most of the time, we hiked around and did first ascents on interesting locking lines. The potential is endlessly, nevertheless you have to search for good and hard lines. In the end, we had a list of over 50 nice and newly established boulders. Somehow, a lot of boulders were hard highballs up to 7 / 8m. In the beginning, it was super scary, but we got used to it after some days and the highballs got more ventured …

One impressive ascent was the one of Jens climbing ‚House of stone‘ (7c+) established by Jimmy Webb. It involves a super huge dyno to the top edge which is not that hard but scary. Big props for that … 

Another highlight for me was the first ascent of an 8a boulder. First, the line seemed impossible, and we nearly gave it up. Then we realized that we both failed to do all the moves abut together could do them all. And after figuring out the movements again with a rope, I took it down in the next try. It was a great pleasure to check this one out together …

Skeleton pass

The Chimanimani national park is located next to Mozambique and every one of us wanted to scratch off another country from his travelling world map. So we hiked to the mountain pass that divides Zimbabwe from Mozambique. 

First, some of us nearly got bitten by an angry snake lying in the middle of the path, but with headphones in their ears they could not hear the angry hissing. We did not know if this one was poisonous, but there are more puff adders in Chimanimani than anywhere else in the world and if one bites you, you have no chances …

Arriving on the pass, a horde of Baboon monkeys came down the hillsides and was super angry. Considering the long roundabout way, we went back through the same valley carefully. Happily, the monkey did not attack us because I am pretty sure they would have won that fight …

Leaving Chimanimani

After 12 days we had to leave the Chimanimani mountain hut with a heavy heart and terribly heavy backpacks. I do not know what went wrong there. We had to take down again all our equipment, the crashpads, and the trash. I had to carry over 40kg down. But every one of us suffered on the way down …

We left Chimanimani village and headed again to the South African border and from there to the next destination: Waterval Boven. After the experiences on the  way to Zimbabwe, we were afraid of the forthcoming border crossing … 

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