By Denen Achussah
On Monday, 2nd May, 2022, at approximately 8:42am, a group of 17 hikers from the Benue Hike Group (BHG) made it to the roof of Nigeria, on the Chappal Waddai mountain. They were accompanied by four potters and four Park Rangers, ThisWeek learnt.
The Keeper of BHG, Tersoo Samson Akula a.k.a Kugia u Kwande, says the expedition was in solidarity with victims of gender-based violence and BHG’s contribution to actions and initiatives aimed at drawing more attention and influencing action towards the reduction of gender-based violence in Nigeria.
From Makurdi, the Benue State capital, it took the party five days to reach the summit. “The 5-day trip saw us travel hundreds of kilometers in and out of Taraba and Benue states, with our first place stop at Serti,” says Akula. They are the first group to reach the summit of Nigeria in such numbers – seven males and 10 females, it is learnt. They are also the first to trek all the way from Njawei to the summit.
Code named the roof top of Nigeria, Chappal Waddai is a 2, 419m (7,936 ft) mountain and represents Nigeria and West Africa’s highest point and the second highest point in sub-Saharan Africa, after Mt Cameroon.
Located at the eastern corner of Gashaka Gumti National Park in Taraba State, Nigeria, the Chappal Waddai mountain is a majestic spectacle, straddling the Cameroonian border with Nigeria. The mountain, also known as Gangirwal, meaning the ‘Mountain of Death’ in Fulfulde, because of an insurmountable gully that exists in the Southern corner of the Nigerian side of the range, is a part of the Bamenda-Adamawa-Mandara Mountain chain of Nigeria and Cameroon.
Narrating the experience to the summit, Akula says “between the 29th of April and 3rd of May 2022, Benue Hike Group carried out an expedition to Chappal Waddai.”
“Summiting this Mountain is a challenge we have always wanted to take on. We are extreme hikers, which means we take on the most daring trails in very difficult and hard to reach areas. We are also night hikers,” Akula went on.
From Makurdi, the party first camp at “the transit camp of the Gashaka-Gumti National Park (GGNP), Nigeria’s largest national park.”
Escorted by armed Park Rangers, the group left Serti on 30th April, “travelled 77Km to Ngoroje using the snake like beautiful road. This road is undoubtedly the most dangerous road in Nigeria.
“Ngoroje, is actually the transit town to Njawei, which is the last town on the Nigerian border with Cameroon. Our trip to Njawei was done by using two Hilux trucks. We had alternatives of hiring Land Rovers or motorbikes from the locals, but we decided to cut cost by burdening our vehicles. One of the Hilux vehicles was provided for us by the park officials.
“The terrain from Ngoroje to Njawei was rough and difficult. The trip took us six hours to arrive our destination. We were also lucky the heavens were dried; the rains would have made the journey much more difficult as the road would have become slippery.
“We got to the Rangers outpost at Njawei by twilight and linked up with the Park Rangers and got ourselves two more armed escorts. By our plan, we were supposed to hike to Amansale the same day. But we didn’t reach the bargain with the bike riders who were supposed to convey our luggage to Amansale and also the potters on time. It was well after 9:00pm when we reached a bargain. Then the the rains came down to disrupt the rest of the schedule. We had no choice but spend the night at Njawei.”
The group would proceed on a 22Km hike to Amansale, from Njawei, completing the distance in five hours. “We hiked through a beautiful but difficult terrain, which took us in and out of the republic of Cameroon. We finally got to Amansale, which is a Cameroonian village, and the base camp for the Chappal Waddai.
“We were supposed to spend the night at Amansela but we had lost 10 hours due to the stop at Njawei. So we would proceed to climb the mountain that same day. This was a great test of our endurance.
“The hike from Njawei also helped our bodies to adjust to the high altitude. This was important especially for those who may have had high altitude sickness,” explains the BHG Keeper.
According to Akula, the “six-hours hike to the ‘Roof of Nigeria'” began at 4:45pm, same day. “This time, we were deeply into the republic of Cameroon. But the fatigue of the trek from Njawei started to get to us. It became obvious we couldn’t summit Chappal Waddai that day as planned, plus the mountain became excessively cold and windy that night,” says Akula, adding that the party was “also tired and hungry. So we made a decision to stop at a place where summiting the next morning wasn’t going to be difficult again.
“After hiking five more hours, from Amansale, we pitched our tents and just behind us was Dutsen Dodo, a unique rock formation that has left many researchers and tourist in awe.
“It was a cold night. The clouds enveloped us; we literary slept in the clouds. The next day, we didn’t leave the camp area on time as planned because of the cold. But by 6:00am, we were up and began the final climb to the top of the mountain of death.
“On our way, we saw companies of baboons, some jackal, majestic landscape, and well-fed cattle grazing lazily on the grandeur montane land. We hiked through a rain forest, savanna and montane vegetations. Such is the vegetational diversity of the Chappal Waddai.
“So, at approximately 8:42am, we summited the top of Nigeria – 17 of us, plus 4 potters and 4 Park Rangers. We become the first group to reach the summit of Nigeria in such numbers – 7 males and 10 females, also the first to trek all the way from Njawei to the summit.
“The summit of Chappal Waddi was marked by a wooden signpost in 2020 by a group of climbers who visited the mountain with TVP Adventures. This has become the official highest point. At this point we are higher than 200 million people in Nigeria, over 420 million in West Africa and over 700 million in sub-Saharan Africa.
“We proceeded to have photo sessions in solidarity with messages against GBV (Gender Based Violence) and also pictures to promote the products and services of our sponsors and partners. The journey down to Amansale took just 2 Hours: 50 minutes approximately, as against the over six hours we used in climbing.
“The group had rested and recovered well from the fatigue of the day before and were able to pick speed!” explains Akula.
Charles Erukaa a.k.a Iron Draggon, summed the moment: “This is the highest point in Nigeria. Right over there,” he said, pointing as he runs towards a wooden post on which is engraved: Chappal Waddai. “We, have made it,” Erukaa says, straddling his arms in fulfilment.
Taking to his Facebook page, where he uploaded a video of the moment, Erukaa wrote: “Right behind The Keeper Kugia U Kwande and just ahead of the V6 crew led by Judith Ngohile Nenge the Wild Spirit, I couldn’t resist some theatrics, as Benue Hike Group (BHG) conquered Chappal Waddi, the Mountain of Death, West Africa’s highest point.
“The Keeper aimed the camera and I simply blazed away…got drowned by the wind and photo bombed by the Wild Spirit.”
The BHG Keeper expressed profound appreciation to their partners: Exodus Cinema, Community Links and Human Empowerment Initiative (CLHEI), TheSixth Photography, Frankin Fotography, Kasejene, The Scent Shop, KSS, Jumifa Bread, MHWUN SPAGz and Abeda Ventures.
He says it’s a leap for BHG. “I am excited, I am happy to be here today,” he says, walking up to the highest point on Chappal Waddai. “Legend status sealed,” he adds. “We are the first hike group in Nigeria to reach the top of Nigeria with 18 people.”
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