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Gashaka-Gumti: Close up on the “Mountain of Death”

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By Richard Ihediwa and tourist reports

Ever heard of the Mountain of Death? Perhaps not; it exists and here in Nigeria. The Mountain of death, the Gangirwal Mountain is one of the wonders of nature that greets you when you visit the Gashaka-Gumti National Park in Taraba state.
Standing 7,963 ft (2,419 m), Gangirwal Mountain translated “the mountain of death” is the highest point in Nigeria. It is found in the Adamawa Mountains in the remote corner of Gashaka National Park which is also the largest national park in the country covering about 6,600 sq kilometers.
The National Park is replete with wonderful highland landscape as well as exotic species of flora and fauna including the beautiful confluence of River Ngiti and River Gamgam.
In the forests of the park, one has the opportunity to watch exotic species of wild life including baboons, putty-nosed guenons, mona monkey, black and white colobus, chimpanzees giant-forest hog, buffalo, klipspringer as well as species of wild cats such as leopards.
Back to the “Mountain of Death”. From the lower part of the park, especially from the small village of Jauro Hammasale, tourists experience an ominous and overbearing feeling when viewing the bulk of the mountain from below.
The real thrill is actually the adventurous walk up to the “Mountain of Death”. It can take a few days and will afford better view of the scenery and natural biodiversity of the region.
From Serti, you will start with a bumpy bush tracks that takes you to another town called Njawai in the Mambilla Plateau and from there the climb starts. A metal sign translated into most of the local languages welcomes you to the park, the path then descends to the remote village of Jauro Hammasale. This will take a full day’s walk.
In fact, the real climb starts from Jauro Hammasale. Going through a prominent route takes one through a ridge with Nigeria on the one hand and Cameroon on the other.
While the Nigerian side has a dense forest, the land to the right in Cameroon is more densely populated and is largely devoid of forest. At about halfway up, it is easy to make a detour to view the largely unexplored Podocarpus forests that envelop the prominent rocky spire known locally as Dutsin Dodo.
Climbing the Gangirwal is an adventure and fun as it is like steady climb to reach the roof of the earth.
The summit of the Gangirwal has an irregular plateau of about 21 sq km area. It has low layers of shrubs and herbs, montane grassland and montane riparian woodland. There are also several species of animals moving freely in their natural habitat.
At the summit, one has the feeling of being on top of Nigeria. From there one has a hazy, but sometimes very clear view of the country land spread below with Nigeria and the one hand and Cameron on the other.
To descend from the mountain, one can go through a watershed between Cameroon and Nigeria following a prominent undulating ridge towards some hills called “Chappal Delam”, meaning the hill where salt is found. There you will find Fulani herdsmen grazing their animals
The route from here descends to follow the headwaters of the Ngiti River that flows at these altitudes as a swift, clear stream. The watersheds provide a large share of the Benue River's water that serves millions of people in Nigeria.
From Chappal Delam, one descends to a range of mountains called Hamman Kankadu, named after a crazy hermit who was the first person to settle there. From there one reaches the Filinga plateau.
The highest peaks in the bowl-like Hamman Kankadu range provide a wonderful view over Gangirwal, the route to Chappal Delam, the Filinga plateau and Chappal Hendu (“windy mountains”) beyond. Immediately below is a mosaic of grassland, woodland savanna, riparian forest and lowland rainforest stretching away as far as the eye can see.
The Filinga enclave is centered on the Filinga plateau, an undulating area with an average altitude of about 1,100 m above sea level.
Many tourists wonder why Gangirwal is called the “Mountain of Death”. Basically no tourist has been reported to have died on the mountain. Several myths abound as to how the name came about.
It is held among the locals that people who venture into the mountains do not come back alive. It was held that people are taken by strange forces on the mountain. However, there exist a local myth which has it that Gangirwal had a keeper; a bad tempered grey bearded old man who sleeps at the base of the rock and hated being disturbed. Those who disturbed him were said to have received extreme misfortunes and never made it back.
Currently, there are a lot of researches and programmes such as the Gashaka Primate Project aimed at protecting the animal community and preserve the natural state of the area. Gashaka-Gumti is a natural paradise. Gangirwal is a wonder.

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