Trekking the Rwenzoris in Uganda
As early as 150 AD Ptolemy had written of the “Mountains of the Moon”, where snows fed the lakes and sources of the Nile. The Rwenzori Mountains are located on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the isolated volcanoes of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya are taller, they are the highest range of mountains in Africa with the highest summit of Mt. Stanley (otherwise know as Point Margherita) reaching 5109 meters. When the peaks were first explored at the end of the 19th century, there were six separate massifs that held glaciers on their flanks. At this point, the number with glaciers has dwindled down to just three, with one of those holding only tattered remnants of its earlier glaciation.
These massifs offer great attractions to climbers, walkers and naturalists. There are several endemic species of birds including the brilliant Rwenzori turaco. There are also monkeys, red forest duiker, hyrax and leopard. Some elephant and buffalo live in the lower valleys. Though the flora is similar to other East African mountain ranges it is exceptionally luxuriant mainly as a result of the high rainfall in the area; however, from mid-December to the end of February and from mid-June to mid-August there is little rain and good climbing weather.
On this ten day itinerary you will journey seven days and up to six nights deep into the Rwenzoris Mountains of Uganda with the goal of hiking up to Margherita Peak at 5,109m. This is a fully porter-supported trek involving some difficult terrain comprising bogs, deep undergrowth & boulders but the difficulties underfoot are easily made up for by the exotic vegetation and scenery.
RWENZORI TREK ITINERARY
- Fitness enables fun
- Hydrate excessively
- Polé-polé (ask if you don’t know!)
- Stop & Listen
TIPS & TRICKS
After leading many successful trips into the mountains there are several “trekking-hacks” we like to tell our clients to help them better enjoy their time in the mountains.
- Ski sticks are useful when ascending the scree to the summit.
- Ski sticks also help protect your knees when traveling downhill!
- Filling your bottle at night with hot water creates a comforting heating pad to slip in your bag or beneath your pillow
- Powdered drink mix / sports mix helps with maintaining hydration (Tang, Gatorade, Lemonade)
- Find a pace to your hiking that you could keep at all day.
- Remember to pack some of your favorite snacks for a break on the trail.
Accommodations on the route are in either roomy two person tents or huts.
The huts are locally called “bandas” and were erected by the park service. Sleeping in a banda in a bed can be warmer than staying in tents but they do have a small added cost if you desire to book them for your adventure.
The tents can provide more privacy and are usually erected for you when you arrive, although if you want a particular position it’s worth taking charge. In the mornings it helps everyone to get away early if you lend a hand with taking the tents down.
Acclimatization is extremely important, both to let you enjoy your ascent but more importantly to avoid any serious complications. The route is planned to optimize the height gain, but you may still get a headache or feel nauseous. There are two important preventative measures: to drink copiously, even when it is really difficult, and to walk very slowly, avoiding as much as possible increased heart and breathing rates.
A drug is available, Diamox, from your doctor which is well proven to help with acclimatization. This is taken as tablets for a few days before and then during your ascent. It is safe and has no serious side effects.
It is important to remember that one possible effect of altitude is light-headedness and odd behavior, which can lead to foolish decisions. The danger here is someone who is not well insisting on continuing. Watch each other closely.
Water & Washing:
Water is available at several points and should be purified before drinking. All water in camp will be boiled and some provided for drinking the next day. A comforting tip is to fill your bottle in the evening with boiled water for the next day, and to use it as a hot water bottle overnight. Check with your guide where the water points are.
Washrooms are available at the huts but not the camps. Some camps have several and so it’s worth checking for the cleanest. If you are caught short during the walk, please find a spot as far as possible from the trail and any water. Bury your feces and paper. It is often easiest to move a large rock and use the indent as a hole. Mark your spot by balancing a couple of stones.
Most hiking is strenuous, but not technical climbing, and no mountain-climbing experience is necessary. But there’s no avoiding the steep ascents and high altitudes that make robust physical fitness (and a minimum age of 11 years) a prerequisite for any trip. You’ll want to consult your physician before undertaking this unforgettable adventure.
The menus for all climbs are specially prepared to provide a balanced diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, plenty of protein and carbohydrates. We have tried to choose food items that are easiest to digest at high altitude.
Dinners are typically a main course with vegetable and salad. Chicken and fish are served at some of the days during the climb, with pastas and rice dishes being served in the middle of the climb while up high.
Lunches are often on the trail and usually consist of cold cuts and vegetables laid out on a table so you can make your own sandwich. Fresh hot vegetable soups are served at every meal, and packet soup is available on request between meals as is coffee and tea.
Breakfast is your choice: granola, toast, fruit, eggs, and sometimes pancakes or French toast.
Food and kitchen equipment will be carried by the porters and cooked by an experienced cook. It will be plentiful and wholesome but may be limited by the circumstances. Our cooks undergo extensive training and we have ongoing workshops to review menus. The cooks are particularly vigilant in their hygiene practices as contracting stomach bugs is common for visitors to the developing world.
Your own supply of chocolate and high energy snacks is a recommended.
While hiking some people have a favorite food that they like; it is a good idea to bring this from home.