The Rwenzoris, or the Mountains of the Moon, have a celebrated beauty. Shrouded almost perpetually in mist, they have a seducing, eerie quality that led to many wondrous tales about them through the ages.
The mountains - about 120 km long - were forced up during the creation of the Great Rift Valley. At the centre of the range are six peaks with permanent snow, three with glaciers. The highest mountain in the range, Mount Stanley, can only be reached by experienced trekkers. Its peak, Margherita, the third highest in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, rises to 5,109m above sea level.
A hike through the lower, central Rwenzori needs about five days; ascent of the peaks requires a further two days and is only for the really fit, and needs proper equipment (Please ask for details).
Arrival Kampala to the Rwenzori Mountains
Arrive Entebbe airport. Meet, greet and transfer to Kampala for briefing. Drive with your guide on the road to Kasese; past captivating attractions en route: look at royal drum makers, brief stop at the Equator and be in both hemispheres at once, drive past the roadside markets aerated with fruit and vegetables. Continue to the escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley, before retiring to your hotel, with the Rwenzori mountains acting as a majestic backdrop. Make final arrangements for a guide and porters. [Approximate driving time: 6 hours]
O/N: Margherita Hotel, Kasese (FB).
Nyakalengija trailhead (1600m) to Nyabitaba (2650m)
After a substantive breakfast drive to Nyakalengija trailhead (1600m). Walk past the banana shambas on the side of the steep foothills, and the Bakonjo homesteads at the foothills. Follow the trail along the Mubuku River, walking up and down rocks and bluffs. Cross the Mahoma River and climb steadily through slopes and Podocarpus forest. O/N: Nyabitaba Hut (2650m) on a full board basis.
To John Matte (3350m)
After a substantive breakfast, depart Nyabitaba early, through a small trail dropping down through the forest to the Kurt Shafer Bridge, just below the convergence of the Bujuku and Mubuku Rivers. Gentle hike out of the forest into a bamboo zone, past a long stretch of slippery moss-covered ground. Passing into the zone of the giant heather, lobelia and groundsel, continue to Nyamileju rock shelter. Finally walk across a laborious bog to your hut. O/N: John Matte Hut (3350m) on a Full Board basis.
To Bujuku (3900m)
Take heavy breakfast. The trail crashes down to cross the Bujuku River and enters Lower Bigo Bog, home of giant lobelias. With feet difficulty, cross the bog to the Upper Bigo bog, continuing to Bujuku Lake, with views of the highest mountain - Stanley - to the West. O/N: Bujuku Hut (3900m) on a Full Board basis.
To Elena (4541m)
After Bujuku, the boggy trail climbs the slopes west of the lake, passing through the paranormal Groundsel Gully. Ascend to Scott-Elliot Pass (4372m). A metal ladder takes you over an extremely steep section after which the trail branches, the right leads up to Elena Hut and Mt Stanley over a steep rocky trail, while the left leads to Scott-Elliot Pass and down to Kitandara Lakes. O/N: Elena Hut (4541m) at the base of the Stanley Glacier, on a Full Board basis.
Elena Hut (4541m) to the peak (5109m) or begin the descent to Kitandara (4023m)
For those who do not wish to climb the peak, a more restful day walking from Elena Hut (4541m) to Kitandara (4023m).
For those who wish, but also depending on altitude sickness, fog, one's climbing and acclimatisation ability, climb a further three hours up to Margherita peak (5109m) and later down to Kitandara Hut. Climb on to the glacier, covering yourself with thick cloth, moving on to the Stanley Plateau. Jumble up to the Margherita summit, the highest point of the Rwenzoris. Use of Crampons and ropes may well be necessary. Be prepared for a tough, arduous time in the mountains and not everyone will make it so do not be disappointed if you don't. Return to Scott-Elliot pass, view the magical Bujuku Lake and Mt Speke at a distance, continue to Mt Stanley and down to the Kitandara Lakes. O/N: Kitandara Hut (4023m) on a Full Board basis
To Guy Yeoman (3260m)
After breakfast, a sharp climb from the base of Mt Baker to the south side of the mountain to Freshfield Pass (4280m). Views into the Congo to the west and Mt Stanley to the north are possible. From the pass, the boggy pass continues downwards, passing the rock shelter at Bujangolo, the base camp for the historic expedition by the Duke of Abruzzi in 1906. O/N: Guy Yeoman Hut (3260m) on a Full Board basis.
Descent to Nybitaba (2650m)
The trail down can be muddy and very slippery so you need to be well balanced. An overnight stop at the Nyabitaba Hut for some rest is a necessary measure after the exhaustion of recent days.
O/N: Nyabitaba (2650m) on a Full Board basis.
Descent to trailhead (1600m)
A gentle tumble down the steep and slippery paths to Nyakalengija trailhead (1600m), arriving late morning. Drive to Kasese for Lunch. Depart for Kampala, arriving late afternoon (HB). Continue to Entebbe airport for your flight. [Approximate driving time: 6 hours]
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