MOUNTAINOUS SAFARIS FOR HIKING
RWENZORI MOUNTAIN RANGES INTRODUCTION
The Rwenzori Mountains are the biggest mountain range in Africa, with 6 main mountains and peaks which exceed 4.500 m of altitude: Stanley, Speke, Baker, Gessi, Emin Pasha, Luigi Di Savoia. The range is located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo covering up to 120 Km. The territory is shared between the “Rwenzori Mountains National Park” in Uganda and “Virunga National Park” in Congo, however most of the area is on the Ugandan side. The highest mountain, Mt. Stanley, reaches the altitude of 5.109 m. with Margherita Peak. “Rwenzori” in the local Bakonjo language means “mountains of the rain”, referring to the rainy nature of the range, well known for its everlasting snow covered peaks, which is interesting to remark considering that on the South of the Rwenzori is the line of the Equator.
Traditionally these mountains have been an object of mystery due to the little knowledge people had of the Rwenzori until the XIX Century. The first western adventurer who is reported to have seen the mountains from far away is Sir Henry Morton Stanley in 1888. Already the geographer Claudius Ptolemy in 150 AC, while collecting the stories coming from the central African region, for the first time spoke of the “Mountains of the Moon” or “Lunae Montes”, from where eventually could originates the river Nile.
However, after several attempts made by British explorers to ascend the main peaks, the first to complete the mission was the Italian Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, the Duke of Abruzzi. The Italian led team, between June and July 1906 climbed the mountains, opening a new page in the history of mountaineering and exploration in Africa, and providing an answer to the most unresolved geographical questions in the region for centuries. Some of the peaks still have the name which the Duke choose to honour the Italian Kingdom and Queen Margherita. The memorable photographs of Vittorio Sella, the official photographers of the expedition, for the first time gave a concrete image to the fabulous and legendary snow covered Mountains of the Moon.
In the occasion of the Centenary of the historical climbing, the Italian and Ugandan communities have decided to celebrate the event, with the aim of attracting more international attention to the Rwenzori mountains, still not well known as an important destination for tourists and climbers and Uganda as a country.
Required equipment for the central circuit and short hike trials: rucksack, sleeping bag for low temperature and sleeping mat, one plate, cutlery, mug, knife, gumboots (there are many bogs on the way and the gumboots are the best friends of the Rwenzori and its rocks and vegetation), water proof trousers, poncho or rain coat, heavy worm jacket, hand gloves, scarf and cup, one jumper, a torch, bottle of water for one litre and half.
You will find already: saucepans, cooking fire. The group or the individual person are accompanied by a guide and by some “porters”, who have the duty of transporting some of the equipment so that each person does not carry more than 10 kg. All food is included in the organization and will be carried by the porters.
For whoever will climb the peak some specialised equipment is required in addition: crampons, snow gloves, snow goggles, climbing boots, rope and ice axe.
most of the necessary equipment is rentable directly at the store of Rwenzori Mounteneering Services, especially the gumboots. However, we kindly request you to communicate in advance what type of equipment you would like to rent in place or buy in Uganda, so that we will guarantee the availability.
RWENZORI MOUNTAIN HIKING
10 days Rwenzori Mountain hiking (A date with the Mountains of the Moon and Queen Elizabeth): Tour Code: TL 010
On arrival at Entebbe Airport, a guide from TopLife Safaris will meet you and transfer you to Kasese and over night at Hotel Margherita depending on time of arrival.
This evening, your guide will go to the park headquarters and the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services concessions to arrange payments, rent equipment and select guides and porters for the following day’s journey. F/B.
This morning, you will begin your hike by leaving the park head quarters (5400ft 1,646 m), walking past typical “ wattle and mud” Buhonjo homes and gradually moving upward through elephant grass and garden plots. It takes approximately forty minutes to reach the National Park boundary (which can be a pleasant half or one day trip for someone not going further ).The trail then follows the Mahoma River after about two and a half hours. After crossing the River, you will have a very steep climb through open bracken fern slopes and Podocarpus forest up to Nyabitaba Hut ( 8,700 ft/ 2,652) reached about an hour and a half past the Mahoma River crossing. During this part of the trip, you may be able to see Chimps and some times behind the Hut you can see Black and White Colobus and Blue monkeys and catch glimpses of the brilliantly -colored Rwenzori Touraco ( a bird of the tree tops). Over night at Nyabitaba hut. F/B.
From Nyabitaba Hut that trail leads westward for a half km then drops north (right) steeply to Kurt Shafer Bridge, crossing below the confluence of Bujuku and Mubuku Rivers. By turning down the bridge you begin the circuit counter clock wise.
After crossing the Shafer Bridge, the muddy slippery trail climbs steadily up through bamboo forest. After one and a half hours you encounter an area of slippery boulder hopping which many hikers consider the most difficult and dangerous footing on the circuit. Over night at Nyamileju Hut. Nyamileju means “ a place of beards” referring to the lichen and spanish moss draping trees near by. On a rare day, Mts. Stanley and Speke can be seen from the top of the rock near the Hut. F/B.
After breakfast, you will continue to John Matte Hut (11,200 ft3, 414 m) which is through a tiring bog full of these extraordinary plants and the slow pace can be a delightful chance to examine and photograph this unique environment. Well situated, John Matte is newly constructed, large and comfortable though muddy around the site. Hikers who feel they have reached their limits by this point should consider John Matte a reasonable stopping point. You can just enjoy the unique vegetation in the bog and the great views and the following day begin you return to Nyabitaba. F/B.
You leave John Matte Hut to cross the Bujuku River and enter the lower of the two Bigo Bogs, where your first real experience jumping from tussock to tussock in a grassy bog begins. The trail is very muddy and follows the left (southern) edge of Lower Bigo Bog until eventually it reaches the round metal “uniport” of Bigo Hut and it’s rock shelter.
A steep section past the hut leads to upper Bigo Bog. In the last half of this bog a board walk has been constructed. Though some may think it an ugly intrusion, it makes walking easier and keeps hikers from further damaging the bog. An hour and a half beyond the upper bog, and after climbing through drier ground and crisscrossing the River, you reach Bukulu Lake. The southern end of the lake is a majestic setting, with Mt. Bakerto the south, and views west to Mt Stanley and north to Mt. Speke. Beyond the north end of the lake is a rock shelter called Cooking Pot and a short distance further is Bukulu Hut( 13,000ft/3,962m),favourably located for parties climbing Mt. Speke. F/B.
To continue the circuit, you leave directly west from Bukulu hut on a newer trail, which rises and falls twice before finally climbing steeply through magical moss- draped Groundsel Gully towards (14,345ft/4,372m) Scott Elliot pass. At the head of the gully is a short, strong ladder at a particularly steep section, after which a right hand branch would lead to Elena Hut (14, 700ft/4,430m). This is a steep, rocky trail which when wet or icy is treacherously slippery. Continuing straight, and a few steps below the pass there is a sheltered spot for a break, from here there is a second trail to the right to Elena is the Base Camp for climbing. Margherita peak in the Mt. Stanley complex, which would require an additional day or two and can only be attempted with ice axe, mountain boots, crampons, ropes and prior arrangements with RMS guides. Over night at Kitandara Lake Hut. F/B.
Start hiking back to the park head quarters.
After breakfast, you will probably begin very early if you decided to make it all the way to the Park Headquarters and complete your trek (8 hours). The other alternative will be to spend a night at the Nyabitaba Hut. F/B.
Start hiking back and complete your trek by the evening. On arrival at the Park Office, visit a simple restaurant developed by a local ladies group for a beer and a luxurious candlelight meal. Over night at Hotel Margherita. F/B.
After breakfast, drive to Queen Elizabeth National park to end your trip with relaxation at Mweya safari lodge. Have an afternoon boat trip and later an evening game drive. Spend the whole evening relaxing by the swimming pool and dinner and over night at Mweya lodge. F/B.
Have a morning game drive and later transfer to Kampala and later catch your flight back home depending on International departure times.
Please note that the following is required for your mountain tracking.
Rops - Available at 5000/= for the whole trip
Gaiter - Hired at 5000/=
Hanex - available at 10,000/=
Please note that clients will be travelling in 4wheel drive vehicles, with enough legroom, with well-experienced guides who can handle all the requirements of the discerning traveller.
Mount Elgon National Park trekking circuit - Tour Code TLME01
Where to go: Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano with the largest surface area in the world (50 km by 80km) and a caldera which covers over 40km at the top of the mountain. The highest peak is Wagagai, 4.321 m. It lies at the border with Kenya in Eastern Uganda.
What activities & attractions: there are several trekking trails around Mount Elgon. The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes 4 to 5 days to complete, following Sasa or Sipi Trails. From Kapkway Exploration Centre (UWA quarter) you can take at least three different one - day hikes, the Chebanet Falls, Mountain Bamboo trail and Ridge view trail. The one day trail to see the four Sipi Falls is a popular activity and it starts from the village of Sipi.
Who can do it: Everybody can undertake this trekking, since this is not a difficult mountain to climb. No technical climbing equipment or skills are required. The altitude sickness is not a common problem in this trekking. When to go: The best time to visit Mount Elgon is May and September, November and December.
Visiting Mount Elgon is an exciting trekking experience, for the interesting flora and fauna, the spectacular water falls (including Sipi falls), several caves and panoramic views. The Mountain lies on the border and it is shared with Kenya. It is home to the Bagisu and the Sabiny people and the area is well known for the high cultivation of good Arabic coffee including Bugisu quality. While ascending the peaks, you meet four different vegetation zones: the montane forest, the bamboo forest, the heath zone and moorland zone, where you can find some endemic species of plants like giant Lobelia elgonensis, particular groundsels, everlasting flowers. At the moment there are not huts available in the mountains, but nice designated camping sites. The trekking circuit of Mount Elgon
1. SIPI TRAIL 7 DAYS 6 NIGHTS
This trail is easier and more gradual and it passes through interesting sites like Tutum cave.
Day 1 From Kampala to Mbale, overnight at Mount Elgon Hotel.
Day 2 – From Kapkway to Tutum Camp (2667m) In the morning from Mbale, passing via Sipi, you reach Kapkway Exploration Center, UWA headquarter. After arranging the guide and porters, with food and camping gear, you start walking up to Tutum Cave Camp (2667m) through montane and bamboo forest. Tutum cave is spectacular hidden within the forest. Dinner and overnight. Distance of the day: 11 km. Altitude of the day: 900m.
Day 3 – From Tutum Camp to Kajeri Camp (3383m) After breakfast proceed the hike to Kajeri Camp (3383m) for dinner overnight. Distance of the day: 17 km. Altitude of the day: 900m.
Day 4 – From Kajery Camp to Mude Camp (3.500m) After breakfast walk sloping down after Muyembe cam to Mude cave Camp (3.500m), where you join the Sasa Trial. Dinner and overnight. Distance of the day: 25 km. Altitude of the day: 120 m.
Day 5 – From Mude Camp to Wagagay Peak (4321 m) and return to Mude After breakfast you walk through the moorland zone up to the main peak, Wagagai, and return to the Mude campsite for dinner and overnight. Distance of the day: 18 km. Altitude of the day: 820m.
Day 6 – From Mude Camp descend to Budadiri The trekking ends descending to Budadiri, the gate of the national park nearby Mbale.
Day 7 Return to Kampala
2. SASA TRAIL 6 DAYS 5 NIGHTS Sasa trail is the fastest way to the main peak, however on the first day is particularly tough with rugged climb of over 1600m.
Day 1 From Kampala to Mbale, overnight at Mount Elgon Hotel.
Day 2 – From Budadiri to Sasa Camp (2.900m) In the morning you reach Budadiri (1250 m), nearby Mbale town, at the gate of the Mount Elgon National Park. After arranging the guide and porters, with food and camping gear, you start walking until Sasa River Camp (2.900 m) for the dinner and overnight. The distance is about 8 km. and takes average 7 to 8 hours walk. Altitude in a day: 1.700m.
Day 3 – From Sasa camp to Mude Camp (3.500m) After breakfast at the camping site, proceed through the forest to Mude Cave Campsite for dinner and overnight. Distance of the day about 5 km. and 4 to 5 hours walk. Altitude of the day: 600m.
Day 4 – From Mude Camp to Wagagay Peak (4321 m) and return to Mude After breakfast you walk through the moorland zone up to the main peak, Wagagai, and return to the Mude campsite for dinner and overnight. Distance of the day: 18 km.and 8 to 9 hours walk. Altitude of the day: 820m.
Day 5 – From Mude Camp back to Budadiri After breakfast descend to Budadiri and back to Mbale.
Day 6 Return to Kampala
The price includes: Transportation to the Park Full board and meals during the hike Camping tent and camping gear Guide and one porter, carrying max 18kg Cook Park Entrance fees
The price excludes: Equipment for the hike Extra Luggage Changes in the program itinerary
Required equipment and organization of the hike
Required equipment for the hike: rucksack, sleeping bag for low temperature and sleeping mat, one plate, cutlery, mug, knife, trekking shoes, poncho or rain coat, heavy worm jacket, hand gloves, scarf and cup, one jumper, a torch.
How the hike is organized: The group or the individual person is accompanied by a Guide and by one “porter”, who has the duty of transporting some of the luggage for up to 18kg per person (the rest is extra luggage and it will be chargeable at extra cost). Acacia Safaris provides the food menu, cooking equipment, tents and camping gears. The cook will help organizing food while the porter will help in the camping. Drinking water will be found in the mountain, however it is advised to bring disinfecting tablets.