Fairend Safaris

Hiking Margherita Peak

Hiking Margherita Peak is an adventurous endeavor because this is the highest peak in the Rwenzori Mountains that you are interested in climbing. The mountains are located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwenzori Mountains National Park where the peak is situated is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning scenery and diverse wildlife. To hike Margherita Peak, you’ll need to be well-prepared physically and mentally. Besides it’s a challenging trek that often requires several days to complete. The route usually used is that via Elena Hut which is the same trail used by the pioneers many years ago in 1906.

Getting to Margherita peak

The hiking routes in the Rwenzori mountains can be divided into two categories namely the high altitude and the low altitude. These typically have a different number of days to accomplish the hike. The high altitude trek takes about 6 to 12 days to reach a peak of 4,600 meters and above whereas the low altitude takes about 3 to 4 days to reach an elevation of 3,100 meters. Getting to Margherita Peak requires a minimum of 7 days to reach 5,109 meters.

Here is a guide on what the typical hiking days are like to reach the summit.

Day 1: The beginning of the hike

The first day of the hike starts at 1,450 meters and usually hikers sleep at Sine Hut which is at 2,596 meters. However, those who are more fit and have more climbing experience usually proceed to stay at Kalalama camp which is at 3,134 meters. The lower altitudes start with walking through the valley through tall forest trees of the Afro Montane Forest Zone. Here you get to see birds, primates, plant species, bamboo thickets, flowers, and many more.

Day 2: Getting to Mutinda Camp

On the second day of climbing, the trek usually starts at 8:30 am where you enter the bamboo minulopsis zone which is a steep climb with steep steps. The atmosphere here is beautiful as you climb 551 meters to get to Kalalama camp which is at 3,147 meters. Upon arrival, you take a cup of tea or coffee, and rest before heading on to Mutinda camp. The trail to Mutinda camp has several small knolls, a valley, water streams, and falls. There are rocks under giant heather trees whose bunks are covered in green moss.

Day3: Ascending to Bugata Camp

You first cross the Mutinda valley through the tussock grass and flowers before climbing a steep section up to the Namusangi valley which is at 3,840 meters. The trail leading here is boggy and usually slippery and needs a bit of skill to navigate during the wet season. The valley has beautiful waterfalls, is wide, and has many ups and downs as you steadily ascend to Bugata Camp which is at 4,100 meters.

Day 4: Reaching Hunwick’s Camp

You leave Bugata Camp and pass up a ridge then drop down slightly before ascending to Bamwanjarra pass which is at 4,450 meters. There is a hut in case the weather becomes bad, trekkers can take a break. At this point on a clear day, you can have clear views of the three main peaks. This is a great area to observe Malachite sunbirds as they feed and it is also their breeding site. There is a steady climb up and over a ridge to get to Hunwick’s Camp. This camp has great views of Mt. Stanley, Mt. Baker, Weismanns Peak, and McConnell’s prong.

Day 5: Getting to Margherita Camp

On the fifth day, you pass across the valley floor to Lake Kitendara which has stunning vegetation and deep water. From there you climb to Scott Elliot’s pass up to the Margherita Camp which is at 4,485 meters. This camp is located between huge rocks which offer shelter from strong winds. This is the spot where the Duke of Abruzzi camped when he was climbing to Margherita peak in 1906.

Day 6: Getting to Margherita Peak

This is the most exciting day of the hike, trekkers begin at 2 am with an early breakfast before starting the climb. The hiking starts very early due to safety because the weather has changed.  Even in dryer seasons, the mountain is closed in heavy clouds and snow falls from 1 pm to 4 pm. For safety, trekkers are required to turn back at 10 am whether they have reached the peak or not. Nonexperienced mountain climbers are advised to stay on Stanley glacier and climb up on a rocky outcrop on the edge of Alexandra peak to have beautiful views of DRC.

Day 7: Descend to Kiharo Camp

The distance from Hunwick’s camp to Kiharo Camp is 11km and usually takes about 4 to 7 hours to walk. You start by climbing up a ridge towards McConnell’s prong, here you get great views of the three peaks. You reach Oliver’s pass which is at 4,505 meters via Scott Elliott’s pass. This trail cuts below Weismann’s peak to the confluence of the Nyamwamba- river which flows through Kilembe and Kasese to Lake George situated in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Kiharo camp is situated in a deep valley with high cliffs and dense vegetation.

Day 8: Reaching the base / Final day

This is usually the final day of the climb, trekkers complete their hiking on this very day. They get to the park gate which is 16km away from Kiharo camp. The time to walk this distance usually takes about 5 to 8 hours. The trail down is mostly downhill characterized by deep valleys, waterfalls, forests, and other geographical features. Along this trail, hikers can see Red duikers feeding in small clearings along the river. A few kilometers down the river it becomes steeper with multitudes of stunning waterfalls. You later climb over a ridge and then down through dense forests. You may stop at Forest View camp for a meal before heading back to the base camp.

How to prepare for the hike

To hike to the Margherita peak, one needs to be emotionally ready and physically fit. To reach the summit you must navigate ice passages, rocks, and steep inclines. This hike is more difficult compared to that of Kilimanjaro Mountain. You have to be escorted by a professional climbing crew and must have porters to help you carry your items if you are not a well-experienced mountain climber.

Start training well in advance, focusing on cardiovascular endurance, strength, and stamina. Incorporate activities such as hiking, running, cycling, and strength training into your routine. Aim for a mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercises to build overall fitness.

 Invest in high-quality hiking gear suitable for challenging terrain and varying weather conditions. Essential items include sturdy hiking boots, moisture-wicking clothing layers, waterproof jacket, and pants. A warm hat and gloves, sunglasses, sun protection (sunscreen, lip balm with SPF), trekking poles, and a comfortable backpack.

Pack carefully, ensuring you have all the necessary equipment and supplies for the hike. This includes a first aid kit, emergency shelter (such as a lightweight tent or bivy sack), and sufficient food and water. Additionally, navigation tools (map, compass, GPS), headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries, multi-tool or knife, and personal items such as medications and toiletries

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the hike. Bring a water filtration system or purification tablets to treat water from natural sources. Pack high-energy snacks and meals that are lightweight and easy to carry.

The best time for hiking Margherita

The best time for hiking Margherita Peak is during the dry seasons, which typically occur from June to August and December to February. During these months, you’re more likely to encounter stable weather conditions and clear skies. Making it a safer and more enjoyable hiking experience.

However, it’s essential to note that weather patterns can vary, and unexpected weather events can occur at any time of the year.