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Things to know about hiking the Rwenzori Mountains

Hiking the Rwenzori mountains is one of the ultimate adventure activities to do if you are a daring traveler. These mountains are located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are characterized by their rugged terrain and significant elevation variations with several peaks, valleys, and glaciers. The Rwenzoris must be explored on foot and require a person to have an above-average level of fitness.

Hiking to the highest peak Margherita is classified as a technical climb and therefore requires some level of fitness and prior preparation. There are a range of treks including short treks of about one to two days and long treks which take about 12 days.

Different Ranges used for hiking the Rwenzori mountains

Mount Stanley

This is the highest peak in the Rwenzori Mountains and the third highest in Africa. Hiking this range is a challenging and rewarding adventure. Margherita Peak is the highest point reaching an elevation of 5,109 metres. This mountain rises through jungle and strange bogs to a series of jagged peaks ringed by glaciers. It is composed of quartzite that was produced about 10 million years ago. Travelers interested in climbing this range must be physically fit and emotionally ready since they are required to spare at least 7 to 12 days to execute this activity. The hike to Mount Stanley involves long days at altitude, passing through challenging terrain. Additionally, the route to the summit involves ice hiking so you will be using ropes and crampons.

Mount Speke

Mount Speke is the second-highest peak of the Rwenzori ranges located in a region known as the Mountains of the Moon. The different summits of Mount Speke are Vittorio which stands at an elevation of 4,890 meters, Ensonga at 4,865 meters, Johnston at 4,834 meters, and Trident at 4,572 meters. All mountains in this region are named after explorers who arrived in Africa during colonialism. John Speke in Particular whom this range is named after sketched the source of the Nile in 1862 despite never hiked this summit.

Mount Emin

Mount Emin has two peaks one standing at an elevation of 15742 ft which is called Umberto and the other standing at 15720ft and is called Kraepelin. It was named after an explorer called Mohammed Emin Pasha who widely explored central Africa. Although it has no snow, it is great for hiking however it can only be possible on the Congo side. This mountain was formed due to an elevation of block crystalline rocks comprising of gneiss, amphibolite, granite, and quartzite. The best way to reach Mount Emin is through Mugusu valley which stretches to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mount Baker

Mount Baker also known as Kiyanja is the fifth highest mountain in Africa. It stands at an elevation of 4,844 meters and together with Mount Speke and Stanley form a triangle enclosing the upper Bujuku valley.  Klaus Thyman’s excursion in 2020 verified the absence of glaciers on Mount Baker and Mount Speke. Thymann utilized comparable pictures to demonstrate that two of Africa’s 5 glaciated summits have been lost.

Trekking routes to use for hiking the Rwenzori Mountains

 Two routes can lead you to the summit of the Rwenzori mountains, one being the central circuit and the other being the southern circuit.

Central circuit

The central circuit is the most popular and most used for hiking the Rwenzori mountains. It is supervised by the Rwenzori mountaineering service and has an excellent walk that passes through plant zones, gorges, and valleys to the summit of Mount Stanley. This route takes you up to Margherita peak and back in about 8 to 12 days depending on your level of fitness. This journey is easier with the help of guides, and porters who assist in cooking, carrying bags, and navigating.

Along the central circuit, there are stop-over points which are Nyabitaba at 2651 meters, John Matte at 3505 meters, Bujuku at 3962 meters, Elena at 4541 meters, Kitandara at 4023 meters and Guy Yeoman at 3505 meters.

Southern route

The southern route also known as the Kilembe trail/route was inaugurated in 2009 following the building of new cottages along this route. It was originally followed by professor Scott Elliot in 1895 however, he did not reach the Margherita peak. This route showcases the rich plant and animal life that exists on the slopes of the mountain.  Additionally, it provides the greatest climbing experience with great views of a lake, glaciers, and peaks. The Kilembe Path is owned and operated by the Rwenzori trekking services. Getting to the summit using this route requires about 7 to 8 days. There are some camping sites on this route where mountain climbers can rest and these are Sine hut at 2596 meters, Mutinda camp at 3582 meters, Bugata camp at 4100 meters, Margherita camp at 4485 meters, Hunwicks camp at 3874 meters and Kiharo camp at 3430 meters.

The Bukurungu Trail is another trail on Rwenzori mountains which was constructed along the central circuit and Kilembe routes. It is ideal for more adventurous climbers since there are no shelters on this route. The only available option is safe camping sites and these are supervised by Bujuku Eco Tours which operates under Rwenzori Mountains National Park. This trail passes through lakes like Bujuku, Bukurungu, Mughuli, and Irene. Besides there are mountain rivers, waterfalls, and lush foliage.

What to pack, essential gear, and equipment needed during the hike

Having the right equipment and gear while climbing the Rwenzori mountains is essential. Some of the items that climbers must bring for the trek are;

  • Trekking poles to enhance stability and reduce joint strains.
  • Sleeping bags suitable for very cold temperatures
  • Great hiking boots with ankle supporters.
  • Backpack to carry essentials like food, water, and other items.
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat.
  • Gloves
  • Headlamp for early morning starts
  • lastly, a First aid kit

 The best time for hiking Mount Rwenzori

The Rwenzori Mountains can be hiked any time throughout the year but most travelers prefer hiking during the dry season. The period from June to August and December to February is the best time to climb mountain Rwenzori. During these months there is little or no rain therefore the terrain and routes are easier to use and climb, unlike other months when it is raining and the routes are slippery.