The festive season is upon us, and probably now is the time to make that long awaited trek up the magnificent Rwenzori Mountains.
Also known as Mountains of the Moon, the Rwenzoris, are located on the border between Uganda – DR Congo border.
The mountains ranges are also home to Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in the DR Congo as well as Mt Stanely which at 5,109m, is the highest mountain in Uganda, and the third highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
The equatorial snow peaks include the highest point in Africa, and the lower slopes are filled in moorland, moist montane forest, as well as bamboo forest. There are large tree heathers as well as colorful mosses that are filled across the mountainside with giant lobelias and the everlasting flowers.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of 120km long and 65km wide Rwenzori Mountain Ranges.
It hosts 217 bird species, as well as 19 Albertine Rift endemics and the world’s rarest vegetation. The Rwenzori are a world class trekking destination and when in Africa and Uganda in particular, the most skilled climbers can possibly hike to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – in seven days to nine days depending on the route used by the climbers.
For those that like something less active, the nearby Bakonzo offer nature walks, home stay experience as well as cultural performances.
Understanding the Rwenzori Mountain hiking routes
There are predominantly two main routes that will lead climbers and trekkers to the Margherita Peak of the great Rwenzori Mountains.
These routes are run by Rwenzori Trekking Services (Kilembe Route) and Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (Central Circuit Route).
The Kilembe Route is longer and newer, having been opened in 2009. Its trail approaches the mountains from the south while from the east you get access to ranges Stanley, Speke and Baker.
“I would recommend the Kilembe trail for anyone planning to hike the Rwenzoris,” a hiker said, adding that compared to Kilimanjaro trail in Tanzania, the trail to the Margherita Peak is a different experience as you are assured of the fantastic scenery, amazing plant life and the Nyamwamba valley.
Also, theaccommodation facilities which comprise huts with sleeping mats, bunks as well as light mattresses – are better than those at the Kilimanjaro trek.
However, the real beauty is in hiking the Kilembe route, are the forests, flora, valleys as well as the diverse giant heather trees and valleys of ferns.
One has to be ready for the rigorous trek to the Rwenzori mountains, most particularly for those climbing the main peaks such as the Margherita. This is because part of the glaciers at the steeper, lower levels have started melting fast and changing.
Also, hiking Margherita peak is so technical due to the ever increasing number of crevasses. Scaling the exact peak is more of ‘hands mix up’ than climb. And when it snows, it’s really hard but it rewards of reaching the top are huge as you look across Albert peak to the DRC.
But there is no need to worry since the guides are all well trained by mountain instructors in how to handle clients, ropes as well as mountain rescue techniques.
The guides also carry satellite phones for safety as well as rescue stretchers.
Tipping while Trekking Rwenzori Mountains
It’s always common that clients often ask how much they should pay as a tip to the porters and guides. But this is up to client who appreciates the services of the porters and guides. The tips usually vary from one client to another at the end of the day. Many people recognize the hard work that the porters do to support the climb up Rwenzori Mountains. We suggest that climbers consider paying a tip amount in the range of US $6 to $10 per day depending on the level of service provided. It is ideal to tip porters directly or to announce the amount that you would like them to receive.
Rwenzori Trekking Trips
Rwenzori Mountaineering Service offers the various options for trekking the Rwenzori Mountains either hike using Kilembe Route or the Central Circuit Route to hike to the peak. We shall list from the smallest to the highest in number of days to be spent on the mountain.
5 Days Rwenzori Trekking Experience: Five days won’t enable you experience the peak of the mountain. The five day trek to Weismann’s Peak – approximately 4,620 meters – will cost $700 per person plus $35 for entrance fees per day. This price includes food, accommodation while in the mountain. This climb is the most popular although it can get tiresome since it involves alot of walking.
In the months of April, May, September, October, its common to experience snowfalls on the peak, transforming the landscape into a great beautiful scenery. The snow covered plants create a feeling of euphoria as well as the intense excitement.
The other five day trek option is climbing the Bamwanjara Pass instead of Weismanns as it is an easier climb. Also at 4,450 meters, Bamwanjara Pass offers great views of the main peaks. With this hike, you go through pristine montane forests, bamboo forests, high cliffs tower, giant heathers as well as giant lobelia.
Seven Day Rwenzori Mountaineering: The shortest number of days to hike to the peak is the seven days Rwenzori trek safari that excludes transfer from and back to Kampala. It is the actual number of days spent on the trek in the famous Rwenzori Mountain National Parks. The seven day trek to the Margherita peak at 5,109 meters starts from Kilembe, at 1,450 meters climbing up through the forest and the bamboo zone to have a sleep at Kalalama. Hikers then ascend through Scott Elliot to Margherita Camp at 4,485m from where you set off early morning by 3am to climb the Margherita Peak. This hike is tough but so exciting.
However, hiking more than 500 meters a day brings about a bigger risk of altitude sickness, high altitude cerebral edema and all of which are dangerous. It’s always advisable to take it slow and lessen the risk. Altitude has an effect on humans however fit you are.
Eight Days Rwenzori Trekking: The eight-day trek to Margherita Peak usually costs $1,200 per person in a group of two people plus $35 per day for Uganda Wildlife Authority as gate entrance fees. The eight day trek is mainly recommended for people of average fitness as well as climbing abilities although. This means that you need to be fitter if you are to trek the Rwenzori in seven days. Also, the eight day trek is recommended for larger groups of people since there will always be a person who can’t keep the pace, thus slowing down the group.
The trail has since been improved with more board walks that make it much easier to hike. The Mutinda camp will give you an excellent views.
9 Days Rwenzori Trekking tour: This is the best trek to experience the magical Rwenzori Mountains with Rwenzori Mountaineering Service guides. For $1,200 per person including the $35 per day for entrance, this particular trek up Margherita will also take you to two other peaks plus the Weismann’s on the way back. This price also includes all the porters, food and accommodation in the mountain.
There is also the ten-day trek to the main four peaks, including; Margherita, Mt Speke, Weismann’s as well as Mt Baker.
Please note that Rwenzori Trekking Services route is more expensive than Rwenzori Mountaineering Service.
But for a special offer, you are guaranteed a 10 per cent discount on your Rwenzori Trekking Tour with Rwenzori Mountaineering Service.
Rwenzori Trekking Advice
When Hiking Rwenzori go slow. The reason to go slow is that your body is working harder at higher altitude. The air is thinner and there is less oxygen to breathe. The porters will tell you “pole, pole” which means “slowly, slowly”.
Think of ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’. Be the tortoise. Walk slower than you normally would and your body will thank you.
Hikes like these are not a race. This is actually one of my favorite things about hiking – it’s not a competitive sport. It’s the opposite in fact, everyone wants everyone to succeed. So don’t be ashamed to be at the back like I was. I didn’t get altitude sickness, and I also made good friends with the porter whose job it was to bring up the rear. His grandfather was one of the first porters to work on the mountain. I wouldn’t know that if I was pacing at the front.
Hydration will also ward off possible altitude sickness. Ensure you have a Platypus instead of a bottle so that water is constantly accessible as you walk. When your hands are cold you don’t want to be taking off your gloves to unscrew a bottle top. Plus, you should be drinking three liters a day, and it’s a hassle to have to stop to take a bottle out of your bag every time you take a sip.
Get the right gear
I met someone recently who climbed Rwenzori Mountains and hated the experience –I was heartbroken – but not surprised when she explained why.
Hiking equipment:As you prepare for the hike to mountain Rwenzori, the necessary requirements needed include; crampons, ropes, harnesses, the carabinas, hiking boots, warm clothing, warm sleeping bag, rain gears and many more. You can as well carry snacks as well as much drinking water.
Also remember a sun hat and sun cream. I got sunburnt on day one and trust me, when cold winds blow against burnt skin, it’s not fun. Plus a head torch with enough batteries – for your tent, for toilet trips and for summit night.
About Rwenzori Mountaineering Service.
Rwenzori Mountaineering Service is the reliable tour agency that offers discounted booking for all treks to Rwenzori including the Kilembe Trail that is managed by Rwenzori Trekking Service and Central Circuit that is managed by Rwenzori Mountaineering Services that is local owned communities.
Rwenzori Mountaineering Service works in strong partnership Trekking Services in Uganda and Virunga Foundations in Congo to create and tailor make memorable hiking tours for great hikers in Africa. RMS is the best booking agent for Rwenzori hiking tours to explore the great peaks of Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and DR Congo.
Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, which can be reached via www.rwenzoriMountaineeringservice.com or firstname.lastname@example.org provide prospective climbers with a comprehensive guide that contains accurate and valuable information to increase one’s chance of a successful summit when climbing Mt. Rwenzori.
Detailed itineraries, route maps, useful hyperlink, stunning pictures and photography of all the major routes can also be got by calling +256774819223.
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