Mountains of the moon: climbing Uganda’s highest peak – Climbing Mt Rwenzori
Arriving at the airport you will be warmly welcomed by a Mara Expeditions representative, and transferred to your hotel in Nairobi. An optional tour of Nairobi and the surrounding areas can be arranged for interested parties.
Today we set for Kampala in Uganda for overnight. In the evening, we embark on a city tour.
After breakfast, we set off for Kasese arriving in the afternoon. Our local guide will go to the park offices in the evening to finalize your following mountaineering logistics returning in the evening.
This morning you will begin your hike by leaving the park headquarters (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. The trail then follows the Mahoma River for 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) about an hour and a half past the Mahoma River crossing. During this part of the trip, you may be able to see Chimps, Black and White Colobus and Blue monkeys and the brilliantly coloured Rwenzori Touraco (a bird of the treetops). Overnight at Nyabitaba Hut.
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 counterclockwise.
After crossing the Shafer Bridge, the muddy slippery trail climbs steadily up through the 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. Overnight at Nyamileju Hut; Nyamileju means “a place of beards” refers to the lichen and Spanish moss draping trees nearby. On a rare day, Mts. Stanley and Speke can be seen from the top of the rock near the Hut.
After breakfast, you will continue to John Matte Hut (11,200 ft/3,414 m) which is through a tiring bog full of extraordinary plants. The slow pace can be a chance to examine and photograph this unique environment. Well situated, John Matte Hut is newly constructed, large and comfortable.
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 your return to Nyabitaba.
Today you leave John Matte Hut to cross the Bujuku River and enter the lower of the two Bigo Bogs. In the grassy bog, you will experience jumping from tussock to tussock, an exhilarating experience. 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 its rock shelter.
A steep section past the hut leads to upper Bigo Bog. In the last half of this bog, a boardwalk 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 the drier ground and crisscrossing the River, you reach Bukulu Lake. The southern end of the lake is a majestic setting, with Mt. Baker to 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.
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, 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 requires an additional day or two and can only be attempted with ice axes, mountain boots, crampons, ropes and prior arrangements with your guides. Overnight at Kitandara Lake Hut.
Start hiking back to the park headquarters. After breakfast, you will 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.
Start hiking back and complete your trek by the evening. On arrival at the Park Office, visit a simple restaurant developed by a local women’s group for a well-deserved beer and a luxurious candlelight meal. Retire to your hotel in Kasese for the evening.
You will finish your journey by being transferred to Entebbe International Airport to catch your return flight home or drive to Kampala to catch a bus to Nairobi.