Mountain Climbing in Uganda
Mountain climbing in Uganda occurs in the three most famous mountain summits of the Rwenzori Mountains, Mount Elgon in the East and Virunga Volcanoes in the southwest. Climbers highly rate trekking the mountains in Uganda as one of the top mountain trekking destinations in Africa. Mountain climbing is an excellent complement to nature walking safaris, game drives or even primate experiences in the rainforests of Uganda.
Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains
Mount Rwenzori is located in western Uganda along the Uganda-DR Congo border. Rwenzori is a local Rukonzo name that means Rain Maker, and this is due to the all-time clouds on the mountain.
You can also call it the Cloud King. Rwenzori lies at the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, has six distinct peaks; Mt Stanley (5109m), Speke (4890m), Baker (4843m), Emin (4797m), Gessi (4715m) and Luigi da Savoia (4627m), each with its peak. Margherita Peak of Mt Stanley is the highest peak at 5109 meters. Though Rwenzori is the third highest point in Africa after Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya, it is the highest Mountain Range in Africa.
Mountain Rwenzori is not a volcanic mountain like the other East African major mountains, and it is a block mountain formed by upward faulting of the floor of the Western Rift Valley. It was inaugurated as the Mountains of the Moon” by Ptolemy, an Alexandrine geographer, in 150 AD. On the 24th of May 1888, Henry Stanley, an explorer, mapped the Rwenzori and labelled it `Ruwenzori`, a local name he recorded; as to mean the Rainmaker.
The Rwenzori mountains national park was recognised in 1994 as a World Heritage site and in 2008 as a Ramsar site.
Two major tracks lead to the peak amongst many hiking trails on the various mountains of this range. The oldest person on record to have climbed up to the peak, Margherita on Mount Stanley, is Beryl park from Canada at 78 years old in November 2010. She broke the world record as the first old age female to successfully climb to the Margherita peak of mountain Rwenzori.
The Kilembe Trail, the Kilembe trailhead route, is near Kasese town and the most scenic and captivating route, mainly through mount Baker.
The hike starts at Kilembe at 1,450 meters. You have options of hiking to the peak for about 7 days, including the descent or just experiencing the Rwenzoris within the dramatic heather zone for a casual 3-day hike. The Kilembe trial is through the southern slopes of the Rwenzori, ascending through the Nyamwamba valley past several glacier lakes and spectacular viewpoints before reaching lake Kitandara. Treks to Mount Baker are very scenic and worthy taking.
The Central Circuit trail, this route starts from the trailhead at Mihunga and is the most challenging route. It is a seven-day circular climb along the slope of the amazing Rwenzoris through the Bujuku valley. Traversing through the Nyabitaba on your ascent is necessary for acclimatisation before reaching the snow-capped peak at 5109 metres above sea level.
Climbing Mount Elgon
Mountain Elgon is an extinct Volcano in Eastern Uganda along the Uganda Kenya Border. It is the oldest and largest solitary volcano in East Africa; its peak is Wagagai at 4,321 meters. Mount Elgon’s top measures 80Km in diameter, which carries a 40 km long and 8km wide Caldera.
Many people find mount Elgon an exhilarating climbing alternative to the other more vigorous climbs in the East Africa region. It has easier access through various trails throughout the year, not much congested with various unique attractions. It does not require expert skills or technical equipment to climb to the peak of Mount Elgon.
Mount Elgon Climbing Trails
The Sasa trail is the shortest and most direct option to the peak. Ascending from Budadiri in Sironko valley, the journey takes 3-4 days, the shortest but most challenging.
The Sipi trail is a 56 kilometres journey that takes 4 – 6 days but a gentler ascent. The climb starts at 2,050 meters from the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre, ascending on the North-western slopes of the mountain. It is the longest trail to the Wagagai peak.
The Piswa and Suam route is located on the northern side of the mountain; the Piswa trails are 49 kilometres that take 7 days to hike on a round journey. The trial starts at Kapkwata on the Northern slope of the mountain. The hike gives stunning views of the Karamoja plains on the Ugandan side, while the Nandi and Kapenguria hills are on the Kenyan side. You will traverse through the Podocarpus forest, past the hot springs, the caldera, before reaching the peak.
Using all these routes, you can traverse the distinctive vegetation zones, the lowest of these zones covered with dense montane forest and regenerating forests, adorned with lianas, epiphytes and lichens, which gives way to the bamboo forest followed by groves of giant heather. As you proceed, the mountainside opens into moorland dotted with outlandish forms of giant lobelias and groundsels.
Combining some of these routes on the hike, for example, ascending through the Sipi-Piswa-Sasa route and descending through the Sasa-Sipi trail, gives the hikers an excellent opportunity to visit the hikers’ caldera, the hot springs, waterfalls and various wildlife attractions on the slopes of the mountain.
Volcano Hiking in Mgahinga National Park
Mt. Mgahinga National Park sits high at an altitude range between 2,227 meters and 4,127 meters above sea level. The park is known for mainly its three 3 conical and extinct volcanoes, which are part of the stunning Virungas that lie along the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mount. Muhavura, Mt. Gahinga and Mt. Sabinyo, all three volcanoes, can be hiked to the summits. Summiting each of these volcanoes is a day.
They all have beautiful views from the peaks, which makes it a point why you should never miss a hike on your next visit to this region of the Pearl of Africa. You will have a chance to view the Rwanda side of the volcanoes, the Congo slopes of the Virungas, the slope of the Rwenzoris, the Bwindi impenetrable forest and Lake Edward are some of the outstanding features that will mesmerise your views while at the peak.
Mount Gahinga standing at 3,474 meters above sea level, is a stunning and unique volcano. Its top contains a vast swampy crater and giant lobelia. It is an easy hike where climbers can take about six hours to ascend and descend this volcano. Lucky climbers can see the outstanding golden monkeys as they make their way through the bamboo forest on the slope of this volcano.
Mount Sabinyo is the second-highest volcano standing at 3,669 meters above sea level. Hiking this volcano is along a 14 kilometres round journey through a steep ridge trail to the peak and back. The hike takes about 8 hours to ascend and descend.
Mount Muhavura, at 4,127 meters, is the highest peak, ascent to and descending from this peak is 12 kilometres and will take you about eight hours. While at the peak, you will have a chance to view the Virunga volcanoes on a clear day. Hikers are also rewarded with a view of the other two lower peaks, Lake Edward, the peaks of mountain Rwenzori and the Bwindi Impenetrable forest cover.
Hiking the volcanoes in Mgahinga is worthy of its experiences you should not regret missing while you have a chance to visit the southwest corner of the country. It is also a great addition to the gorilla trekking experience in Mgahinga or Bwindi Forest.
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