The Rwenzori Mountains famously known as the “Mountains of the Moon” lies in Western Uganda, located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was gazetted as a national park in 1991 with a size 996km² and recognized as both a world heritage site and Ramsir site with the highest point being Margherita peak at 5,109 Meters Above Sea level.
The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist mountain ranges.
High altitude hiking is one of the most challenging and rewarding outdoor activities that you need to add to your adventure list right now. Hiking at high altitude gives you a unique and unforgettable look at some of the most desolate places in the world.
Like any extreme adventure, while you’re picking out the perfect camera to bring and dreaming of your quintessential summit sunrise, you’ll need to prepare accordingly and remember these tips for a successful high altitude hike.
The truth is, there’s no real way to train for high altitude other than being there yourself. So above all else, make sure you have the chance to acclimate, hydrate, and prepare for the time of your life.
- Understand the risks of high-altitude hiking.
Do some general research on the differences between Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Understand what a “sick person” at altitude looks like, and be prepared to take action if you or members of your team experience these symptoms.
- AMS is the mildest form of altitude sickness and unfortunately feels very similar to a hangover. You may experience a headache, nausea, or feel exhausted. If you notice any of these symptoms, heed warning that they could predict a larger risk to HAPE or HACE.
- HAPE occurs when liquid seeps into your lungs and feels like you just had the wind knocked out of you. You may also cough up a frothy foam, which means it’s time to turn around and descend as quickly as possible.
- HACE causes confusion and incoordination. If your speech is slurring and you find yourself stumbling, you are close to death and an immediate descent is imperative.
- Fitness is key.
- Do your training hikes with a weighted pack. 40 lbs. at sea level is going to feel a lot heavier (try double) once you venture above 10,000 feet. You’ll be giving yourself a break in the long run if you stuff your backpack with water, weights, or other heavy objects when you train at home.
- Run stairs and hills. The calf-burners and glute-tearers you feel when hiking and running work completely different muscle groups. Switch up your workouts by adding as much elevation as you can. Do sprints up steep hills or staircases. Stuck in a flat desert with no uphill training ground? Hit the gym and spend some time on the stair-master. No matter where you are, there’s no excuse to not having the right physical preparation.
- Get as high as possible beforehand. If you have easy access to a mountain range, slowly build your body up to higher elevations, gaining 1,000 ft. each training weekend. Starting small is also fine, too – doing aerobic exercises above 3,000 ft. will still adjust your body to working with less oxygen in your blood.
- Fuel yourself.
It may be difficult to remind yourself, but you’ll need to be prepared to eat and drink more than usual at high altitude. Your muscles are burning energy more quickly, and your body will need more calories and H2O to properly function. This is no environment for diets. Load your pack up with sugar and carbohydrate-loaded snacks like jerky, chocolate, hard candies, and other high-calorie treats.
- Prepare to brave the elements.
Naturally prone to sunburns? Sunshine, wind, and temperature reach their extremes up high. Bring the right gear and prepare to pack total face protection from the sun, wind-resistant and waterproof clothing, and extra hand warmers, thermal gloves, and wool socks to guard your body against the inhospitable mountain environment.
- Bring first aid backups.
It’s impossible to predict how your body will be affected by high altitude before you go. If it’s your first time ascending thousands of vertical feet, play it safe and carry along an altitude aid. One of the most popular altitude medications, Be sure to also pack ibuprofen, cough drops, and over-the-counter indigestion pills in case things get less than pleasant.
- Know your limits.
Visit your doctor before embarking on a trek in the mountains. Make sure you don’t have any lingering illnesses or undiscovered ailments that may hinder your success up high. Most importantly, be prepared to turn around if you’re not feeling well. An annoying headache or minor chest pain could be the symptom of something much worse, and you don’t want to test your body’s ability to self-preserve when you’re miles far and meters high away from safety.
- Take it slow.
Don’t rush your way out of a successful trip. Your body will naturally feel slower at high altitude, so go along with it. Nothing can truly prepare your body for the thin mountain air other than actually being there – so when you do get your chance – take your time and enjoy the adventure.
When you arrive at Entebbe International Airport, a Safari Specialist will be waiting to pick you up and take you to your hotel. At 1700hrs we shall have a welcome meeting brief from the Safari Specialist. In case you need help on anything, our Safari Specialist is on call to attend to you. Depending on what time your flight arrives, you may try out an optional activity or relax at your hotel.
- Kampala city tour
- Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary
- Uganda Wildlife Education Center
- Botanical Gardens (nature walk & birding)
- Bicycle tour around Entebbe
- City walk
No meals included on this day
Entebbe — Kilembe Base
The drive from Entebbe to Kilembe is one of the most scenic in Uganda. As you leave the concrete backdrop of Uganda’s capital behind, the curtain draws to unveil resplendent vistas of food farms and tea farms, charming small towns, and tranquil villages. We expect to reach the base camp in the shadows of the mystic Rwenzori Ranges late in the afternoon. Depending on how you feel, you may opt to stretch your legs on an optional nature walk or lay back in your bunker and save your energy for the mountain.
Activities: Scenic Drive
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Basecamp — Sine Hut (2,596m)
The trek from base starts light at 1,450MASL, up through progressively thickening forest up to Sine Hut, the first resting point on Kilembe Trail, where hot tea, a meal, and a fresh bath await you. Sine Hut is a wooden hut with a neat terrace, bunk beds and an inviting neighborhood. You may take a leisurely stroll to the nearby waterfall, explore the banks of the valley river, or lay back in the hut and mingle with other trekkers.
If you are fit and wish to see more of the mountain, move on to Kalalama Camp at 3,134MASL. This makes the climb to Mutinda Camp shorter and gives you time to checkout to Mutinda Lookout (3,975MASL); the view there is a thing not to miss: You can see Kasese Town and Lake George from this point.
Trek— Mutinda Camp (3,583MASL)
We set for Mutinda Camp at 0830hrs. The trail snakes through a bamboo grove whose slippery floor makes for adventurous crossing during the rainy season. We stop for a coffee break at Kalalama Camp, 1.8km from Sine Hut.
Beyond Kalalama, the trail goes over small streams and snakes past moss-covered waterfalls, down and up steep passes, and halts at a camp site enclosed in misty forest. If you started your day in Kalalama Camp you will have time to reach Mutinda Lookout (3,975MASL), otherwise you may visit the nearby waterfalls or relax at camp.
Bugata Camp (4,100MASL)
The trek to Bugata Camp is an adventure for first-time mountaineers. The ground is boggy, particularly when it rains (it rains any time in Rwenzori), you have to watch every step to avoid slipping onto the muddy ground, but with good use of your trekking pole it’s a manageable feat.
Hunwick’s Camp (4,450MASL)
As you leave Bugata Camp you pass up a ridge then drop down slightly before ascending to Bamwanjarra Pass at 4,450 meters. The trail passes down the valley, around the edge of some bogs, through thick ever-green vegetation, moss, and giant lobelia in such numbers the places looks like a scene from a fairy tale. This section has the most spectacular views and possibly the best place to observe the Scarlet Tufted Malachite Sunbird. There are some sections of steep climb before you go over the ridge to Hunwick’s Camp. On a clear day you get excellent views of the three main peaks.
Margherita Camp (4,485MASL)
From Hunwick’s we pass down and across the valley floor to Lake Kitendara which is very stunning with deep water and beautiful vegetation. From here you climb up Scott Elliott’s pass then up the ridge to Margherita Camp which is situated between some huge rocks, offering some shelter from the strong winds. This is the very spot where the Duke of Abruzzi camped when making his climb to Margherita Peak in 1906.
Margherita Peak (5,109MASL)
Wake up at 0200hrs and catch an early breakfast before heading off to climb Mt Stanley at 02:30hrs. This is necessary as the weather has changed a lot and often, even during dry season, the mountain is closed in with heavy clouds and snow falls from 1300hrs to 1600hrs. Margherita glacier has also suffered global warming and as the outer edges of the glacier recede the ice is becoming steeper. It is necessary to take the guides’ advice on where to pass. After ascending the peak at 5,109 metres you then pass directly down to Hunwick’s Camp at 3.874 metres.
Kiharo Camp (4,620MASL)
From Hunwick’s Camp we start the day by climbing up a ridge towards McConnell’s Prong where you get the best views of all three peaks and Scott Elliott’s Pass before reaching Oliver’s Pass at 4,505 metres. The trail then cuts below Weismann’s Peak to the confluence of the Nyamwamba River which flows down through Kilembe and Kasese to Lake George in Queen Elizabeth National Park. After crossing the confluence the trail meanders down the valley to Kiharo Camp at which is situated in a deep valley with high cliffs and dense vegetation.
Park Gate (4,620MASL)
The trail to the gate goes through the Nyamwamba Valley. You will have stunning views of the forest, vegetation, river, and waterfalls. It is one of the most beautiful valleys in Rwenzori. A few kilometers from Kiharo Camp the path turns off to the right to pass along the river. A few kilometres down the river it becomes very steep with multitudes of waterfalls so we have to move away from the river and follow a narrow ridge to bypass steep sections. The forest along this section is magnificent and full of life with many birds, primates, duikers and hyrax.
Kasese - Entebbe
Wake up early for a 5 -6 hour drive to Entebbe to your hotel.
Depart at leisure
After breakfast, you can relax at your lodge and depart at leisure depending on the time of your flight.