The fourth and by far the hardest day so far hiking in the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda. The previous three days were really just a warm up for five hours of treacherous mud, steep and slippery ascents and descents, and hiking up to 4,450m above sea level. I’ve done many more physically challenging hikes, but few that have required as much sustained concentration.
The day started at Bugata Camp with a bit of a sunrise and blue skies, a welcome change from much of the hike so far, that thankfully lasted for much of the day.
The track went straight up the hillside with good views of Bugata Camp and Lake Bugata below.
There were plenty of dead looking trees around.
I loved the contrast between this bright orange moss and the rocks and bushes.
There was plenty more mud around today, with tussock in between, which is the lesser of two evils to step on. Ideally you wouldn’t trample on this fragile environment, but it is the only way to avoid literally losing your (gum) boots to the mud. The are some sections of boardwalk along the track, but mostly you have to make your way carefully through, unfortunately generally expanding the trampled area.
The Rwenzori Mountains are easily one of the most surreal places I’ve hiked in, look at these unusual and colourful plants.
This part of the landscape was by far my favourite of the hike so far.
There were some great views across the landscape.
These huge moss covered rocks were rather wonderful.
After a couple of hours I reached the 4,450m high Bamwanjara Pass, which offered views of three of the highest mountains in the National Park (l-r) – Mt Stanley (5,109m), Mt Speke (4,890m), and Mt Baker (4,884m) – which I caught just before the clouds came over.
Climbing up to the pass turned out to be the easiest part of the day. From here was an exhaustingly steep and muddy descent, on which it would have been easy to have slipped and fallen.
There were some interesting ice formations in patches the morning sun hadn’t yet reached.
It was a relief to get to a flat section, though it was extremely boggy. By the end of the day my gumboots had mud nearly up to the rim. Although hiking boots would have offered better grip on the rocks they would have been soaked by the end of the day.
There was then another uphill section past the scenic Kachope Lakes.
Following inevitably by another steep and nerve wracking downhill section.
It was a pleasure to walk on some boardwalk though it didn’t last that long before being plunged back into the mud. There were plenty of branches at least which made it reasonably straightforward walking though still requiring 100% concentration.
Half an hour before reaching camp there was a spot of hail and rain, which thankfully passed in ten minutes. I was lucky that this was the first rain I’d had while walking so far, the weather the previous week had apparently been rather wet…
There was a final steel uphill section to navigate before reaching Hunwick’s Camp (3,974m). This was named after the Rwenzori Trekking Services owner, and previously known as camp four or Butawu Camp after the nearby river.
It was by far the busiest camp to date after having camps to ourselves the first couple of days, and sharing with an American father / daughter last night. There was a group of nine Americans, half of which had summited Margherita Peak at the top of Mt Stanley while the other half stayed at Hunwick’s Camp. The father / daughter were part of the same group but hadn’t been able to make it past Bugata Camp, understandable given the track today.
The Americans talked about a rather intense group of three Germans who had prepared for the altitude by sleeping in compression tents overnight back at home to aid acclimatisation. After summiting Mt Stanley they planned to take a helicopter out to save on a few days walk, and then to take eBikes part way up Mt Kilimanjaro!
We shared our four person hut with a solo American hiker who was doing an insane itinerary, summiting four mountains in ten days, involving multiple ten hour days. I was happy with my ten day itinerary and two mountain summits, a higher ratio of enjoyment to sheer exhaustion.
To end with some striking full moon illuminated clouds spotted before heading to bed.