Highlights of the Rwenzori Mountains

The Rwenzori Mountains are a deeply surreal place, home to the highest mountain range and only year round snow in Africa, despite lying close to the equator on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are a tough but rewarding place to hike, with the seemingly endless mud and high altitude (often over 4,000m above sea level) offset by incredibly diverse landscapes and flora. I spent ten days exploring the National Park from rainforest at the base to glaciers at the highest summit. Here were the highlights…

Unusual flora
I’ve never been anywhere with such an exotic and eclectic diversity of plant life, with Giant Heather trees, everlasting flowers, Giant Lobelias, Giant Groundsel, and many others I don’t know the names of but thought were quite fantastical.

Margarita Peak
The highest point of Mt Stanley, Africa’s third highest mountain, Margarita Peak is significantly more technical than the two higher peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya. Scaling it was one of the more terrifying and exhausting days of my life, ascending, traversing, and descending fixed and temporary ropes, crossing two glaciers with crampons and ice axe, and passing underneath these incredible ice formations.

Views of water
I don’t remember a huge number of lakes or tarns but the ones that were there were usually rather photogenic.

Camps
Rwenzori Trekking Services, who looked after me in the mountains, operate eight camps along the track, five of which I stayed at, and three I passed through. They were located in scenic settings, and provided welcome shelter from the elements, particularly at the three camps at 4,000m or above – Bugata, Hunwick’s, and Margarita.

Mountain views
Six of the ten highest peaks in Africa are in the Rwenzori Mountains, so there were plenty of epic mountain landscapes, of a surprisingly varied nature.

Boardwalk
Photogenic if rather too easy to walk along, there were some sections of boardwalk along the track, but not a huge amount relative to the amount that could be boardwalked due to…

The mud!
My main memory of the Rwenzori Mountains though was the seemingly endless mud, with any flat sections of the track likely to be bog, and many surprisingly high and steep sections also thick mud. To be honest I rather enjoyed the challenge of getting through them without either falling over or losing a boot to the mud. Wearing gumboots helped hugely, but you still needed to look carefully for branches or slightly drier / more solid sections to step on.

Author: jontycrane

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