Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda

Hiking the Rwenzori Mountains

Mount Rwenzori is a block mountain range sitting in Western Uganda, at the border area with the Democratic Republic of the Congo- DRC. Part of the block mountain range sits on the Virunga side in the D.R. Congo and in Uganda, it is perched within the Rwenzori Mountains National Park- RMNP.

The Rwenzori Mountain block extends 4800kms, 120kms by length, 65kms by width and Margherita peak is its highest peak. Formation: Rwenzori Mountains formed as a result of earth’s crust shift leading to uplift of rock that consisted of gneiss, granite and quartzite.

Presently, the block mountain attracts several hikers across the world who come to challenge themselves in order to conquer the 6 distinct mountain ranges that make up the Rwenzori Mountains. The ranges are separated by just deep gorges and they include Mount Baker, Mount Speke, Mount Gessi, Mt. Stanley, Luigi di Savoia & Emin. All the 6 Rwenzori Mountain ranges are magical with beautiful glaciers, white snow-capped peaks, the main reasons the Rwenzori Mountain range is often referred to as the Mountains of the Moon. The block mountain is remarkably a valuable source of water for the world’s longest River- the Nile River.

Climbing the Rwenzoris

Mount Rwenzori climbing/hiking is with no doubt a major highlight of all Uganda safaris in Rwenzori Mountains National Park- RMNP. Thousands of enthusiastic hikers throng the Rwenzori National Park each year mainly to hike to the Margherita peak of the Rwenzori Mountains/Mountains of the Moon which is on Mount Stanley. The Margherita peak is the highest of all Rwenzori Mountain ranges peaks, rising up to 5109m.

Climbing Rwenzori Mountain ranges is excellently done beginning from its designated paths and the main trails or routes worth starting your trek to the Margherita peak include Kilembe Trail to the South, near Kasese Town and The Rwenzori Central Circuit. All the two trails of Rwenzori Mountains lead climbers to the magical valleys, glacial lakes, bogs, alpine and finally, you get to stunning snow-capped summits at 5109m.

The hiking trails of Rwenzori Mountains

The Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail

The Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail is the most trekked of all the Rwenzori Mountain ranges trails. Experienced or senior climbers on Rwenzori hiking safari prefer this trail due to its rewarding experiences. However, you need to be physically fit to conquer the high altitudes to Mount Stanley where Margherita peak sits on 5109m. All treks along the Central Circuit begin with briefing at Nyakalengija offices and you wind through the 1646m to Nyabitaba Hut on 2652m. You can tailor your Rwenzori Trek and combine it with a gorilla trekking experience in the nearby Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on a 14 Days Rwenzori and Gorilla Safari Experience offered by the Climbing Rwenzoris, a local tour operator.

The Central Circuit may require you to spend at least 8 days to have a complete round trip during your Rwenzori climbing adventure in the Mountains of the Moon. Trekking through this trail, you pass by Nyabitaba hut where you will probably have some stopover for overnight then proceed to John Matte Hut 3414m. Note, all the varying ranges can be conquered on different days. From 3414m, you trek to Bujuku Hut on 3962m, where then you will continue hiking 4kms to access Elena Hut and finalize your hike to 5109m.  Descending journey the huts that may add on the list include Guy Yeoman Hut at 3261m and this is approximately 8kms off from Elena Hut.

Kilembe Trail

Kilembe Trail is another most exceptional Rwenzori hiking trail, known to offer remarkably distinct experience of its own. The trail is found along the Southern side of Rwenzori Mountain ranges, on the side of Kasese Town, Western Uganda. The Kilembe trail hiking journey starts from Kilembe and ushers you to Nyamwamba Valleys, glacial lakes and later, connects to the Rwenzori Central Circuit Trail along Lake Kitandara. Kitandara Hut is available stopover hut for hikers to retire for a night and at Kitandara, expect uninterrupted views of the scenic Mount Baker peaks.

Best time to travel to the Rwenzori Mountain ranges for mountaineering

Traveling to the Rwenzori Mountain ranges for mountaineering can be done at anytime of the year.  But the dry season or drier months of the year offer the best or excellent Rwenzori Mountaineering adventures. In every year, there are 2 seasons of importance to consider when planning for Rwenzori Mountain hiking safari holiday that is the dry and wet season.

The firs dry season in the Rwenzori Mountain ranges runs from June to August and the second phase begins from December till February. The two drier season phases are characterized by low rainfall amount with the trails kept drier making it easier to navigate through the block mountain’s steep slopes, bogs, valleys etc before you get to the Margherita peak or any other peaks. At times yes, it can rain especially around the afternoon hours but by this time, hikers would have covered a good distance of their journey and perhaps finds them having a relaxed lunch stopover at the designated huts en-route.

Two wetter seasons-the rainy season shouldn’t be left out when planning Rwenzori Mountaineering adventure. This usually occurs starting March to May and November, a period when heavy rains are experienced. During these months, the trails can be slippery while bogs turn muddy. Dry or wet season, all interested climbers should be adequately prepared to challenge themselves with the strenuous altitudinal hikes. 

What you should expect to carry for Rwenzori Mountain climbing-Uganda

Only essentials items are required for your Rwenzori mountaineering adventure. These include insect repellents, hiking pants, safari hat-waterproof, a good camera for great pictures of glacier peaks, waterproof hiking boots, rain jacket, head lamp, gardening gloves, backpack, snacks, body belts, sleeping bags, ankle gaiters etc.

Accommodation facilities 

All categories of accommodation facilities are available at Rwenzori Mountains National Park for visitor overnight stay that is budget, mid-range and luxury options. They include among others Hotel Margherita, Equator Snow Lodge, Mihunga Safari Lodge, Ruboni Camp and many huts which you can find en-route to your peak. The huts include John Matte Hut 3414m, Nyabitaba Hut 2652m, Elena Hut, Guy Yeoman and Bujuku Hut.

Getting there

For hikers on plan to visit Rwenzori Mountain ranges, access to this block mountain easier either by road or air. By road, you drive from Kampala connect via Mubende to Fort Portal or Kampala linking to Mbarara, Kasese to Rwenzori Mountains National Park in the West. By air, you get to save a lot time-fly from Entebbe Airport and land at Kasese airstrip where you get transfer by road to the park.

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