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Rwenzori Hiking Route 1

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Rwenzori Hiking Route 1

RWENZORI TREKKING KILEMBE TRAIL

  Margherita Peak Africa’s third highest peak however the real beauty is in the climb up the Kilembe route, the forests and valleys the flora is diverse with trees and valleys of ferns. The trees are alive with many species of birds and primates and as you walk up the trail you will see chimp nests high up in the tall trees, if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of the resident chimpanzee as they scamper away. Climbing Magherita Peak is more of a hard scramble than a climb except for a few difficult moves and when it snows it is more difficult however the rewards and exhilaration of reaching the top is enormous as you look across Albert Peak to the DRC (Congo) then east across the spectra of the Rwenzori Mountains.

DAY 1: TO KASESE

  After an early morning breakfast, you will set off for Kasese through Fort portal in south western Uganda. It is a very beautiful drive with a lot of exciting things to see along the way. These include the people, food markets, forests and the large tea estates. You will stop in Fort portal for lunch after which we shall head to Kasese for the night. You will briefed by your guide about the trek beforehand.

DAY 2: STAGE 1: SINE HUT (2,585 M)

  Having spent the night in the hotel or at the Trekkers Hostel (1.450 m), which is actually considered the camp base. You will begin your trek by going to the UWA Park Headquarters in the morning. At the gate, you will be briefed by the rangers on the rules of the National Park. We shall then start by walking up the valley floor through an Afro Montane Forest Zone. This is a steady climb with a chance of seeing different types of primates and forest birds. There is wide variety of plant species from forest trees to bamboos thickets, low shrubs, flowers, fungi, and with many moss and lichen covered vines hanging from the tall trees creating an awesome appeal. Before reaching Sine Hut, the arrival point of the day at 2.585 meters altitude, you stop over at Enock’s Falls, a beautiful scenery. You will be served the dinner and spend the night.

This wooden hut with 10 beds is a set between tall forest trees on a narrow ridge, with ten beds and a large verandah where you may sit and enjoy the beauty of the Afro Montane forest while you look down at a fantastic waterfall crashing over the rocks far below. Sine is just below the bamboo zone and the area around has many different bird species.

DAY 3: STAGE 2: FROM SINE HUT TO KALALAMA CAMP (3.147M) TO MUTINDA CAMP (3.688 M)

  After breakfast, trekking starts at 8.30 am and you soon enter the bamboo-mimulopsis zone, which is steep climb with many high steps. After about 1.8 kilometers you reach Kalalama Camp (3.147 meters), which is located in the heather –rapanea zone. Here you will have a rest and a cup of tea.

From this point you proceed along the heather zone, passing by several streams and even waterfalls, all covered by the typical green moss vegetation. You will see a lot of Giant Heather trees, sometimes in a misty atmosphere. The arrival point of the day is Mutinda Camp, at 3.688 m named after the Mutinda Peaks. The camp is set near a small river that drops off a waterfall and offers a chance to refresh and relax. You may wish to climb up to the top of the Mutinda Lookout (1hr 30 min up and 1hr down) The view and the atmosphere is amazing as you stand on moss covered rocks at 3,925 meters with views across the Rwenzori Mountains, down to Kasese town and Lake George.

DAY 4: STAGE 3: FROM MUTINDA CAMP TO BUGATA CAMP (4.062 M)

  The trail from Mutinda Camp is a bit boggy, with the typical wet vegetation and tussocks. You will enter the Alpine vegetation zone, with the presence of the giant lobelias (Lobellia gibberoa), the groundsel (Senecio adnivalis) and the everlasting flowers as you cross the Mutinda valley. You later climb a steep section up to Namusangi Valley (3.840 m), from where you will enjoy the best view of the Mutinda Peaks. Along the Namusangi Valley you cross various bogs as you climb to Bugata Camp at 4.062 m, the arrival point of the day. You will have a view of the Weisman’s Peak of Mount Luigi of Savoy, often covered by the snow. The vegetation area is covered with tussock grass, everlasting flowers, giant groundsel and giant lobelia. From the nearby Plozza Rock you will get fantastic views of nine lakes down the valley and Lake Nusuranja.

There are a many Red Forest Duiker (Cephalophuc nigrifrons rubidus) which are a sub-species only found in the Rwenzori Mountains. In the dryer season you may choose to walk directly up the valley but a more scenic trail meanders along the hilltops with fantastic views of Lake Nusuranja from Plozza Rock. Here you also get fantastic views down the valley of nine lakes ringed by rugged peaks and ridges.

Bugata Camp has good facilities, solar lights, good toilets and bathrooms where the guides may prepare some warm water in a basin for you to wash. Bugata also has a heli pad (GPS reading N 18.312 E29 53.457) in case of any need for rescue by helicopter.

DAY 5: STAGE 4: FROM BUGATA CAMP TO BUTAWU CAMP (3.974 M)

  The walk is 6.2km starting at 4,062 meters climbing over 4,450 meters sleeping at 3,974 meters. Trekking starts at 8.30am upwards to Bamwanjara Pass, the trail climbs steadily with several long flat bogs. The area is covered with everlasting flowers and Giant groundsel with the bogs being mainly tussock grass and Giant lobelia whose nectar is the main food source for the Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia johnstonu dartmouthi) which is common in this area and unique to the Rwenzori Mountains.

From the Banwamjara Pass you get excellent views of all the main snow capped peaks where we have a small shelter for you to rest and enjoy the scenery. The walk down to Kacholpe Lakes is steep and often very muddy but offers fantastic views of Kachope Lakes and McConnell’s Prong. Butawu Camp (3,974m) is set on a ridge high above Butawu River which flows down from Scott Elliott Pass through Kitandara Lakes and has excellent views of the snow capped Mt Baker.

DAY 6: STAGE 5: FROM BUTAWU CAMP TO MARGHERITA CAMP (4,485 M.)

  Walk back along the ridge before crossing several wet areas and small rivers coming from Mt Baker and Freshfields Pass to join Butawu River. The walk up Scott Elliott Pass is enjoyable as you climb through the pass and up the ridge of Mt Stanley to Margherita Camp at 4,485 meters which is below Elena Hut. It is sheltered with a ring of high rocks and it is the original camp used by the Italian Prince Luigi Amadeo di Savoia, Duke of the Abruzzi. From here you have great views of Mt Baker, Scott Elliot Pass and some of the high glaciers on Mt Stanley. Note: The days hike is 4.2 kilometers.

DAY 7: STAGE 6: FROM MARGHERITA CAMP TO MARGHERITA PEAK (5.109 M) DOWN BUTAWU CAMP (3.974 M)

  Day starts at 4,485 meters. You will climb to Margherita Peak at 5,109 meters and then return to Margherita Camp before descending to Butawu Camp at 3,974 meters to sleep. Distance 3.5km to the peak then 3.5km return to Margherita Camp plus 4.2km down to Butawu Camp. Total distance 11.2km.

Wake up at 4.30am have a quick snack and start climbing so as to get on the Stanley Glacier before sunrise. The climb up from Elena can be difficult if covered in snow and ice and it is classed as a difficult scramble. Once on the Stanley glacier the going is easy however, the climb to Margherita glacier can be challenging and slippery in bad weather. Rwenzori Trekking Services has recently installed a new fixed static rope with bolts every three meters leading down a ledge to the top of a six-meter aluminum ladder. This is a safe route and anyone with reasonable fitness and head for heights is able to pass. It is not classed as technical and it is easy in dry conditions. The climb up Margherita glacier is steep and requires that you are fit. On getting near to the top of the glacier you will climb around an exposed section of rock, which is also bolted and roped, to get on the ridge running up to the top of Margherita Peak. On a clear day the views from Margherita Peak are awesome and your goal will be achieved!

After summiting you then descend directly to Butawu Camp or in the case of bad weather, you may need to stay in Margherita Camp however the following day it will be necessary to bypass Butawu Camp directly to Bugata Camp.

DAY 8: STAGE 7: FROM BUTAWU CAMP TO BUGATA CAMP

  A late breakfast and then you will start the climb up Bamwanjara Pass which is steep and in wet weather can be rather boggy making it slow going and tiresome. While crossing the pass you get the chance to see hyrax sitting at the entrance to their rock shelter warming in the sun. Their main predator is the Rwenzori leopard, which is rarely seen, but occasionally people do get a glimpse. The leopard has been heavily poached for its skin in the past and there are few left. However on a rare occasion on a misty or overcast day, you may be lucky to see one briefly as they move between the rocks. Dinner and overnight at Bugata Camp.

DAY 9: STAGE 8: DESCEND TO KIHARO CAMP (3,460 M.)

  Early morning set off around Lake Bugata and the outlet of Kopello Lake then climb 200 metres to the confluence of the two valleys. As you descend down the upper areas of the Nyamwamba Valley there is a large area of thick Giant Groundsel with dense evergreen undergrowth and moss with the rocky peaks towering above. As you descend the valley you will notice the terrain is made up of several flat boggy areas where millions of years ago glaciers sat and melted leaving a wall of big rocks in front of where it lay. The valley is home to many Red Forest Duiker (Cephalophuc nigrifrons rubidus). Overnight stay in Kiharo Camp at 3,460 metres or Samalira Camp at 3,170 meters. At night the air is filled with the calls of the rock hyrax as they sit in the rocky cliffs high above.

DAY 10: STAGE 9: DESCEND BACK TO THE RANGER POST

  Wake up to the shrill calls of the Ruwenzori Turaco (Ruwenzorornis johnstoni) and other birds. After breakfast you walk down the valley which is home to many species of birds that dive in and out the thick vegetation. Chameleons are a common sight as they crawl along the branches of the thick vegetation feeding on insects. In the clear areas you may catch a glimpse of a Duiker quietly feeding surrounded by Giant Lobellias and a variety of flowering plants. After descending a few kilometers, you climb two hundred metres height to a ridge overlooking the valley, before crossing several small valleys and streams to Kyalavula. Walk back to the Base Camp.

DAY 11: RWENZORI TREK (DAY 10)

  Early in the morning after breakfast you will travel back to Kampala. On the way back to the city you will have lunch in Mbarara at Igongo Cultural Center that exhibits the ancient history and culture for the Banyakitara including their tools and household items and after Masaka, there will be an opportunity to stop at the Equator for photo shoots and buying souvenirs and have tea or coffee.

We will then bring you to a guesthouse, campsite or hotel of your choice in Kampala or Entebbe – or, if you continue your holiday somewhere else or back home, we will bring you directly to Entebbe airport for an onwards flight. Driving time: +/- 7 hours

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