Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Planning for the Rwenzori expedition

In the spring of 2006 I was occasionally frequenting the weekly meetings at the Mountain Club of Kenya (MCK) at their clubhouse in Nairobi. On one of these evenings some members held a slide show about an expedition to the Rwenzori Mountains. The speaker was engaging and knowledgeable, and the pictures amazing.
Shrouded in fog and low clouds, hidden away in the remote west of Uganda along the DRC border, the mountains seemed mysterious and intriguing. I have wanted to do that climb ever since.

Being in Uganda is obviously a great starting point to finally do this climb. Hence, it's finally happening and on the 21st February I am going, together with an Australian colleague, on an 8-day hike through the mountains and hopefully to the top of Mt Stanley (at 5,109m Africa's third highest mountain).

Expedition outline
We will start out near the town of Kasase, at 1,650 meters above sea level, where we will pick up a guide, a cook and two to three porters for each of us. So the total expedition should count about 8 – 10 persons. (All food, cooking equipment, etc, has to be carried, hence the number of porters). For three days we will hike along the so-called "Central Circuit" and spend the nights at basic huts set up and administered by the Uganda Wildlife Authorities. From what we have heard the accommodation is basic but adequate.

The highest laying hut is the Elena hut at 4,540 meters were we will stay either one or two nights (depending on weather conditions) and from where we will try and reach the peak of Mt Stanley – the Margarita Peak. There is some technical difficulty on the final ascent: Crossing two small glaciers, and then scaling a vertical rock face near the peak. Will be interesting, as I have never done that (at any altitude), but apparently no prior experience is required. In any event, we have decided to be particularly careful and not think twice about turning back should weather conditions deteriorate. From the peak down there are another three to four days hiking along a different path in between some of the other tall peaks of the mountain range.

Planning and preparing for an expedition from the ground is paradoxically turning out to be a bit of a disadvantage. Mainly because there is very limited availability of hiking gear and woolen clothes for sale in Uganda, and I have not brought anything down. We have, however, spoken with a couple of people who have done the trek, and gathered valuable advise on how, timing the hike, how to avoid altitude sickness and what to bring.

Apparently. about 1,200 people enters the Rwenzori National Park every year. Not sure what percentage of these people climb the peaks versus those who just hike in the lower reaches (like I did back in January) I will try to find out.

It’s the highest mountain chain in Africa and contains the third highest mountain (both Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya are higher, but they are stand - alone mountains)

With Afro-Alpine moorland in the areas above 4,000 meters, the vegetation in the Rwenzori Mountains is unique to equatorial alpine Africa.

1 comment:

  1. seems that you may get a chance to enter the elusive Congo after all.

    Am extremely jealous of this trip, and once again, wish I could join.