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UGANDA: Rwenzori Central Circuit

Introduction

The Rwenzori Mountains are the biggest mountain range in Africa, including six main mountains with peaks exceeding 4.500 m. of altitude: Mt. Stanley, Mt. Speke, Mt. Baker, Mt. Gessi (in the Congolese side), Mt. Emin Pasha. Mt. Luigi di Savoia. They are found along the border between Uganda and Congo for over 120 km. The highest peak is Margherita, 5.109 m. on Mt. Stanley. It is named after the Italian Queen Margherita, who sponsored the first climbing expedition of the Rwenzori in June 1906, led by Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy the Duke of Abruzzi. The name “Rwenzori” in the local language means “mountain of the rain”, for its rainy nature.

The Central Circuit Trekking

The best way to experience the Rwenzori is to take the so called “central circuit trail”. This starts from the village of Nyakalengija, where the park quarters are found and follows the Mobuku river valley, then sloping around Mount Baker, where is found the final trail to climb Mount Stanley with Margherita Peak. This trekking passes through five different vegetation zones, from the mountain forest, the bamboo zone, the alpine zone, with difference in level of altitude from 2.800 m to 3.500 m when you climb the peak. The trail can take 6 days 5 nights and you consider adding an extra night for any peak you intend to climb. It is important to respect the gradual acclimatization process to avoid altitude sickness.

You find along the trail several huts, which are basic in comfort, however provided with mattresses and drinking water directly from the mountain.

Destination Jungle will organize this experience by providing you with our professional guides and cooks. Please be aware that the porters only carry up to 25 kg per person, including food, which means any extra kg is also extra tariff.

What's the best period to climb the Rwenzori?

It is clear to all that the climatic seasons are changing characteristics in recent years, however it is still advisable to climb the Rwenzori especially during the dry seasons, between December and March, between June and July, between September and October.

Are you ready for the climbing?

The trekking and climbing of the Rwenzori, though technically not difficult for any trekker or alpinist, however has its great challenges. The trail is long and tiresome as it lasts up to 7 days. It requires endurance and physical fitness, at least some previous training. A part from this advice, the trekking does not require much of high tech equipment, just trekking boots and especially gumboots, since most of the trail is boggy (swampy areas). Only the last tract of the Margherita Peak climbing presents a glacier area and requires the use of rope and crampons. For the full list of the required equipment, please see the notes after the itinerary.

Regular Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Kampala

  • Day 2

    Rwenzori Mountains

  • Day 3

    Stage 1: From Nyakalengija to Nyabitaba Hut, 2.652 m

  • Day 4

    Stage 2: From Nyabitaba Hut to John Matte Hut, 3.505 m

  • Day 5

    Stage 3: From John Matte Hut to Bujuku Hut, 3.962 m

  • Day 6

    Stage 4: From Bujuku Hut to Elena Hut, 4.430 m

  • Day 7

    Stage 5 From Elena Hut to Kitandara Hut, 4.023 m

  • Day 8

    Stage 6: From Kitandara Hut to Guy Yeoman Hut, 3.261 m

  • Day 9

    Stage 7: From Guy Yeoman Hut back to Nyakalengija

  • Day 10

    Return

Regular Itinerary

Day 1

Kampala

On arrival at Entebbe International Airport we welcome you and transfer to Kampala for overnight BB at the hotel, Metropole Hotel.

BB

Lodging

Bed & Breakfast options available.

Day 2

Rwenzori Mountains

In the morning after breakfast you leave Kampala and drive Westwards in the direction of Fort Portal in time for lunch. After the last shopping for fruits and vegetables for the trekking, you will reach the Mubuku valley up to the village of Ibanda. You can meet your guides and start arranging for the next day, while relaxing in the montane atmosphere of the hotel.

Dinner and overnight at Tours Holiday Camp Base.

Full Board

Lodging

Full Board options available.

Day 3

Stage 1: From Nyakalengija to Nyabitaba Hut, 2.652 m

In the morning after breakfast at around 9 am you reach the Rwenzori National Park offices in Nyakalenjija, 1615 m. After receiving the briefing from the officials, you can organise your bag with your porters, while weighing everything to check the luggage. You can also hire mountain equipment from the store. Finally, when the expedition is ready, follow your guides through the forest along the Mubuku river, passing some farmland and Bakonjo homesteads, the people of the Rwenzori. If you are lucky, during the hike you might hear the chimpanzees or see monkeys and the beautiful Rwenzori turaco.

Arrival point for the day is Nyabitaba Hut, 2.652 m. where you will have dinner and overnight. From the location you have a great view of the Portal Peaks, 4.627 m in the direction North, while in front you will see the Mount Kyniangoma.

Hiking time: 5 hours - Habitat: montane forest – Altitude level: 1.037 m.

Lodging

Full Board options available.

Day 4

Stage 2: From Nyabitaba Hut to John Matte Hut, 3.505 m

From Nyabitaba Hut you continue the hike and the trail leads to the Kurt Shafer Bridge, which crosses the Mubuku river just below its confluence with Bujuku river. Here is where the proper “central circuit” starts, and you will take the right side while the descent will be from the left side. The vegetation zone is now the bamboo forest. You reach up to a steep rock which leads to Nyamuleju Hut, where the groundsel zone begins. You pass through a swampy bog full of extraordinary plants and giant lobelias.

The arrival point is John Matte Hut, 3.505 m. where you have dinner and overnight. From this location you can see for the first time the snow capped peaks of Mount Stanley.

Hiking time: 6 hours - Habitat: bamboo forest and groundsel zone – Altitude level: 762m.

Lodging

Full Board options available.

Day 5

Stage 3: From John Matte Hut to Bujuku Hut, 3.962 m

From John Matte Hut you cross the Bujuku River and enter the lower Bigo bog, a grassy bog where you experience how to jump from tussock to tussock. After a rocky climb you reach Bigo Hut and enter the upper Bigo bog. From this extraordinary boggy valley you might have good view of the Mount Stanley.

Finally, you reach the Lake Bujuku, then proceeding through a very muddy swampy area until Bujuku Hut, 3.962 m. This is the starting point of the alpine zone, where the grass become scarce and smaller. This day hike can take up to 5 hours. The hut is well positioned down the Mount Speke and for proceeding to Congo. In front of the hut you can enjoy the best panorama of Mount Baker and Mount Stanley.

Hiking time: 4 - 5 hours - Habitat: alpine zone – Altitude level: 457 m.

Lodging

Full Board options available.

Day 6

Stage 4: From Bujuku Hut to Elena Hut, 4.430 m

From Bujuku Hut, after a muddy area, you start a steep climbing through a forest of giant groundsels up to the Groundsel Gully. A branch in the trail leads to Elena Hut, 4.430 m, arrival point for the ones who intend to climb Margherita Peak. If you are only taking the central circuit, then the trail proceeds directly to Kitandara Hut. You walk through Scott Elliot Pass, 4.372 m., the highest point during the central circuit, where you can enjoy stunning panoramic views down the Bujuku valley, of Mount Baker, Mount Luigi di Savoia and Stanley just above.

After dinner, you rest a bit at Elena Hut before ascending in the early morning.

Hiking time: 3- 4 hours - Habitat: alpine zone – Altitude level: 468 m.

Lodging

Full Board options available.

Day 7

Stage 5 From Elena Hut to Kitandara Hut, 4.023 m

From Elena Hut you attempt the final climbing of the highest peak, Margherita of Mount Stanley, 5.109 m. You might take about 3 -4 hours to complete the ascent. You will need crampons, ice axe and rope since you will walk through what remains of the glacier area of Mount Stanley. The first alpinist who climbed up to the peak was Prince Luigi Amedeo the Duke of Abruzzi, who reached there at 9.30 am on 18th June 1906. You see the golden plate left by the centenary commemorative expedition of 2006.

The trail descend down to Upper Kitandara Lake and Lower Kitandara Lake, where is located Kitandara Hut, 4.023 m. arrival point for the day. It can take approximately 3 hours walk. This is the best place for planning the ascent of Mount Luigi di Savoia and Mount Baker.

Hiking time: 6 hours - Habitat: glacier / alpine zone – Altitude level: - 1554 m.

Lodging

Full Board options available.

Day 8

Stage 6: From Kitandara Hut to Guy Yeoman Hut, 3.261 m

From Lake Kitandara you climb in the direction of Mount Baker up to Freshfield Pass, 4.282 m., a long flat of high alpine mossy glades. Thereafter starts the descent through steep rocky trails. You pass the rock shelters of Akendahi, Bujongolo and Kabamba, where the Kabamba valley begins before reaching Guy Yeoman Hut, 3.261 m. This can take up to 5 hours. The hut enjoys a good panoramic location, nearby the river Mubuku and with views of Mount Baker.

Hiking time: 5 hours - Habitat: alpine zone / groundsel zone – Altitude level: - 762 m.

Lodging

Full Board options available.

Day 9

Stage 7: From Guy Yeoman Hut back to Nyakalengija

From Guy Yeoman you can complete the circuit by descending down to Nyakalenjija, which might take about 7 hours walk. Otherwise, you can decide to spend another night in Nyabitaba Hut. The trekking follows the Mubuku and Kichuchu rivers, with all the plants of the heather zone before entering the bamboo forest. From Nyabitaba start the short trekking to see Lake Mahoma.

As you arrive down in Nyakalenjija we shall transfer you to the lodge near the Rwenzori, in the crater lake region, for dinner and overnight at Lodge Bellavista.

Full Board

Lodging

Full Board options available.

Day 10

Return

After breakfast, return back to Kampala in time for connections with the international flights from Entebbe International Airport.

Lodging

Bed & Breakfast options available.