A Travellers’ Essential Guide to Hiking Mountain Rwenzori in Uganda 2023
The Rwenzori is a range of mountains found on the Western border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mountains’ upper regions are permanently snow-capped and glaciated all year round. The ranges are found in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Virunga National Park, D.R. Congo.
The mountains cover a distance of about 120 kilometres long and 65 kilometres wide. It is made up of 6 mountains separated by deep gorges; Mount Stanley 5,109 meters, Mount Speke 4,890 meters, Mount Baker 4,843 meters, Mount Emin 4,798 meters, Mount Gessi 4,715 meters, and Mount Luigi di Savoia 4,627 meters. Mount Stanley has various subsidiary summits, with Margherita Peak being the highest point.
There are 5 vegetation zones along the Rwenzori; the evergreen tropical forest zone covers up to 2800 meters, the bamboo zone covers between 2,800 to 3,300 meters, the heather zone between 3,000 to 3,800 meters, the alpine zone covers between 3,500 to 4,500 meters, and, the navel zone between 4,400 to 5,000 meters.
The mountains support some endemic plant species, a diversity of giant groundsel and giant lobelia and also have six meters tall heather, covered in moss that grooms on one of its peaks. Due to the great value the mountains possess, the park is now a World Heritage Site.
A lot of water streams drain down the Rwenzori Mountains, though several members of the afro-alpine family species, which normally thrive in desert climates. Water is not always readily available to the afro-alpine plants when they need it unlike the afro-alpine at the Rwenzori mountains where they have access to water at any moment. The vegetation in the Ruwenzori is unique to equatorial alpine Africa.
Mountain Rwenzori National Park in Uganda
Rwenzori Mountains have a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park traverses an area of more than 1000 square kilometres. It has Africa’s third-highest mountain peak habituated with many waterfalls, lakes, and glaciers.
The park includes the central and eastern half of the Rwenzori Mountains. These mountains are higher than the Alps, ice-capped, rising above the dry plains north of the Equator. For example; Mount Stanley is located in the park, Margherita Peak one of Mount Stanley’s twin summits is Africa’s third highest peak, with a height of 5,109 meters (16,762 ft). Africa’s fourth and fifth-highest peaks Mount Speke and Mount Baker are also found in the park. The national park has natural features that mark it as one of Africa’s most beautiful mountain areas.
The national park has species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift system, and other several endangered species in the park like the animals in the park. The park has a high diversity of plants, trees and wildlife. The park is prominent for its botany, which is sometimes described as some of the most beautiful botany in the world. The park has five distinct vegetation zones, which change according to the altitude of the mountains. The park has over 100 species of birds, 25 species of butterflies, and primates. The park’s wildlife varies with elevation, as its species include the forest elephant, chimpanzee, hyrax, black-and-white colobus, L’hoest’s monkeys, duiker, and Rwenzori turaco.
(Top 2) Trekking Routes at Mountain Rwenzori- Central Circuit & Kilembe Trails
The park is under the Ugandan government through Uganda National Parks, the park is found near Kasese town where there are hotels and lodges for clients while the park, has camping grounds for campers and hikers. The park has trekking and climbing routes cautioned with several unusual sceneries. The most popular trek is a seven-day circuit of the park and to the mountain top.
Usually, the Rwenzori trek to the top of the peaks of the mountains takes between 6 to 8 days depending on the hiker’s speed and fitness using the 2 major trails. The 2 trails meet at Mount Stanley, where the trek to Margherita the highest peak of the mountains starts and both trails offer beautiful scenic views of the Rwenzori massif.
The central circuit trail is managed by the locals under the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (RMS) that stay on the foothills of Rwenzori. This trail starts from Nyakalengija and ends at the same point. Wooden huts along the trail where trekkers camp, as they only offer a bed and a small mattress. The Uganda wildlife authority also puts up boardwalks in the boggy areas along the trail to make movement much easier for tourists.
The Kilembe trail is owned by a private individual of the trekking company called Rwenzori trekking services (RTS), the trail starts and ends in Kilembe. This trail is considered to be a little more challenging than the central circuit trail because of its steepness.
When to Visit Mountain Rwenzori National Park in Uganda
The Rwenzori is sometimes called the rainmaker, the rain can be expected at any time while in the region. Mountain Rwenzori national park can be visited any time of the year; however, it is good to know the months suitable for trekking. The suitable time to visit the Rwenzori national park is during the dry season, that is from June to August and between December to February. It is less challenging to trek during these months because the trails are not slippery and muddy, and you will get to have breathtaking views of the mountains, gorges, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and vegetation. The best of trekking during the wet season is that you get to see the ice-covered peaks of the mountains.
How to get to Mountain Rwenzori National Park in Uganda
Clients can get to the park from Kampala or Entebbe by either road or air. Travelling by air, one takes a charter flight from Entebbe/Kajansi airstrip to the Kasese airstrip, and drives for 30 minutes to the base of the mountains where the trek starts depending on the route one is going to use. Travelling by road, one drives from Kampala to Kasese for about 6 to 7 hours using the Kampala-Mubende-Fort portal-Kasese route.
Essential Packaging Gear to Carry for Hiking Mountain Rwenzori Uganda in 2023
The knowledge of what to pack is important for anyone planning a trekking trip. As for the Rwenzori trekking or mountaineering tour, our company has listed some of the most important things every trekker needs while exploring the mountains.
The packing list includes; one of the bags trekking backpack, day pack, re-sealable waterproof packs, trekking boots, sandals, hiking jacket, hiking pants, long sleeve pants, socks, hiking hat, rain poncho, warm sleeping bag, sleeping pad, trekking poles, pocket knife, sunglasses, camera, power bank or extra batteries, sunscreen lotion, some of your favourite snacks. Medication: for pain, blisters, diarrhoea, cold, or flu.
For the clients that are hiking up to Margherita, you should add the following: crampons, ice axe, helmet, ropes, headlamp, hand gloves, scarf and head sock.