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All you need to know as you trek up Rwenzori Mountains

FILE PHOTO: Margherita Peak conquerers

Kampala, Uganda | Patricia Akankwatsa | The Rwenzori Mountains or better known as the Mountains of the Moon, are ranges located on the border between Uganda and DR Congo.

The mountain ranges are home to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in the DR Congo as well as Mt Stanley, which at 5,109m, is the highest mountain in Uganda and third highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park  now a World Heritage Site protects the highest parts of 120km long and 65km wide Rwenzori Mountain Ranges, a major attraction for hikers from across the world.

Here, the most skilled climbers can possibly hike to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – in seven to nine days depending on the route used by the climbers.

Also, there is a lot more potential to make the Rwenzori Trekking expeditions in more interesting to holiday makers with the option of various Safaris such as Wildlife watching in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Gorilla trekking in Bwindi during the one Uganda Safari holiday

The routes

There are predominantly two main routes that will lead climbers and trekkers to the Margherita Peak of the great Rwenzori Mountains.

These routes are run by Rwenzori Trekking Services (Kilembe Route) and Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (Central Circuit Route).

The Kilembe Route is longer and newer, having been opened in 2009. Its trail approaches the mountains from the south. The real beauty is in hiking the Kilembe Route, are the forests, flora, valleys as well as the diverse giant heather trees and valleys of ferns.

Rwenzori Mountaineering Service offers the various options for trekking the Rwenzori Mountains. These include the five-day Rwenzori Trekking Experience.

Here, you won’t be able to experience the peak of the mountain but can make it to the Weismann’s Peak – approximately 4,620 meters. This climb is the most popular although it can get tiresome since it involves a lot of walking.

The other five day trek option is climbing the Bamwanjara Pass instead of Weismanns. Also at 4,450 meters, Bamwanjara Pass offers great views of the main peaks.

Seven Day Rwenzori Mountaineering: The shortest number of days to hike to the peak is the seven days.

The seven day trek to the Margherita peak at 5,109 meters starts from Kilembe, through the forest and the bamboo zone to have a sleep at Kalalama. Hikers then ascend through Scott Elliot to Margherita Camp at 4,485m from where you set off early morning by 3am to climb the Margherita Peak. This hike is tough but so exciting.

However, hiking more than 500 meters a day brings about a bigger risk of altitude sickness, high altitude cerebral edema and all of which are dangerous. It’s always advisable to take it slow and lessen the risk.

Altitude has an effect on humans however fit you are.

Eight and Nine Day Treks: These treks to the Margherita Peak usually cost $1,200 per person in a group of two people plus $35 per day for Uganda Wildlife Authority as gate entrance fees. These are recommended for people of average fitness as well as climbing abilities.

This price also includes all the porters, food and accommodation in the mountain. There is also the ten-day trek to the main four peaks, including; Margherita, Mt Speke, Weismann’s as well as Mt Baker.

According to a seasoned hiker, one is advised to go slow.

“The reason to go slow is that your body is working harder at higher altitude. The air is thinner and there is less oxygen to breathe,” he advised.

Also, drink plenty of water to ward off possible altitude sickness, get the right gear such as hiking boots, warm clothing, rain gears as well as a sun hat and sun cream.

Most importantly, book through the right agencies such as the Rwenzori Mountaineering Service, a reliable tour agency that offers discounted booking for all treks to Rwenzori.

Rwenzori Mountaineering Service works in strong partnership trekking services in Uganda and Virunga Foundations in Congo to create and tailor make memorable hiking tours for great hikers in Africa.

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