Tips & Tricks for Hiking the Rwenzori Mountains
The Rwenzori Mountains were gazetted as a national park in 1991, recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1994 and a Ramsar site in 2008. These classifications testify to the mountains’ international scientific importance. The word ‘Rwenzori’ roughly translates as ‘Rainmaker’, which clearly illustrates the importance of the mountains to Central Africa.
Rwenzori Mountains, previously called the “Ruwenzori Range” is a mountain range of eastern equatorial Africa, located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). These mountains support glaciers and are one source of the Nile River.
Rwenzori Mountains has the height of 5,109 meters (16,762 ft.). The highest Rwenzori peaks are permanently snow-capped. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Virunga National Park are located in the range.
Climbing Mount Rwenzori is one of the tough adventures anyone could undertake in Uganda. The Rwenzori being a mountain range, it means that reaching the top goes through many literal up and down trails. This isn’t the same case for regular mountains where the ascent to the summits means climbing only. What all this means is that Rwenzoris are harder to climb even though the highest peak ranks third in Africa.
Can beginners climb Rwenzori?
Yes! The best Rwenzori climbing experience as a beginner, you should be fully aware of the conditions, seasonal weather patterns, costs, and requirements to prepare yourself for this challenge.
Here are the tips you should know before climbing Rwenzori.
Skill level and age
If you are new to mountain climbing, there’s no need to worry. Although the climb to the mountain’s summit is a multi-day, high-altitude trek, you do not necessarily have to be trained in climbing to get to the top, especially with a tour guide helping you. At the right time of year, the terrain and trail conditions are smooth enough for most committed hikers to reach the peak. One of the few restrictions you’ll find for climbing Mount Rwenzori is age. Only those over the age of 10 can embark on this climb.
Go slow & drink lots of water
One of the most common phrases you will hear on the mountain is “go slow”. When climbing 10 – 20 thousand feet, it is important to pace yourself. The slower you go, the more oxygen you will get in your body and the better you will acclimatize.
Pack the right gear and bring a headlamp & extra batteries
Packing the Right Gear for Rwenzori is essential when climbing. When you are in camp you won’t have any electricity, so it is important to prepare for low light situations. Whether you are camping or staying in the huts, your eating area and bathroom will both be a short walk from where you are sleeping. When it is dark, this can be very difficult if you don’t have a headlamp or other way to light up the path in front of you.
Tipping is optional yet expected
Tipping is a good gesture, but not necessarily, a common practice. When hiking Rwenzori, tipping is a bit different. The crew that takes you up the mountain consists of a lead guide, assistant guide, chef, and a team of porters plays a huge role in the success of your summit, making sure that you take the proper precautions in what you eat, when you sleep, and how much you climb each day. Tipping guides and porters after the hike is important. You are directly helping their families and local communities with your tip.
Booking a Rwenzori guide
If you want to successfully climb the Rwenzoris on your first try, it is worth booking a local tour agency to help guide you along the way. Climbing to an altitude of nearly 5,000 meters is no picnic but can be accomplished by most hikers with the assistance of a guide that knows the terrain and local environment. Here is some knowledge you can expect your guides to be well equipped with.
The terrain and trail conditions of multi-day treks vary especially on the Rwenzoris. That is why having a guide who knows how to approach each evolving landscape will assure you that you are prepared for anything.
As will be mentioned below, the weather on Rwenzori Mountains will vary. Having the insight and experience to approach the contrasting conditions on your way up to the summit will be vital.
You can count on professional guides to give you and each individual on your tour consistent safety checks throughout the expedition. This is to monitor health-risks such as altitude sickness, fatigue, and other mountaineering protocols.
Safety tips for climbing the Rwenzori Mountains
Even if you have all the gear and meet all the requirements for starting your climb up the Rwenzoris, you still need to know a few safety protocols to ensure you have a safe journey. This is why having an experienced tour guide by your side on your first climb is encouraged; they’ll have all the necessary equipment on hand such as emergency oxygen, should an emergency occur. They can also perform regular safety checks and make sure you’re doing well as you climb higher up the mountain.
However, personally looking after your safety is just as crucial; keeping yourself aware and alert throughout the trek will be just as essential to ensure the safety of you and everyone on your trip. Here are some vital safety tips to keep in mind on your journey:
When you are hiking, especially on multi-day, high-altitude treks, you should remember that it is a marathon, not a race. Taking your time and not being in a rush can help you avoid fatigue. Remember, it is the journey, not the destination.
Take frequent breaks
It is much better to stop, take a breath, and relax throughout the day to keep you from burning out in the end. This becomes increasingly important as you get closer to the summit, where the air becomes thinner and the chances of altitude sickness increase with each step.
If you can acclimatize to higher altitudes before beginning your trek, you will feel more fit and prepared for what’s ahead on your way up the top. An excellent way to do this is to arrive at your destination a couple of days earlier and condition yourself with some day hikes.
There is probably nothing more important than staying hydrated on your Rwenzori climb. Frequently drink water throughout the day and while resting in the evening.
Following these safety tips can amount to having a safe and enjoyable experience on any hike, especially when dealing with long-distance treks that reach an altitude as high as Mount Ruwenzori’s.
How to prepare for Mountain Rwenzori Hiking tour
You cannot wake up one day and start hiking mountain Rwenzori. The adventurous venture needs mental and physical preparedness. Firstly, you have to book this tour through any of the companies offering mountaineering services to Rwenzori Mountain.
Rwenzori Mountaineering services are the renowned agent for hiking Rwenzori hiking safaris. More so, ensure to do physical exercises to ensure you are physically fit for this strenuous hike. Among the recommended physical exercises include jogging, walking, hiking and stretch ups among others. Your mind should be ready to conquer his high mountain. A traveler who begins a hike when not mentally ready stands high risks of failing to reach the summit.
Is it safe to climb the Rwenzori Mountains?
Hiking the Rwenzori ranges is absolutely safe. Its records of the past hikers reveals, it is safe since there are less cases of people dying or getting ill from climbing it.
The accommodation facilities like the huts and the rock shelters are well set up in that the adverse climate does not affect people while sleeping at night.
The guides are well trained and also have the basic skills and tool for the first aid treatment in case one gets a healthy problem. The guides also offer briefing to the trekkers on how to hiker the mountains with maximum safety.
The trek trails leading to the ranges are well established with minimum sloppiness and slipperiness.
What to pack for hiking Mount Rwenzori
Undertaking such an adventure is very brave and it is very crucial that you pack all the essential things you will need. Below is an extensive listing of all the things you should pack and why you should carry them for you Rwenzori climbing adventure.
Since hiking Rwenzori Mountain is an extensive activity with the energy being drained and spending several days on this hike, there are specific tools and items a hiker must have to enhance him/her to complete the task. Below are some of the things to pack for a Rwenzori hike:
Clothing: a hiker is required to carry both light and heavy layer clothes for hike due to changing climatic conditions, the lower part of the ranges are hot and the upper part is extremely cold since it is snowcapped. The temperatures can go as low as 0°C. It is advisable to carry water proof clothes like tracksuits, raincoats and the jackets. Gears like beanies, caps and headlamps should also be brought along.
Footwear: the shoes should be hiking boots with enough studs on them to give a hiker enough grip of the ground while trekking on the trails.
Food stuffs: Since it takes days to complete the Hike to the top of Mt Rwenzori and it is energy draining, you need to carry drinking water, energy drinks, canned and dry foods and also snacks like biscuits to eat in order to compensate for the burnt calories.
Backpack and Sleeping Bags: the hiker should have a perfectly sized backpack to carry his/her equipment and also convenient to carry. The sleeping bags must be at hand and this should be rain / water proof. A woolen blanket for covering yourself since it is cold at the Rwenzori ranges.
Other Accessories: there are some things that a person on an adventurous expedition must possess to make the adventure both convenient and interesting. Things like camera, insect repellents, sunglasses, a portable music player and torch among others.
Best Time to Hike the Rwenzori
The dry months of the year are the best time of hiking Rwenzori in Uganda. Therefore two peak seasons of trekking the magnificent ranges are naturally designed. These are the June-October months and from December-February, this is when the routes leading to the peak destinations are dry and passable and also when the sun is out perfect to visibly see the different wildlife species and also other physical features like the glaciers and cliffs.
It is also possible to trek the Rwenzori Mountains in the wet months of November, December, April and May unlike in the past when the hiking amenities on the ranges i.e. the accommodation Huts, the trekking paths and hiking equipment were less developed. Lately, the aforementioned have been improved and well skilled guides are in place for an ultimate hiking safari. However, sometimes the hikers find it a challenge to climb to the top of Mt Rwenzori in the wet season due to the steep, sloppy, slippery and muddy trails when it rains.
Conclusion, if you are interested in Rwenzori Trekking in Uganda, you will be happy to hear that the experience is open to just about everyone. You just have to be prepared and by following the tips offered above, you’ll be ready to cross climbing Mount Rwenzori off your bucket list in no time.