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Rwenzori Central Circuit Hiking Tour - 9 Days

Overview
Itinerary
Accommodation
Rwenzori Trip Tips
Inclusions
Overview

Rwenzori Central Circuit Hiking Tour - 9 Days

A trip up to the Rwenzori Mountains is an exhilarating and rewarding experience but one which must be well planned. The key to an enjoyable visit is to “be prepared!”

The central circuit hike takes 6 nights/7 days and reaches an altitude 4,267 m above sea level. Extra days can be foreseen when climbing one of the the main peaks, Speke (4,890 m) and Magherita, the highest point at 5,109 m.

The conditions on the mountains are a challenge to even an experienced hiker. The Rwenzori mountains is renowned for its un-engineered, steep and slippery trails and frequent rain. Rainfall and cold temperatures, bogs, mud, steep terrain and high altitude make it a challenging trip. Nevertheless it is exciting!

The Rwenzori Mountains are also known as the "Mountains of the Moon". They were first described as such by Ptolemy because they were believed to be the Lunae Montes predicted by the ancient Greeks to be the source of the Nile. A number of the mountain peaks are named after early explorers to Uganda, these include Mounts Stanley, Speke and Baker.

The Italian Duke of Abruzzi led a major exploration of the range in 1906, producing the first detailed maps of the area and making several first ascents, including that of Mt Stanley. This expedition named most of the major peaks and features giving the names Margherita (5,109 m) and Alexandra (5,044 m) to the twin summits of Mt. Stanley in honour of members of the Italian and British royal families. The Duke chose to name one of the smaller peaks in the range, Luigi de Savoia (4,627 m), after himself.

  • Day 1: Entebbe to Fort Portal - Kasese
  • Day 2: Nyakalengija (1,646 m) - Up to Nyabitaba Hut (2,652 m)
  • Day 3: Nyabitaba Hut (2,652 m) - John Matte Hut (3,414 m)
  • Day 4: John Matte Hut (3,414 m) - Bujuku Hut (3,962 m)
  • Day 5: Bujuku Hut (3,900 m) - Elena Hut (4,541 m)
  • Day 6: Elena Hut (4,541 m) - Kitandara Hut (4,023 m)
  • Day 7: Kitandara Hut - Guy Yeoman Hut (3,261 m)
  • Day 8: Guy Yeoman Hut - Nyabitaba Hut
  • Day 9: Nyabitaba-Nyakalengija Base Camp; Transfer to Entebbe
Itinerary

Day 1: Entebbe to Fort Portal - Kasese

Meet and greet at the airport by your guide. You will be transferred to Kassese via Mubende and Fort Portal.

This is a long trip to Western Uganda. A stop is also foreseen at Fort Portal for some shopping. After some shopping we will drive another hour to reach the Kasese where you will stay at Tour Holiday Inn (Rwenzori Base Camp -  Ibanda).

Day 2: Nyakalengija (1,646 m) - Up to Nyabitaba Hut (2,652 m)

After breakfast you will have a short drive to offices of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (RMS) at Nyakalengija.  Time will be spend in the morning to rent equipment and be availed with guides and porters.

Your hiking trip begins from the park headquarters at 1,646 m, walking past typical “mud and wattle” Bakonzo homes and gradually moving upward through elephant grass and garden plots. It takes approximately forty minutes to reach the park boundary.

The trail then follows the Mubuku River, crossing recent landslide areas (to be negotiated carefully), and involves climbing over rocks and bluff, before reaching the Mahoma River in 2 ½ hours. After crossing the river there will be a steep climbing through open bracken fern slopes and Podorcarpus Forest up to Nyabitaba hut (2,652 m). The Nyabitaba hut is set on a ridge above the confluence of the Bujuku and Mubuku rivers with views over the Portal Peaks which rise above 4,627 m.

Total time for an average hiker from Nyakalengija to Nyabitaba is about 5-7 hours, and total elevation gained is 1,200 m.

Day 3: Nyabitaba Hut (2,652 m) - John Matte Hut (3,414 m)  

From Nyabitaba Hut the trail leads westward for half a kilometre then drops steeply to Kurt Shaffer Bridge, crossing below the confluence of Bujuku and the Mubuku rivers. By turning right to the bridge you begin to climb the central circuit anti-clockwise since the clockwise direction is much more difficult and adds considerable danger for you and your porters.

After crossing Kurt Shaffer Bridge the muddy, slippery trail climbs steadily up through bamboo forest. After one and a half hours you encounter an area of slippery boulder hopping which some hikers consider the most difficult and dangerous footing of the circuit.

After five hours of travel from Nyabitaba, you reach the hut at Nyamuleju and its accompanying rock shelter. Nyamuleju means" Place of beards" and refers to moss and lichen hanging from the trees. If you had a late start or know that there is a large group ahead of you at the next hut, you might consider spending the night here. On a rare clear day Mts. Stanley and Speke can be seen from top of the rock near the hut.

Nyamuleju also marks the start of the giant lobelia and groundsel zone, this remarkable vegetation type is found nowhere else in the world except high-altitude tropical African mountains. The one-hour walk to John Matte hut (3,414 m) is through a challenging bog, full extra ordinary plants and the slow pace can be a delightful chance to examine and photograph this unique environment, typical time to reach John Matte from Nyabitaba is 7 hours.

Some hikers consider this to be the most tiring and longest day of the circuit, so an early start is important. The loss of altitude to Kurt Shafer Bridge means the total elevation to be gained on this day is about 915 m.

Day 4: John Matte Hut (3,414 m) - Bujuku Hut (3,962 m)

Leave John Matte hut to cross the Bujuku River and enter the lower Bigo bog, where your first real experience of jumping from tussock to tussock on grassy bog begins. The trail is muddy and follows the left (southern) edge of lower Bigo bog until eventually it reaches the round metal “uniport”. The Bigo hut and its rock shelter. A steep section past the hut leads to upper Bigo bog. In the last half of this bog, a boardwalk has been constructed. Though some may think it is an ugly intrusion, it makes walking easier and prevents the hikers from further damaging the bog. A beautiful narrow stream at the upper end of the bog makes good lunch break.

An hour and a half beyond the upper bog, and after climbing through drier ground and crises-crossing the river, you reach lake Bujuku. The southern end of the lake is in a majestic setting, with Mt. Baker to the south, Mt. Stanley to the west, and Mt. Speke to the north.

The trail route along the lake’s northeastern shore crosses the worst mud on the trip. Beyond the north end of the lake is a rock shelter called cooking pot and a short distance further is Bujuku hut (3,962 m), favorably located for parties climbing Mt. Speke (which requires technical skills and special equipment).

Time to reach Bujuku from John Matte is typically 5-6 hours, and the elevation gained is 560 m. But the long stretches of bog, and the mud along the lake make this another challenging day. The shaded  location and frequent mists can make Bujuku Hut quite cold.

If one moved around on a nature walk, the chances of seeing red duikers are high and at night, calls of the Rock hyraxes are common.

Day 5: Bujuku Hut (3,900 m) - Elena Hut (4,541 m)

From Bujuku Hut you climb through moss draped groundsel vegetation to Scott Elliot Pass, 4,372 m, between Mt. Baker and Stanley. Here you divert to Elena Hut, 4,540 m for spending the night before climbing Mt. Stanley.

Estimated hiking time: 4 hours

Day 6: Elena Hut (4,541 m) - Kitandara Hut (4,023 m)

Early morning traverse of the Elena Glacier to the Stanley Plateau where crampons may be required. Cross this in a north-west direction and follow the Margherita Glacier to the col and to the summit (3 hours).

Descend to Elena Hut and after you descend to Upper Kitandara lake and through thick mud to Lower Kitandara lake where is located Kitandara Hut, 4.023 m. Time to complete the hike about 3 hours more. Enjoy the view of Mt. Luigi di Savoia.

Day 7: Kitandara Hut - Guy Yeoman Hut (3,261 m)

From Lake Kitandara you climb to Freshfield Pass, 4,282 m, a long flat of high alpine mossy glades, before descending the circuit among rocky and boggy areas.

The panorama is dominated by the glaciers of Mounts Stanley and Baker and Mount of Savoy. A muddy trail leads to Akendahi, Bujongolo and Kabamba rock shelters, where starts the Kabamba valley down to Guy Yeoman Hut, 3,261 m. This can take up to 6 hours. The hut is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of mountains, vegetations and rivers.

Day 8: Guy Yeoman Hut - Nyabitaba Hut

Drop very steeply alongside the Mubuku River, past Kichuchu, another rock shelter and join our original route near the confluence of the Bujuku River (3 ½ hours).  

Day 9: Nyabitaba-Nyakalengija Base Camp; Transfer to Entebbe

Nyabitaba Hut to the Nyakalengija road head (2 hours).  

Descend steeply off the ridge and enter the warm rainforest.  Look for the tropical forest birds and monkeys.  

After, your driver picks you for transfer to Entebbe.

 

 

Accommodation

Along the central circuit there are a number of established huts.

Nyabitaba Hut (2,660 m)

Nyabitaba Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

Renovated in 2008, Nyabitaba Hut is the arriving point for the first day of trekking or for a short trip to the Rwenzori. It is located 10 km from Nyakalenjija and takes about 4/5 hours walk through montane forest and the Bakonjo villages. It consists of a 2 room wooden building, with annexed pit latrine and tap water piped from the near Lake Mahoma, worthy a visit. The hut has a few beds and provides mattresses. The location is beautiful with the stunning views of the Portal Peaks in the North.

John Matte Hut (3,420 m)

John Matte Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

Named after the founding president of the Mountain Club of Uganda, John Matte, the hut is situated on a hillside on the banks of River Bujuku. It consists of a 3 room wooden building. It is available a pit latrine. This is the reaching point of the second day of trekking along the central circuit, which is considered the most challenging part of the trekking.

Bujuku Hut (3,930 m)

Bujuku Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

Bujuku Hut was fully renovated in 2009 and the new wooden cottage is now standing next to the old tin building. The location is superb, as it is found where the routes proceed to the Congolese side of the park, to Mount Stanley (from the South) and to Mount Speke (from the north). The name is after the Bujuku Lake, which is just near the hut. There are also eco-toilets available and spring water. From this location you have a spectacular view of the Mount Baker just in front of you, and the Stanley Plateau on the right. You plan from this hut your ascent to Mount Speke as well as to Mount Stanley.

Elena Hut (4,563 m)

Elena Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

This hut is the last point before climbing the Stanley plateau. It is located on a rocky area of Mount Stanley at an altitude of 4.563 m. The hut is quite small and does not offer much comforts, considering the temperature and the location. It is used mainly as the staging post for ascending Mount Stanley. It overlooks directly Mount Baker and Mount Speke, though it is often submerged by the fog.

Kitandara Hut (3,979 m)

Kitandra Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

The hut is situated on the shores of the Lower Kitandara Hut, one of the most beautiful and romantic locations in the Rwenzori. It consists of a one room tin house. From this point you have the best view of the Mount Luigi of Savoy. There is a pit latrine. This is the starting point for ascending Mount Baker and Mount Luigi of Savoy.

Guy Yeoman Hut (3,505 m)

Guy Yeoman Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

The hut is situated along the Kabamba valley on the banks of the Mubuku river, surrounded by coniferous forests. The hut consists of a 2 room wooden hut with annex pit latrine. Near the hut there are the beautiful Kabamba waterfalls.

Rwenzori Trip Tips

The trekking of the Rwenzori Mountains is one of the most rewarding alpine experiences in the world, which requires good preparation and knowledge of what you should expect to find, as it is a unique trekking.

The Equipment

It is advisable to travel with your personal equipment for this trekking, which include the rucksack, trekking boots, sleeping bag and mat (though in the huts you will find mattresses). The gumboots are particularly useful in the Rwenzori and they can be hired from the head quarter of the National Park (it is advisable to book them in advance). The Rwenzori can be very rainy; therefore it is crucial to carry the suitable clothes to protect you from the rain and from the water (water proof trousers, poncho). For the ascent to the main peaks, it is recommended to have proper rigid crampons, rope and ice axe for the glaciers.

Preparing the Expedition

It is important to have the luggage well prepared which is to be carried during the trekking (you might decide to leave some items behind with us or at the hotel). As part of the service offered by the agent, some porters are included to carry luggage. The regulations are that each trekker is entitled to have 25 kg including food, so that any extra kg will be considered extra luggage and should be paid for at an extra fee. Those who are climbing more than one peak and will spend extra days in the mountains are entitled to carry more luggage which is agreed upon.

We provide the food stuff and kitchen equipment during the trekking, based on standard guidelines, but in case there are some specific requirements, we will take them into consideration.

All the transportation from Entebbe Airport to Kampala and to the Rwenzori and back is based on private service of a 4×4 vehicle. It takes about seven / eight hours to reach the foothills of the Rwenzori  along the Mubuku River at Ibanda.

Health and Safety

  • The high altitude and cold wet conditions of Rwenzori Mountains can adversely effect inexperienced visitors. The following are ailments, which may occur: hypothermia, dehydration, altitude sickness, AMS (acute mountain sickness) HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema), and HACE (high altitude cerebral edema).
  • Climbing equipment (crampons, ice axes, etc.) can be rented from RMS.

What to Bring?

Required equipment for the central circuit: rucksack, sleeping bag for low temperature and sleeping mat, gumboots, waterproof trousers, poncho or rain coat, heavy warm jacket, hand gloves, scarf and cup, one jumper, torch.

Required extra equipment for climbing the peak: crampons, snow gloves, snow goggles, climbing boots, rope and ice axe.

We provide: the food, cook, stove, cutleries and necessary cooking equipment. Consider that the average food weight per person is about 10kg.

What can you hire from Uganda: Most of the necessary equipment is rentable directly from the store at the base of the Rwenzori. However, we kindly request to communicate in advance what type of equipment you would like to rent in place or buy in Uganda, so that we will guarantee the availability.

Money for your personal expenses (average of $200 p.p.), rain gear (during any seasons),  good sleeping bag, warm hat, gloves, heavy socks, gumboots, gaiters, and a walking stick for balance (and to probe the mud) are recommended.

A basic first aid kit is a necessity.

Inclusions

Includes

  • Airport transfers
  • Transfer to Kasese
  • All park and entry fees
  • Guiding, porters wages and food
  • Charcoal fee
  • The accommodation in basic mountain huts
  • Heating fees
  • Rescue fees
  • All meals whilst on the mountains
  • Mountaineering guides, local guides and porters
  • Use of harnesses, ice axes, crampons and ropes

Excludes

  • Airline ticket
  • Beverages
  • Tips
  • Visas and personal expenses
  • Insurance

Book Confident

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