10 Things I wish I knew before Climbing Rwenzori Mountains

Mountain Rwenzoris are situated in Western Uganda in the East African Rift Valley and straddles also to the Democratic Republic of Congo and its conservation area known as Virunga National Park. Mountain Rwenzori is the third highest in Africa rising up more than 16,700 feet above sea level and its highest peaks rise above the clouds and are permanently snow capped.

1. Rwenzori mountains difficulty level

The Rwenzori Mountains offer some of the most challenging hikes in Africa. It’s advised to have prior hiking experience and be in good health before attempting to climb. It should be noted that both Kilembe route and Rwenzori central circuit route will lead you to above 4000m. This is categorized as high-altitude and difficult for non-hikers, you will need to be physically fit, and the thin air here can cause altitude sickness for some climbers. We advise you to consult your doctor before attempting to climb the Rwenzori Mountains or use the Kilembe route, which will give you a chance for acclimatization though less scenic than the central circuit route.

Margherita Peak in the Rwenzori Mountains

2. Altitude Sickness

In a nutshell, altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is the adverse health effect of high altitudes. It is estimated that there is around 21% oxygen in the atmosphere at sea level. During the climb up the mountain, the percentage does not change, but the number of oxygen molecules per breath is reduced as you climb higher up the mountain. At a height of 3,600 m (12,000 ft), there are about 40% fewer oxygen molecules per breath than at sea level. Due to the lack of oxygen in the body per breath, it becomes difficult for the body to adapt to that situation and continue to function normally. As a result of the body not being able to adapt quickly enough to these lower levels of oxygen, altitude sickness is caused. Often climbers make the mistake of climbing too high (altitude) and too quickly (rate of ascent).

Rwenzori Mountains have high altitude levels of up to (5109m) that can cause altitude sickness if you don’t acclimatize well. Laba Africa recommends that you take your time to adapt to the altitude probably by using the Kilembe and to consult with your doctor first.

3. Weather in Rwenzori Mountains

The weather in the Rwenzori Mountains National park is pretty unpredictable and change anytime regardless of the season, June to August and December to February fall in dry season but rain can come at any point. It’s important to pack accordingly and bring appropriate cloths for cold as it can get to minus degrees at night, wet and muddy terrain, and snowy conditions. We have camping gear for rent in case you don’t have the right gear for the hike.

photo of Mountain Rwenzoris National Park entry by laba africa expeditions

4. Rules and regulations in the Rwenzoris

All guests must pay the park fees and obtain proper hiking permits before entering the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. It is a criminal offence to enter the park boundaries without permissions. According to the UWA act section 30 and 70 if one is found guilty of illegal entry into wildlife protected areas is liable to more than 10 years in jail so, please avoid illegal entry at all cost because you might be confused for being a poacher

5. Mountain Rwenzori Hiking requires physical fitness

The hike to the Rwenzori Mountains requires physical fitness and endurance of hiking up to 8 hours a day for up to 7 days to complete the trek for those looking at reaching Margherita peak on Mount Stanley. We advise you to train for this hike. A lot of our guests that have hiked both Mount Kilimanjaro and Rwenzori found the hike harder in Rwenzori mountains

6. Accommodation in and around Rwenzori Mountains

In the Rwenzori Mountains, you will be sleeping in tents or wooden cabins along the trails, We recommend that you being a nice warm sleeping bag. You will need a 4-season or -20 Deg C sleeping bag and compression sack.  There are campsites and camps available along the trail and chances are the prices are already included in the Rwenzori hiking package.

There are also lodges outside the mountains for those looking for a goodnight sleep before the hard hike or those looking for a warm shower after cold nights in the mountains. Ruboni community campsite is perfect for those on budget and Equator snow is available for those looking for a midrange of luxurious option.

It’s important to research and plan accordingly to ensure a comfortable and safe stay.

7. Wildlife in Rwenzori Mountains

The Rwenzori Mountains are home to unique and endangered wildlife, including the various primate species and Rwenzori leopard, Birds like Rwenzori Turaco etc, Infact Rwenzori Mountains National Park is one of the best bird watching destination in Uganda. Check out the Uganda Bird list

Mountain Rwenzori base is covered by savanna grasslands which is a home to variety of mammal species that include ;blue monkeys ,bush buck ,golden cats ,giant forest hogs ,red duiker ,forest elephant ,Rwenzori colobus , Rwenzori otter ,Rwenzori climbing mouse ,genet Mongoose ,leopards ,Uganda clawed frog ,L’hoest’s monkeys ,rock hydrax and many more.

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8. Investing in a quality hiking gear

Invest in proper gear to ensure that you are comfortable and prepared for the conditions on the mountain including good quality hiking boots, warm clothing, and a good sleeping bag. Having good quality gear for hiking Rwenzori Mountains is absolutely essential because the weather conditions on Rwenzori Mountains can be extremely harsh and wet, with temperatures usually dropping below freezing. High-quality insulated clothing and equipment will help keep you warm and comfortable throughout your ascent.

Buying good quality hiking gear can make all the difference when it comes to achieving a successful summit. The right gear can enhance your Rwenzori hiking experience by improving your comfort which could increase your chances of success. So investing in high-quality gear is an essential part of preparing for a safe and successful climb to the top of Mount Stanley or Mount Speke.

9. Staying Hydrated is Important

It is important to stay hydrated while climbing Mount Rwenzoris. Carry enough water and electrolyte supplies to keep your body hydrated. Keeping hydrated while hiking Rwenzori mountains is important because you will loose lot of fluids through sweating, especially at higher altitudes where the air starts to be thinner. You will almost start to feel the difference at Kalalaama camp about 3,134 metres. Not being hydrated means you might feel fatigue, headaches, and lightheadedness, which can be dangerous when hiking on rugged terrain. We recommend that you your daily intake of fluids range from 2-3 liters per day during your time in the Rwenzori Mountains

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10. Use a reputable Ugandan operator

It is very important to choose a reputable Uganda local company that will provide you with qualified mountaineering guides and quality support staff to ensure a safe and successful climb. Laba Africa is an award winning local company that specialize in private tailored active holidays in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania

Enjoy the Rwenzori experience: Climbing the Rwenzoris is a once-in-a-lifetime experience harder than Mountain Kilimanjaro but very scenic and less touristy. Take time to enjoy the stunning scenery and the unique culture of the area.

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