Mount Rwenzori National Park
Mountain Ruwenzori National Park lies north of the equator in the Albertine Rift Vally thus a trip into the Ruwenzori is exhilaration and rewarding experience but one, which must be well planned. The central circuit hike starts from Nyakalengija which takes six nights and seven days reaching an altitude of 14,000ft (4267metres) above sea level. The conditions at the mountain are a challenge to even inexperienced hiker. It’s known for its un-engineered, steep, slippery trials and frequent rain. Challenges faced at Mountain Ruwenzori National Park are high rainfall and cold temperatures, bogs, mud, stiff terrain and high altitude. Though it’s exciting, there is a need to try it! Since during much of the year mud, Rain, Mist and wind occur daily, adequate clothing (and a mental altitude!) for these conditions are a must. The periods of July-August and December-February are the driest months and experienced hikers are the best seasons for a trek.
During rain seasons, rain gear, good sleeping bags, warm hat, gloves, heavy shocks, gumboots, gaiters and a walking steak for balance (and to probe the mud) are recommended. A basic first Aid kit is also necessary.
Heavy equipments and food, leaving a small pack with rain gear, warm cloths (on higher sections), cameras, water bottle, snacks and lunch will be carried by the porters.. Purchase your own food (in Kasese or Kampala). Rwenzori Mountaineering Service (RMS) provides cooking utensils and the chefs.
The central Circuit Trail
The centra circuit starts at Rwenzori Mountains National Park offices at Nyakalengija.Arrival should be in the to allow ample time to arrange equipments and be availed with guides and porters. Hiking starts from the park headquarters 5400 ft (1646meters), walking via farmland to the park boundary which takes 40 minutes past typical ‘mud and wattle Bakonzo homes and gradually moving up ward through elephant grass and garden plots. . The trail then follows the Mubuku River, Crossing its mahoma tributary in about 2.5 hours and involves climbing over rocks and bluff. After crossing the River, there will be a stiff climb through open bracken fern slopes and podorcarpus up to Nyabitaba hut 8700ft (2652 meters). Total time for an average hiker from Nyakalengija to Nyabitaba is about 5-7hours, and total elevation gained is 4000 ft (1200 meters). Slower hikers could take considerably longer, so insist on leaving park headquarters before noon to avoid being on the trail after dark.
During this part of the trip you may be able to hear the sound of the chimpanzees, black and white colobus and blue monkeys may be seen. Catch glimpses of brilliant colored Rwenzori turaco (a bird of the tree tops) will also be seen.. Across the valley to the north of Nyabitaba lies the rocky and largely unclimbed bottles peaks, which rise above 14000 ft (4627meters).
From Nybitaba trail leads to the west wards for a half a kilometer, then drops steeply to Kurt Shaffer Bridge crossing just below the confluence of the Bujuku and Mubuku Rivers. Next to the bridge you will begin to climb a simply circuit anti clock wise since the clockwise direction is much more difficult and adds considerable danger for you and your porters. After crossing the 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 5 hours of travel from Nyabitaba, you reach the hut at Nyamuleju accompanying rock shelter. On a rare clear day Mts. Stanley and Speke can be seen from the 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 (11200ft/ 3414meters) is through a challenging bog, full of 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 about 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 cut Shaffer Bridge mean the total elevation to be gained on this day is about 3000 ft (915meters). Hikers who feel they have reached their limits by this point should consider John Matte a reasonable stopping point. You can just enjoy the unique vegetation in the bog and the great views then the following day begin your return to Nyabitaba.
Bog, where your first real experience of jumping from tussock to tussock on a grassy bog begins. The trail is muddy and flows the left (southern) edge of lower Bigo bog until eventually it reaches the round metal ‘unipot’ the Bigo hut and its rock shelter. A steep section passed the hut leads to upper Bigo bog. In the last half of this bog, a boardwalk has been constructed. Though some may think it’s an ugly intrusion, it makes walking easier and prevents the hiker from damaging the bog. A beautiful narrow stream at the upper end of this bog makes a good lunch break. An hour and a half beyond the upper bog and after climbing through drier ground and criss-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 lake’s north eastern shore crosses the worse 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 1300ft (3962 meters), favorably located for parties climbing Mt Speke (which requires technical skills and special equipment). Time to reach Bujuku from John matte is typically 3-5hrs, and the elevation gained is 1800ft(560m). But the long stretches of bog, and the mud along the lake makes this another challenging day. The shaded location and frequent mists can Bujuku hut quite cold.
If one moved around on a nature walk, the chances of seeing Red duikers are high and at night colds of the rock hyraxes are common.
From Bujuku hut leave directly to newer trail, which rises and falls twice before finally climbing steeply through magical moss draped groundsel vegetation 14345ft (4372m) to Scot Elliott pass. At the steepest section is a short strong ladder after which a right hand branch will lead to Elena hut 14700ft (4430m). This is a steep, rocky trail which when wet or icy can be slippery. Continuing straight, and a few steps below the pass there a sheltered spot for a break, from here, there a second trail to the right Elena hut. Elena is the best camp for climbing 16763ft (5109m) to Margherita peak in the Mt. Stanley complex, which requires an additional day or two and can only be attempted with an ice axe; mountain boots, crampons, ropes and prior arrangements with RMS guides. The circuit trail continues to the left over Scot Elliott pass and enters an alpine zone of sparse low vegetation and stark rough boulders more familiar to high altitude climbers from northern latitudes. If the weather is bad here (rain, snow and wind can occur in any season) the conditions for ‘hypothermia’ are ideal. Do not delay your descent towards lake Kitandara as you leave the pass, you may enjoy spectacular views northward of Margherita peak, Elena and Savoia glaciers, and Mt Baker 15889ft (4843m) towering above you to the east (left) of the trail. Having dropped a few hundred feet in elevation from the pass, you cut below massive rock walls at the base of Mt Baker. Here, dramatic ‘impact craters’ have been caused by large rocks falling from above and your guide may caution you against loud noises! Rising and falling, the trail descents passed upper Lake Kitandara through thick mud to lower lake and Kitandara hut 13200ft (4023m), this lovely site is surrounded by towering peaks, but the sun sets early and the nights can be very cold. Time to reach Kitandara hut from Bujuku hut usually take 3-5hrs. The elevation gain to the pass from Bujuku is 1400ft (425m), and because Scot Elliott is the highest point so far, some hikers will be slower due to greater effort required at these altitudes watch carefully for signs of altitude sickness.
An early start is advisable to avoid over heating on the steep but lovely hour-long climb from the lake Kitandara which is 14050ft (4282m) to the fresh field pass. Viewing westward on clear days leads into neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and northward, Margherita and its glaciers still dominate the horizon. Fresh field is a long flat traverse through beautiful high alpine mossy glades (and more mud) until after a half- hour, when the trail begins the circuit’s long two-day descent. Mist or rain can make tracing the trail difficult and the one-kilometer here can be very slippery. Rock shelters at Bujongolo and Kabamba are optional over-night stopovers but it is best to push on through the seemly endless mud to newly constructed Guy Yeoman hut 10700ft (3261m) some hikers make the Kitandara- Guy Yeoman trip in 5 hours, but any stops to enjoy the pass but weather on descent and slow conditions in the last two hours of deep mud can make this a much longer day, which some visitors consider as difficult as day two.
Hikers begin their journey back early, so as to get to Nyabitaba hut before dark. In any case the path from the Guy Yeoman is quite difficult in some spots. Helping each other and descending very slowly facing the slope instead of facing outward is recommended, especially as you approach Kichunchu where the trail parallels and twice crosses the Mubuku River mostly in deep mud until the last few kilometers of good dry trail. This follows the ridge down Nyabitaba, which completes the circuits. Typical hikers make Guy Yeoman to Nyabitaba in 5 hours. Should you decide to continue to Nyakalengija, which is another 2 or 3 hours depending on the conditions of your knees and your desire to reach a comfortable bed and bath! Be especially careful about vines and brush and resist the urge to hurry out of the mountains. Late even walking can be good for watching birds and you may sight the occasional blue tailed monkeys. Sharp eyes can catch a glimpse of the brilliant green but changeable rhinoserous chameleon.
Descend from Nyabitaba to Nyakalengija which takes 2-3 hours.
Kampala from the north via fort portal (375km)
Kampala from the south passing via Mbarara to Kasese
From Kampala 75km south on the fort portal/Kasese road, the park is 25km from Kasese town.
Chartered planes are available from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi) to Kasese
There are a variety of accommodation facilities in Mountain Rwenzori National Park and these are Ruboni community camp, Equartor snow lodge, and Rwenzori backpackers.
Ruboni Community Camp
It is situated at the gateway to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. With stunning views of the mountains and unique wildlife will be seen from this region. The Bakonzo community who have inhabited the foothills of the Mountains for over 300 years are ready to welcome you..
The self contained cottage
The location makes the camp an ideal destination for mountaineers who are preparing for their ascent into the Ruwenzori’s. Don’t have the time or energy to climb a big mountain? No problem, the camp is also an ideal place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery at a more leisurely pace!
At Ruboni community camp, you the opportunity to experience the Rwenzori nature and culture as part of your low land trips without climbing the high mountains is provided
Equator Snow Lodge
Equator Snow Lodge is the newest lodge in the GeoLodges Uganda portfolio which opened in December 2012. Fireflies light up the pathways of indigenous tree species of this reclaimed forest land.
Set at the Gateway to the Rwenzori Mountain National Park, the lodge is built using the roundest stones from the river Mubuku.
The four extremely spacious rooms each contain a double bed, and two single beds. Each room has a private bathroom, a fireplace, and a seating area.
Rwenzori Backpackers is situated in Kyanjuki village above Kilembe and is 12km from Kasese town.
The hostel is the starting point for one and two day community walks in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. Just down the road from the hostel is Trekkers bar and restaurant near the Nyamwamba River with fantastic views of the mountains.
The Hot showers Bar & Restaurant, Great place to relax for a few days, Community walks – one & two day walks
Swimming in nearby river.