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Mount Stanley - Margherita Peak

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Trail

43.5 mile 69.9 kilometer loop
64% Runnable
Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 18,210' 5,550 m
Descent: -18,210' -5,550 m
High: 15,185' 4,628 m
Low: 5,187' 1,581 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 16% (9°)
Max Grade: 69% (34°)

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Trail shared by Parker Cunneen

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Muddy jungle trekking ending in an amazing alpine summit of the highest peak in Uganda.

Parker Cunneen

Features Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

You MUST go up with one of two guide services. Rwenzori Trekking was my guide. I have heard of people going solo but if caught you may get fined or worse; Uganda jail is not fun.

Overview

This is the third highest mountain (fourth highest peak) in Africa. While Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya are taller, this is known as a more challenging run. What makes it so tough is the rainforest and bog you must trek through. Mud is often past your knees if you make a wrong step, which you'll. Despite the tough going, it is incredibly rewarding. On clear days you can see over the mountain into the Congo, you come across glacial lakes on the mountain, and you'll climb up and down waterfalls.

Need to Know

Bring an ice tool or hybrid tool/ace (like the Petal Sum'tec). The guide services say you only need a mountaineering axe, but the summit has a glacier with a 60 degree pitch. The ice is rotten and hard to get into with a regular ice axe so bring a ice tool to aid in the climbing. It can be done with just a ice axe, but the tool will be a life saver.

We did a 8 day trek. I would recommend pushing it to 9 and adding a extra day on the way down; descending the swamps that fast was not fun.

Description

Day 1
Start at Kilembe and trek up the road; follow a dirt path until you get to the park border. Here, the jungle trekking beings, as you'll run through bamboo forrest. At the end of the day, you'll camp at Sine Camp (2,596 meters).

Day 2
Pass through the end of the bamboo forrest. At Kalalama Camp, at 3,147 meters, put on your gum boots (the mud starts here!). Next you'll run along a green mossy/rocky area. At the end of day 2, sleep at Mutinda Camp at 3,582 meters.

Day 3
This day sucks. Be prepared for running through bogs all day, with mud past your knee if you make a wrong step. Eventually, if you move quickly, you'll get to Bugata Camp at 4,100 meters early where you can enjoy sun bathing on the rocks. This is the most relaxing camp with amazing views!

Day 4
This day starts with climbing a waterfall—AMAZING! Head over Bamwanjarra Pass at 4,450 meters; this can be very cold and you might be wearing jungle layers still so have something ready to put on. Descending from the pass is steep and can be rough, but the scenery is beautiful. You'll have to run through another bog, unfortunately, but then you are off to set up camp at Hunwick's Camp (about 4,000 meters). At this beautiful camp there are amazing views of several peaks. Be aware as it gets cold up here.

Day 5
This is a short day up to Margherita Camp (4,485 meters). Climb quickly and get to camp because summit day is early.

Day 6
This is a very LONG DAY, at 10-15 hours. My partner and I took 10 but others took 15 and didn't even summit. There is a long approach up rocky boulders which requires scrambling, and the route is most likely wet, snowy, or icy. There is one very steep area with fixed rope. Running across the first glacier is mostly flat. You then ascend a steep, rocky section until you get to the second glacier. Here there is 150 meters of a 60+ degree pitch. It is highly recommend that you bring one ice tool to compliment your ice axe; our guide service only told us to bring an ice axe, and it was a rough ascent. At the top of the third pitch, the grade levels out across a short section of glacier to a rocky summit.

After all that, we descended to another camp which took another few hours. Our knees did not like us that day. If it were up to me I would have camped at the high camp overnight. We were exhausted and would have preferred a extra day of descent, but instead ended at Hunwick's Camp at 3,874 meters.

Day 7
The distance to Kiharo Camp from Hunwick's Camp is 11 kilometers. We took a different route going back, heading over another pass, so we had to go up before we went down. The descent got very steep in a canyon with a waterfall. It was thrilling but potentially dangerous; we did it in a rain storm and a slip would have been trouble. Hail storms do occur, and on this particular trip, passing through the bogs was rough because the rivers were overflowing and we often had to find a new route.

Day 8
Pass through the bamboo and rain forest to Kilembe. CELEBRATE!

History & Background

Trekking up the Congo side of the mountain has been closed for several years due to rebel activity.

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