Western Uganda

Rwenzori: Margherita Peak

Also known as The Mountains of the Moon. Since Ptolemy claimed that these legendary mountains were the source of the Nile, the Rwenzories have been a mythical destination.

Enjoy the rare experience of snow at the equator when you summit the glacier-capped peaks of the Rwenzoris. The 7-day trail begins at Mihunga gate and takes you through various scenic camps along the rugged trail to the summit: Nyabitaba, John Matte, Bujuku and Elena. After hitting the summit, descend through camps Kitandara and Guy Yeoman to complete the rosary-shaped Central Circuit trail.

The Rwenzori, also called Ruwenzori and Rwenjura, is a mountain range in eastern equatorial Africa, located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mount Stanley (also known as Mount Ngaliema) the highest massif of the Rwenzori reaches 5,109 metres.

The range’s upper regions are permanently snow-capped and home to several glaciers. Rivers fed by mountain streams form one of the sources of the Nile. Because of this, European explorers linked the Rwenzori with the legendary Mountains of the Moon, claimed by the Greek scholar Ptolemy as the source of the Nile.

There are many beautiful trails available in the Rwenzori mountains, but the most popular one is the trek to its highest point: Margherita Peak.

Description

While Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya are taller, Rwenzori-Margherita Peak is known as a more challenging hike. 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 will. Despite the tough going, it is an incredibly rewarding trek.

Trip Highlights

  • 7-day trek to the highest peak in Uganda (5,109m)
  • Spectacular mountain range
  • Cross two glaciers
  • World Heritage Site

Pre-hike: Departure from Kampala

You need to arrive in Kasese the day before you start the hike. We recommend staying somewhere close to the park gate to make it easier to do the mandatory and necessary gear check with your guides (and receive any gear you might have rented, like harness, crampons, etc.) in the evening.

Day 1: Park gate (Nyakalengija – 1615m asl.) to Nyabitaba Hut (2651m asl.)

Eat a hearty breakfast, then make your way to the park gate at Mihunga at 9 am where you will be briefed by the guides. Start the day’s 6-7 hour trek by passing through farmland to the park boundary. The trail then traverses a thick forest along the Mubuku River, crossing its Mahoma River tributary before starting a long, steep climb up onto a massive ridge to reach Nyabitaba hut.

Day 2: Nyabitaba Hut to John Matte Hut (3505m asl.)

From Nyabitaba hut, follow the trail that drops down through the forest to the Kurt Shafer Bridge, just below the confluence of the Mubuku and Bujuku rivers. Passing through the bamboo forest, traverse through a long and exhausting stretch of slippery moss-covered rock. Mount Stanley and Mount Speke are visible from the Nyamuleju rock shelter. Cross into the zone of the giant heather, lobelia and groundsel. Finally, skip through the tiring bog to complete 7-8 hours of hiking to John Matte for dinner and overnight at the hut.

Day 3: John Matte Hut to Bujuku Hut (3962m asl.)

From John Matte Hut, the trail drops down to cross the Bujuku River and enters the Lower Bigo Bog, the home of giant lobelias. Enjoy the beautiful but hypnotising boardwalk through the open valley. Transition through a steep forested section to the upper Bigo bog which gives way to Lake Bujuku, with views of Mount Baker to the south and Mount Stanley to the west. This 4-5 hour hike ends at Bujuku hut. Bujuku is also a launchpad for climbing Mount Speke and Margherita (directly via Irene lakes, not recommended unless you know what you’re doing).

Day 4: Bukuju Hut to Elena Hut (4541m asl.)

Leaving Bujuku, the trail takes you through more bog, while climbing the steep slopes west of the lake and through the magical forest of Groundsel Gully. A steep ladder at the end of this ridge brings you to the fork at Omukendege. Take the right up to Elena Hut and Mount Stanley on a steep trail over large boulders.

Day 5: Elena Hut to Margherita Peak  (5109m asl.), return to Elena Hut and then down to Kitandara Hut (4430m asl.)

This long and tough summit day begins in the dead of night with a torch-lit scramble up the rocks above Elena hut to the Stanley plateau for the first glacier crossing. Descend into more rocks via the Irene Lakes junction then ascend again to the base of the steep Margherita glacier. A final long push taking care to plant your ice axe and crampons firmly while avoiding crevasses will deliver you to the glorious summit. Work your way back down past Elena, stop for a quick change of clothes and some food, then pick up your pack and continue down to Kitandara to rest at a lower altitude.

Day 6: Kitandara Hut to Guy Yeoman Hut (3261m asl.)

Take on the trail that ascends steeply up the headwall, spreading out from the base of Mount Baker and continuing along the south side of the mountain to Fresh Field Pass (4282m asl.) From the pass, take on the long high alpine mossy trail. Thereafter start the descent through steep rocky trails and the rock shelter at Bujongolo, the base camp for the historic expedition by the Duke of Abruzzi in 1906, until you arrive for an overnight at Guy Yeoman hut after 6-7 hours.

Day 7: Guy Yeoman hut via Nyabitaba hut to Nyakalengija (park gate)

Below Guy Yeoman, the route descends the cliffs of Kichuchu. Beyond Kichuchu the boggy path crosses the Mubuku River twice through a bamboo forest before climbing up to Nyabitaba to complete the circuit. Continue past Nyabitaba Camp to complete your trek through Mihunga gate to Nyakalengija, at the base.

Time to celebrate with a hot shower and a cold drink: You’ve made it!

Key Details

Location
Kasese, Uganda

Difficulty level
Hard

Trip length
7 days (can also be longer if needed).

Distance
56 kilometres

Altitude gain
3,494 meters

Season
Dry season
Dec – Feb, June – July

Need to know

Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness, is always a concern above 4,000 m ASL. Above that altitude, the air becomes noticeably thinner meaning there is less oxygen for your brain.

Read more about AMS and other “Need to know” in our post: Rwenzori – What You Need To Know

Wondering what to pack? Here’s a detailed packing list.

The Rwenzoris are tough. Consider testing out your fitness levels on Mount Elgon and Mount Muhabura before setting out for Margherita Peak.

practical details

Where to stay
Ruboni Community Camp
Before the park gate on your left (Google Maps)
+256 (0) 752 503445

Tour companies

  • Rwenzori Ranges Hikers Association (RRHA)
    Website
    +256 (0) 750 767 973
  • Rwenzori Mountaineering Service (RMS)
    Website
    +256 (0) 784 308425
  • Rwenzori Trekking Services (RTS)
    Website

Relevant links

Similar works

Mount Elgon – Wagagai Peak

Eastern Uganda

Mount Kadam

Karamoja

Mount Sabyinyo

Southwestern Uganda