Never underestimate a mountain.
“Sabyinyo was three six (3,669m), this is 3,083 (m).” – those were the words of Dr Martin
Adupet – a fellow hiker with whom I’d summited Mountains Sabinyo and Gahinga (3,474m) a
few months earlier in a space of two days, and from this, I assumed Mt. Moroto would be
Yeah. That wasn’t the case.
Mt. Moroto (3,083m) is the highest on the Karamoja Plateau – which is defined by a string of
volcanic mountains, namely Mt. Kadam (3,063m), Mt. Napak (2,538m) and Mt. Morungole
(2,749m) 1 .
This particular experience was curated by Mountain Slayers Uganda (MSU) and part of a three-
mountain challenge to climb Moroto, Kadam, and Napak in a space of approximately four days.
View from our campsite – Photo Credit – Cheem
I was part of a group that was only taking on Moroto, and we began our climb at 7:36 am on
Saturday 18th November straight from our campsite at the Tapac Mission in Moroto, which lies
about 1,400 meters above sea level.
We encountered rocky terrain from the get-go, defined by large boulders and loose rocks, which
could be slippery, and the former often required rock-climbing maneuvers to navigate.
While climbing, we met a homestead of the Tepeth, who, according to one of our guides, were
the original inhabitants of the region’s lowlands and were pushed into the mountains following
conflicts with the Karamojong people upon arrival in the region in the 1600s.
They mostly practise agropastoralism – growing grains such as sorghum and millet, and herding
short-horned cattle (one of these was a cow that seemed to be following our group up the
mountain. We named her Taylor because, at some point, one of the hikers needed some
positivity, and people decided to sing Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’.
From then on, it was a lot of large hills we had to climb and descend almost constantly with
some steep ridges that could induce a bit of vertigo but offered a good reminder to watch your
All around us were magnificent views of the other mountains and audible streams that cut
through the valley and support the agrarian ways of life of the local communities.
At about 11:30, we got into one of the final legs of the climb – an over 2-hour trek through a
forest before reaching some steep hills that led up to the peak. These were almost vertical
surfaces that were muddy and slippery from the drizzles and had you silently worship the grip
from your boots/sneakers.
And finally, the summit.
There is a quote from Donna Tartt’s ‘The Little Friend’ that comes close to describing that
“ ‘We are in a desperate state, feet frozen, etcetera. No fuel and a long way from food, but it
would do your heart good to be in our tent, to hear our songs and cheery conversation—’ ”
On the one hand, it is the excitement and feeling of all-around badassery for finally summiting
after over seven hours of hiking, and on the other is your exhausted and aching body.
Amid clouds and strong whistling winds, a Bluetooth speaker emerged, music was played, and
people danced. This phenomenon is not common among hikers from around the world, but
specific to Ugandans and those within the MSU community who love to celebrate their
achievements and will never miss an opportunity to party even amid the pain and discomfort (Hi,
We danced while hurriedly munching down our packed lunch, taking and posing for pictures
while revelling in the phenomenal view, and all this had to happen quickly because we needed
to descend and get across a particularly tricky traverse before it got dark.
The journey down the mountain was pretty straightforward: Move as quickly and safely as
possible before it got dark, and when the sun finally set, we pulled out head torches (and phone
torches for some) and pushed on.
Our merry band of 16 returned to the camp at 9:42 pm to cheers from the rest of the group that
had descended earlier. Hikers are an interesting bunch of super-friendly people with “jazz for days”, as almost everyone has a story from a random hike they have been on. One friend said that hiking is about testing one’s physical and mental endurance while enjoying nature, and I agree.
But it’s also about camaraderie and getting to say things like, “It was a pleasure suffering
alongside you.” This spirit is what pushes many through moments of fear, pain, and doubt and also serves as a reminder that we are a unit – it’s much bigger than one individual.
Shoutout “Team 2:39 pm” (the cool moniker we gave ourselves to mark the exact moment we
reached the peak). Shoutout MSU for yet another dope adventure.
A special shoutout to Kara-Tunga Tours 2 – a social enterprise operating outdoor experiences
within Karamoja to showcase the region’s beauty, and debunk the myths that linger from its dark
past – all while leaving a positive socioeconomic impact on the communities.
Until the next one.
Written by Humphrey Kyamba
A view of the sun setting at dusk