The ascent of Mount Speke (by David Orlandi, February 2012)
The ascent to Mount Speke up to Vittorio Emanuele Peak (4.890 meters), without a solid alpine preparation is not to be considered an easy climb. If you are climbing in good weather conditions, it is a trail at a high altitude, with some points a bit exposed with rocks and grass, which often require the use of hands. Particularly, there are a couple of points where alot of attention is needed. The first one not far from Bujuku Hut (the starting point for the day) is a 20 meters long rocky ramp, slightly stepped, which is blocked on top by the roots of a tree. Practically, it is necessary to climb the roots of the tree without falling, as it could be so dangerous. In case of rain, to be on a safe side and during the descent it is advisable to use the rope. The second critical point is rock crossing of 3rd degree or more which is quite exposed. The advice for those who are not much of experts is to use the rope in the ascent as well as in the descent, using a certain projection of rock just on top of the crossing point. It is dangerous to fall from this point. At the highest point of the trekking is where the glacier begins or what remains of the glacier. It is easy to cross all of it and we did not use crampons or rope. We did not see any crevasses. However it is always advisable to bring with you the crampons and ropes up to this point since conditions can change. After the glacier, there is a short walk through a small rocky surface leading to the peak. In case of rain or snow, this trail can be very challenging as the difficulties will be increased. In those circumstances the use of the rope in the critical points should be a must for everyone. Even other parts of the trail should be considered with attention as it is very messy and could be slippery.
After breakfast proceed to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park head quarter in Nyakalenjija, 1615 m. You receive the briefing from the officials; you can hire equipment for the trekking as you wait for the preparation of luggage and porters.
The hike starts through the plantations and homes of the Bakonjo, the people of the Rwenzori. Follow the Mobuku river inside the mountain forest up to the first hut, Nyabitaba, 2.652 m which is the arrival point for the day. During the day you might see the black and white colobus, the blue monkeys or hearing the chimpanzees. Typical is the colourful Rwenzori Turaco. From Nyabitaba, you are facing on the North the Portal Peaks, 4.627 m, and in front Mount Kyniangoma. Dinner and overnight at Nyabitaba Hut. This day hike can take up to 4/5 hours.
The Rwenzori Mountains are the biggest mountain range in Africa, including six main mountains with peaks exceeding 4.500 m. of altitude: Mt. Stanley, Mt. Speke, Mt. Baker, Mt. Gessi (in the Congolese side), Mt. Emin Pasha. Mt. Luigi di Savoia.
They are found along the border between Uganda and Congo for over 120 km. The highest peak is Margherita, 5.109 m. on Mt. Stanley. It is named after the Italian Queen Margherita, who sponsored the first climbing expedition of the Rwenzori in June 1906, led by Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy the Duke of Abruzzi. The name “Rwenzori” in the local language means “mountain of the rain”, for its rainy nature.
The best way to experience the Rwenzori is to take the so called “central circuit trail”. This starts from the village of Nyakalengija, where the park quarters are found and follows the Mobuku river valley, then sloping around Mount Baker, where is found the final trail to climb Mount Stanley with Margherita Peak. This trekking passes through five different vegetation zones, from the mountain forest, the bamboo zone, the alpine zone, with difference in level of altitude from 2.800 m to 3.500 m when you climb the peak. The trail can take 6 days 5 nights and you consider adding an extra night for any peak you intend to climb. It is important to respect the gradual acclimatization process to avoid altitude sickness.
You find along the trail several huts, which are basic in comfort, however provided with mattresses and drinking water directly from the mountain.
Destination Jungle will organize this experience by providing you with our professional guides and cooks. Please be aware that the porters only carry up to 25 kg per person, including food, which means any extra kg is also extra tariff.
From Bujuku Hut, after a muddy area, you start a steep climbing through a forest of giant groundsels up to the Groundsel Gully. A branch in the trail leads to Elena Hut, 4.430 m, arrival point for the ones who intend to climb Margherita Peak. If you are only taking the central circuit, then the trail proceeds directly to Kitandara Hut. You walk through Scott Elliot Pass, 4.372 m., the highest point during the central circuit, where you can enjoy stunning panoramic views down the Bujuku valley, of Mount Baker, Mount Luigi di Savoia and Stanley just above. This is a steep, rocky trail which when is wet or icy can be very slippery.
After dinner, you rest at Elena Hut before ascending in the early morning before sunrise.
Hiking time: 3- 4 hours – Habitat: alpine zone – Altitude level: 468 m.