Rwenzori Mountains Climbing

Rwenzori mountains climbing


Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains is one of the most amazing and challenging mountain ranges to climb in the world. Rwenzori mountains are occupied by over 996 square kilometers of fantastical vegetation zones, cliffs, lakes, high glaciers, rocky outcrops, and snow-capped peaks still exist which makes it a unique and mystical world where travelers can escape.


The Rwenzori Mountains height of the peaks may not be the tallest mountains in the world, but the highest point of Mount Stanley’s Margherita peak stands at 5,109 meters above sea level which makes it Africa’s 4th highest peak. The Rwenzori Mountains are remotely located with fluctuating weather conditions, startlingly diverse vegetation, wonderful viewpoints, and low visitor turns up, combining the thrilling adventurous trekking if you are looking for a special experience.


The Rwenzori Mountains were designated as a national park in early 1991 and recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1994. These classifications testify to the Rwenzori mountains’ international scientific importance. The word ‘Rwenzori’ means the ‘Rainmaker’, which illustrates the importance of the Rwenzori mountains in Central Africa.


The atmosphere in the Rwenzori mountains is wet; the mountains receive more than 3 meters of rainfall a year. This makes the lower slopes of Rwenzori mountains lush with vegetation layers and the higher summits covered in snow and ice layers. Although the Rwenzori mountains’ peaks are also covered with glaciers that have retreated endlessly over the past hundred years due to climatic change, hikers in the rainy months have to navigate within the ice walls and significant snowfall in order to access the peaks.


Trekking in the Rwenzori mountains 

The Rwenzori mountains are explored on foot, travelers must be above average physical fitness and used to the endurance of the trekking activities. The Margherita peak has been recently reclassified as the most technical hike, although travelers may not need to be an expert in hiking in the winter conditions, some experience is recommended for hiking the Rwenzori Mountains.


The Rwenzori Mountains offers a good variety of treks, that ranges from one to twelve days, which are available to suit different travelers’ interest from ‘peak baggers’ to bird watching keen that traces the region’s endemic bird species.

The Rwenzori mountains hiking routes can be extended where it is necessary for any private groups that give climbers more chances of acclimatizing to the high altitude or simply relaxing, having peace, seclusion, and enjoying the beauty of the Rwenzori mountains.


Rwenzori Mountains trekking routes?

The Rwenzori Mountains offers two trekking circuits that give access to the Rwenzori Mountains’ peaks: the Rwenzori Central Circuit which leads hikers out of Nyakalengija and the Southern Circuit which leads hikers out of Kilembe. The Southern Circuit was the first route that was followed (largely) by Professor Scott Elliott in 1895 and the central circuit route was pioneered by Luigi di Savoia that for many years provided only access to the peak of the Rwenzori mountains. 


Which Trek is Right?

Besides, other famous trekking destinations in Africa, the Rwenzori Mountains are a mountain range, that offers a number of different hiking routes to choose from. 


One of the benefits that visitors get from trekking in the Rwenzori Mountains is that the hiking routes are typically longer compared to many other high-altitude treks like Mountain Kilimanjaro this means travelers have longer to acclimatize and the risk of high-altitude sickness is low. Rwenzori Mountains treks range from 2 days to 12 days. 


Sustainable tourism and Guides 

All the guides at Rwenzori mountains get comprehensive general mountaineering and specific ice climbing training. The guides are taught mountain first aid as well as able to spot and respond quickly to the first signs of high-altitude sickness. The equipment used is well-maintained and often checked.


$5 from each climb goes to the local development projects, that have contributed over the past years to the construction of the local community trails outside the Rwenzori Mountains national park, this spreads the potential benefit from tourism, and the construction of school classrooms in different locations.


Accommodation facilities within the Rwenzori Mountains  

The Rwenzori Mountains Kilembe Southern Circuit can be accessed from the Kasese town. The best place to start and end the trek is the Rwenzori Trekkers Hostel which is located in Kyanjuki Village, Rwenzori Trekkers hostel is just 12km from Kasese.  Rwenzori trekkers is a well-renovated former copper mine building, the Rwenzori Trekkers hostel is overlooking the deep Nyamwamba river valley and offers amazing views of the Rwenzori Mountains. Rwenzori trekkers hostel is located at 1,450 meters and it has a lovely climate whether in January or February.


Another famous option before trekking the Rwenzori mountains is to stay at Sandton Hotel in Kasese, and then you are transferred to Kilembe following the morning departing from Kasese at 7:30 am, arriving at around 8:00 am). Upon arrival, hikers are briefed alongside their guides before starting the trek to Sine Camp.  


Accommodation on the treks is specially constructed with wooden huts, perfect for keeping out the worst weather and for keeping equipment required in different sections of the hiking trail. The treks are fully catered for, with the use of fresh produce as possible, as well as meeting the energy and hydration needed in the high-altitude trekking.


When should a traveler visit the Rwenzori Mountains National park?

Hiking Rwenzori Mountains can be done throughout the year. At all times of the year, climbers should be ready for a combination of sun, mud, ice, rain, fog, and snow. However, the best period for hiking starts from late June to September and late December to February which tends to have lower rainfall amounts, which means that visitor numbers are many during this time.


Rwenzori mountains make the region receive water everywhere in terms of cloud-bound, heavy in the mist that fills the mountain streams and making mirrors kind of lakes. Temperature below 4,000 meters which rarely exceeds 15 degrees Celsius and stays above freezing point. This means that the life surviving and the plants are dramatic. The lobelia is massive, heather stretches across all the valleys, while garishly-colored moss creeps across gnarled trees that are draped with lichen.


Trekking Rwenzori Mountains takes climbers through different altitudinal vegetation zones, each with its microclimate, flora, and fauna. The Rwenzori Mountains have 5 major vegetation belts as mentioned below. 

1. Afro-montane vegetation zone ranging from 1765m - 2600m

2. Bamboo zone ranges from 2600m - 3000m

3. Heather zone ranges from 3000m - 3800m

4. Moorland (Afro-Alpine zone) ranges from 3800m - 4500m

5. Rocky glacier ranges from 4500m+


Flora within the Rwenzori Mountains

The Afro-montane forest occupies slopes ranging from 1,800m and 2,500m and has a variety. The Afro-montane has a Large established tree push with canopies, whose breaks are full of dense thickets. That ranges from 2,500m to 3,000m dense forest giving a way for bamboo stands, leaves covering the ground in the dense litter and the beautiful flowers emerge only after 30 years. Apart from this, until 4,000m, hikers enter the heather zone where the ground is filled with coral pink orchids. Bog-wet valley bottoms are highly populated with large tussocks.


Fauna in the Rwenzori Mountains 

The Rwenzori Mountains vegetation zones protect over 70 mammal species and over 177 bird species. Rwenzori Mountains mammal species include elephants, chimpanzees, Rwenzori otters, and leopards among others. Although present, the Afro-montane dense forest means there are seldom seen. Primate species include the colobus (Angola and black-and-white varieties are both presents) and blue monkeys can also be easily spotted, as well as small antelopes like the bushbucks and unusual reptile species like the rare three-horned chameleon. 


Rwenzori Mountains bird species present include several Albertine Rift endemic bird species which makes the Rwenzori mountains another important Birding hub. The greatest diversity of bird species found in the montane forest of Rwenzori mountains include Rwenzori Turaco, long-eared owl, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Handsome Francolin, Archers’ Robin-chat, White-starred Robin, Montane Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Batis, Laden’s Bush Shrike, Golden-winged Sunbird, Slender-billed Starling, strange weaver, Blue-headed Sunbird, and a variety of Barbets such as Greenbuls, flycatchers, Apalises, IIladopsis, and Crimson wings, up high hunt the lammergeiers and black eagles can also be spotted.


How to access Rwenzori 

The nearest point to the Rwenzori Mountains in Kasese town.

Kasese can easily be accessible by air from Entebbe International airport with daily flights taking travelers over an hour. Alternatively, there is the road journey from Entebbe town /Kampala city, via Fort Portal which takes 6-8 hours.


Travelers can also access Kasese by flight from Entebbe International Airport. The flights depart from Entebbe at 7 am and 12:30 pm every day, which lines up well with all the hiking departures. The return flight departs from Kasese at 10:45 am and 2:45 pm every day. This domestic flight time is about 1 hour.


It's also possible to access the mountains by public transport like by using a bus from Kampala. The bus departs from Kampala city Centre every hour and costs about 50,000 UGX ($14-$15). We strongly recommend Link Bus or Kalita bus Transporters. From Kasese, travelers can hire a taxi to Kilembe. 


Trekking in the Rwenzoris starts at Trekkers Hostel Kilembe which is also commonly known as Rwenzori Backpackers Hostel Kyanjuki). The treks start with an 8:00 am morning briefing from the climbing guides. The Rwenzori Trekkers hostel is located 12km from Kasese town which may take (30-40 minutes by road). 


If a traveler is coming up from Queen Elizabeth National park it can take approximately an hour. Bwindi impenetrable forest national park the home of mountain gorillas the journey takes about a six-hours.