Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Trip to Mutwanga and climb of the "Mountains of the Moon"

The Rwenzori Mountains, previously called the Ruwenzori Range (spelling changed changed 1980 to conform more closely with the local name "Rwenjura"), and sometimes the Mountains of the Moon, is a mountain range of eastern Equatorial Africa, located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwenzori mountains support glaciers and are the source of the Nile river.

The Rwenzori Mountains reach heights up to 5,109 m (16,761 ft). The highest Rwenzori peaks are permanently snow-capped, and along with Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are the only such ones in Equatorial Africa.

During spring 1987 all things worked out to go up the mountains.

From Kibuye where I lived, with my two French guides/young ladies we drove to Gisenyi, passed the border and entered Congo at Goma. From there to Rutshuru, transited via the "Parc National de la Rwindi" (where we could see a fair number of animals, simply driving through. Drove back same road in 2006, a few years after the civil war of Congo had ended, it was astonishing: hardly any animals left), up the Kanya-Bayonga escarpment on to Lubero where we stayed in a guest house. Next day was down a small narrow road to Ishango after we had crossed the Semliki river and North, along the range to Mutwanga where are located the Park Head Quarters. Glad we had a 4x4 to do some sections of the road...

Once we had arrived, next task was to organize the guide and porters. This took quite a few hours of discussion, paying the parc fees and giving an advance payment to all porters in order that they would buy food and supplies for the next 5 days when we would be up the mountain, Slept in a guest house provided by the Park and waited next morning for the whole crew to be ready. 

It due time we started the hike.

The Zaire Approach: Walking Routes
Mutsora Moraine Hut

Day I - From Mutsora return 21/2km. back to the mission (run by a Belgian priest) and a rather run-
down hospital. Continue straight on for 11/2km. to Mutwanga village. Here there are several shops
and the porters buy their food. I km. above Mutwanga is located the abandoned Ruwenzori Hotel.
This is in the very slow process of being rebuilt, at present it is possible to sleep here free of charge
though a tip should be given to the caretaker. From the shops continue N along the road which soon
crosses the Butawu river. Shortly beyond turn right onto a path which gently rises through cultivated
foothills, often overlooking the Binawu, to reach Kiandolire or Guides Hut, 1700m. (2h.). This
sleeps 10, though few parties stop here. Water is provided on request. The path now enters fine
forest. Two major streams are crossed (stepping stones). The second of these provides water for the
next hut, Kalonge (2140m.), which lies 10mins. walk beyond. 3h. from Kiandolire. Sleeps 16, tent

Day 2: A path leads E from the but and drops very steeply to the Kanyamwamba stream, last
water. It then climbs very steeply to reach a good resting place on the ridge, Hotel des Assetre,
2440m. (1 V2h.). Here porters and other travellers sometimes leave offerings to the gods. In a further
11/2h. a fine knoll is reached (2910m.). Giant heather tangles and deep mosses, though exceptionally
beautiful, make the going very difficult for the next 2h. to Mahungu Hut, 3310m. Sleeps 16, tent
spaces. Water from a tiny well situated a few metres from the NE side of the hut. If this is dry the
porters will fetch the water from a distant stream.
Notice the Kalachnikow that our "security" guard has with him...

Day 3: Difficulties continue for the next 2h., the heather then thins and a small stream is reached.
The path now climbs for I h. through more open country and some fine patches of groundsel, lobelia,
senecio and helichrysum to reach a ridge with fine views W over the rain forests of the Semliki and
E down to Lac Noir. This is Kampi ya Chula, 4030m., the highest point reached by Dr Franz
Stuhlmann in 1891. Kiondo Hut, 4300m., is reached in a further lh. From here there are fine views
of the Stanley Group. The but sleeps 12 and there are tent spaces nearby and water from a stream
5mins. to the N. 40min. NE of the hut Wasumawesu summit, 4510m., provides superb close-up
views of the Group. Mt. Mugule, 4420m., 1/2h. NW of the but offers a wider panorama.

Day 4: From a slight col just E of the but an initially-descending traverse E leads to a rocky step
protected by a cable. Now steeply down a muddy, slabby gully, traverse E then descend NE down
to Lac Verte, 4160m., from its N end the path climbs steeply to Lac Gris; good campsite, 2h. Moraine
(Glacier Hut, 4495m.) lies 45mins. further N. The but is damp and sleeps 4. One tent space in the
vicinity. This route can be descended in 2 days by a strong party.