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Published: June 27th 2008
I was allowed a whopping 12.5 kg of gear. Came in at 10 kg. I think the propane tank alone weighed more than all my gear.
Short version: just left Uganda yesterday after 25 days and am now in Kigali, Rwanda for gorilla trekking. Last Sunday summited Mt Stanley, Margherita Peak 5109 m the highest peak in Uganda and 3rd highest in Africa after Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya which I will hopefully tick off the list next week.
Long version: I had been in Uganda for a couple of weeks before the trek, torridly crisscrossing the country first from Kampala to Mt Elgon and Sipi Falls in the east then to Jinja for rafting the Nile. After recovering from 2 raft flips, 2 unintentional swims, and what I'm sure is still a fractured pinky I made my way north to Murchison Falls which is famous for a 6 meter wide gorge into which the entire flow of the Nile is squeezed quite violently. There is also a standard boat trip along which there are lots of hippos, water buffalo, and elephants. Eventually made my way to the southwest to the very hot, dusty town of Kasese to complete the final arrangements of the climb that I set up in Kampala. Next morning I took a motorcycle taxi, or boda-boda, about 25 km to the town of
First Crossing of the Mobuku
A not so easy crossing. The bridge was trashed by a fallen tree during the rainy season.
Nyakalengija where I procured crampons, an ice tool which was supposed to be an ice axe but worked fine, and the rope which had certainly seen better days. Also met my guide and cook, Daniel and Cornelius. When I asked Daniel how many times he's summited, he said too many to remember since 1972. So I naturally asked him his age. He's 52 and totally fit. 52! We set off around 9 a.m. and eventually caught up with a contingent of park rangers and Uganda Defense Force troops. They were going to patrol the border looking for poachers. Although why they needed to lug a 20 mm cannon to dissuade poachers was a mystery to me. We parted ways after day 2 when they headed north into the bush.
We continued for 2 more days through much mud, river crossings, rocks, tree roots, and little actual trail reaching the high Elena Hut at 4540 m. It was a bleak, not entirely comfortable night and we would be attempting the summit the next day at 6:30 or so then moving camp after returning from the climb. We awoke at 6 am for tea and I was highly discouraged because the
View of the summit from John Matte Hut
Consistently clear in the a.m. until 10 or 11. Morning of 3rd day. Still a ways to go.
hut was completely socked in. Couldn't see the knee deep mud puddle that I stepped in on my way to the loo. Not a promising start but by 6:40 it had quickly begun to clear so we set off, reaching the edge of the Stanley Glacier in about 50 minutes. By 8 am we were roped up and I was immediately front pointing up the glacier with dubiously sharp crampons and my ice tool which came in handy as an ice axe would have been too long. The glaciers were mostly flat so I also brought a pole and only needed the tool on 3 short sections where it was steep. By 10 am we were at the summit block which required removing the crampons and ascending a fixed line, the 10' beginning of which was done without a prusik and was a bit sketchy. Got tied in to the line and at 10:40 we were on the summit soaking it up. I remember the exact times because Daniel said it would take 4 hours from the hut and it took exactly that. The descent was very quick and soon we were enveloped in fog near the end of the
Lower Bigo Bog
Standard attire in the many mud bogs is gum boots. Typical landscape: giant lobelia, mud, and a much appreciated boardwalk.
Stanley Glacier. Daniel seemed to know where he was going and there was a solid boot track anyway from the previous day's group of 6 Polish climbers and their 2 guides. None the less, Daniel's route finding did not prevent me from falling hip deep into a crevasse. It was small and extracting myself was no problem but it was still pretty intense. The worst part were the slabs and gully after exiting the glacier. Really took a pounding on the knees. We were greeted with tea and a hail storm back at the hut. With a couple of hours left to get to the next hut, I was not too thrilled with the melted hail which made the boulder hopping kind of unpleasant. But that was nothing compared to the last 2 days of the other half of the circuit which consisted of yet more mud and wet slabs, this time much trickier on the descent.
Uganda was really excellent and there is so much more to write and more pictures to publish to the site. But internet here in Kigali is pretty slow and I just wanted to get something up before the Rwenzoris become a dim
memory and other events begin to take precedence.
Kigali is nice, very clean, but really expensive. It is also very hilly. Hotel Rwanda was based on Hotel Milles Collines - 1000 hills - and I can attest that you cannot walk anywhere flat in this city. Tomorrow I am headed west to Ruhengiri near Parc Nacional des Volcans where I will kick back with the gorillas a la Diane Fossey. Tuesday is a flight to Nairobi then hopefully an ascent of Mt Kenya.
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