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Why Rwenzori is harder than Kilimanjaro

Why Rwenzori is harder than Kilimanjaro – Rwenzori Expeditions

Less than 1,000 people a year walk in the Rwenzori Mountains, the vast majority of whom walk in the two dry seasons, lasting for about six months of the year. The numbers in the 2019/20 season were apparently lower than the previous year due to concerns about Ebola in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, though there was no risk in the Rwenzoris. For comparison Mt Kilimanjaro attracts ~50,000 people a year, and Mt Kenya ~25,000. In 2018 800 people reached the summit of Mt Everest, I suspect fewer than that summit Mt Stanley each year, and the season is much longer so you’re likely to have the mountain to yourself.

This was one of the harder hikes I’ve done, and I’ve completed some challenging ones including the Larapinta Trail, Kokoda Track and Snowman Trek. The main challenges were the…

Terrain, with extensive sections of bog with thick and often deep and liquid mud to navigate, many steep sections on slippery rocks and mud, and basic wooden ladders to climb up and down. I’d estimate that around a third of the track was thick mud, at least 20km worth
Altitude, from the entry village of Kyanjuki near Kilembe at 1,620m above sea level you head up ~2,100m in two days, and can end up 5-6 days into the hike at Margherita Peak, the 5,109m high summit of Mt Stanley. I’ve been at higher elevations in the Himalayas but the track here was far steeper in places, and there was less time for acclimatisation
Weather, the early sections were hot and humid, but after Mutinda Camp it starts to get alpine and significantly colder, while the weather can be variable throughout, with rain likely at some point most days, usually mid afternoon
Entry level mountaineering, required to reach the summit of Margherita Peak, with crampons, an ice axe, and harness, and basic instruction provided by the crew before heading toward the summit to ascend, traverse, and descent fixed and temporary ropes, and cross two glaciers
Concentration required, I’ve rarely had to focus for as long as walking into the Rwenzori Mountains, to deal with the various challenges mentioned above, this isn’t somewhere you can take photos while walking

Given these challenges I felt as tired after walking for four hours as after eight hours in New Zealand. This is one track that is much harder in reality than it looks on paper, which appeared to catch out many people I met on the track, with comments overheard such as “I didn’t believe that there could be so much mud!” and “kill me now!”. One group of eleven ended up split across four different camps as various members couldn’t make it any further…

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