Six Day Trek to Weismans Peak 4, 620m - Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Day 1: Drive to Kasese
We drive westwards towards Fort Portal to the foothill of Rwenzori mountain Park (about 5 hours). Traveling on both asphalt and unpaved roads, you pass through traditional Ugandan Villages where you see people at work tending their traditional crops of millet, sorghum, beans and maize. The lush rolling hills of this region provide good photo opportunities. As you approach Fort Portal in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, you enter Uganda's famous tea plantation region. A carpet of green spreads before you, as far as the eye can see, and seems an unusual contrast to the countryside through which you have just passed. You arrive at Fort Portal, then, continue to Kasese town overnight at Rwenzori trekker’s hostel
Day 2: Steady walk with a steep climb for the last kilometer. Start at Trekkers at 1,450 meters and sleep at Sine Hut at 2,596 meters being a height gain of 1,146 meters or for those who want a bigger challenge the first day they are welcome to continue to Kalalama Camp at 3,147m. This will they give them ample time to climb Mutinda Lookout at 3,975 metres in the afternoon to enjoy the views plus give better acclimatization for the trek. Mutinda Camp is 3,688 metres.
The trek starts at Trekkers Hostel in Kyanjuki, which is situated 1,450 meters above sea level and 12 kilometers from Kasese. It is best to start by 9 am but can leave as late as 11am. You walk 2.2km to the UWA rangers post at 1,727 meters, which takes about one hour. Here you pay the gate entrance fee and the rangers brief you on the rules of the National Park.
We start by walking up the valey floor through tall forest trees of the Afro Montane Forest Zone. This is a steady climb with multitudes of birds and a chance of seeing a wild chimpanzee or blue monkey scampering off through the forest. At times visitors may see troupes of 15 to 20 Colobus monkys scampering through the tree tops. There are rare sightings of the L’Hoest monkey which are part of the Bukonzo cultural emblems and are protected by the virtue of the King or Omusinga. There is wide variety of plant species from forest trees to bamboos thickets, low shrubs, flowers, fungi, and with many moss and lichen covered vines hanging from the tall trees creating an awesome appeal. Enock’s Falls are just 200 meters from Sine Hut and offer a splendid opportunity to capture a great screensaver for your memories.
The wooden hut with 10 beds is a set between tall forest trees on a narrow ridge, with ten beds and a large verandah where you may sit and enjoy the beauty of the Afro Montane forest while you look down at a fantastic waterfall crashing over the rocks far below. Sine is just below the bamboo zone and the area around has many different bird species. Sleep at Sine Hut - 2,585 metres Sleep at Sine Hut - 2,585 metres
Day 3: After a good breakfast, trekking starts at 8.30am and you soon enter the Bamboo-Mimulopsis Zone which is steep climb with many high steps. In the wet season the bamboo area is rather muddy and slippery making the going slow. However the atmosphere and the forest is beautiful as you climb 551 metres altitude and a distance of 1.8km to Kalalama Camp at 3,147 meters which is in the Heather-Rapanea Zone where you can take a rest and a quick cup of tea or coffee before heading on to Mutinda Camp.
The trail meanders up and over several small knolls along a ridge top then drops down the side of the valley before climbing again, and in doing so cross several small streams and passing close to moss covered waterfalls. You then climb steadily along the side of a beautiful mossy river which tumbles down over the rocks under the Giant Heather trees whose trunks are covered in green moss with old man beards (Usnea lichen) hanging from the branches. The trail twists and turns as you climb up the deep valley, which has an enormous variety of plants and flowers.
This valley is unique with many Giant Heather trees creating a beautiful atmosphere often shrouded in mist. Eventually you get to Mutinda Camp which is set near a small river that drops off a waterfall and offers a chance to wash, refresh and relax or, you may wish to climb up to the top of the Mutinda Lookout (one and a half hours up and one hour down) The view and the atmosphere is amazing as you stand on moss covered rocks at 3,925 meters with views across the Rwenzori Mountains, down to Kasese town and Lake George.
Note:- During the summer of 2011/2012 from December to late March there was a unprecedented dry spell and a large fire burnt across much of the alpine area of the Rwenzori Mountains. Fortunately, due to the high rainfall, the vegetation is recovering and the mosses are again growing on the rocks and cliff faces. The worst effected area is above Kiharo Camp where there was a large forest of Giant Heather trees, which are now blackened sticks, however the area still holds a beauty with towering cliffs and small areas unaffected by fire along the valley floor with the deep green of fresh shoots and vegetation, bringing new life to the mountains.
All of the tussock grass, Giant Groundsel have regrown and the Malachite Sunbirds are feeding on the flowers of the Giant Lobellias. Kiharo Camp has been moved below the burnt area and is particularly beautiful with many birds, animals, rock hyrax and several species of rare chameleons, some have been found living at altitudes of 3,650 metres. The affected areas are between Mutinda and Bugata Camps on day 3 and on the way down from Bugata Camp to Kiharo Camp, however the area is recovering much quicker than expected maybe due to the high rainfall
Day 4: 4.9km starting at 3,688 meters climbing to 4,062 meters
Alpine Zone. The trail here is boggy particularly in the wet season but with a little skill you can step from tussock to tussock to make the going easier. You cross the Mutinda valley through the tussock grass and everlasting flowers interspersed with many Giant Lobelias before climbing a steep section up to the Namusangi Valley (3,840 meters), which ends abruptly with sheer waterfalls and fantastic views of Mutinda Peaks. The Namusangi Valley is wide, with many ups and downs and crossing several bogs as the trail climbs steadily to Bugata Camp at 4,062 meters.
Bugata Camp is situated way up Bamwanjara Pass high above Bugata Lake with views across Lake Kopello to Weismann’s Peak, which is often covered with snow then down the valley views of Lake Africa and Lake Kanganyika and the many small peaks towards Mutinda Camp. The area is covered with tussock grass, everlasting flowers (Helichrysum), St John’s Wort (Hypericum becquaeritii), giant groundsel (Senecio adnivalis) and Giant lobelia (Lobellia gibberoa). There are a many Red Forest Duiker (Cephalophuc nigrifrons rubidus) which are a sub-species only found in the Rwenzori Mountains. In the past they have been very hard to see due to the thick vegetation but since the fire, which burnt across the alpine region of the Rwenzori Mountains, they are now easier to see in the new shorter growth.
In the dryer season you may choose to walk directly up the valley but a more scenic trail meanders along the hilltops with fantastic views of Lake Nusuranja from Plozza Rock. From Plozza Rock you also get fantastic views down the valley of nine lakes ringed by rugged peaks and ridges
Bugata Camp has good facilities, solar lights, good toilets and bathrooms where the guides may prepare some warm water in a basin for you to wash. Bugata also has a heli pad (GPS reading N 18.312 E29 53.457) in case of any need for rescue by helicopter.
Day 5: - Climb Weismann’s Peak 4,620 metres and Stella Peak 4,626 metres 3.7km to Weismanns Peak then another 800 metres to Stella Peak and return. Total distance 9km 4 to 6 hours. The trek starts by walking across the hillside below high cliffs above Bugata Lake then around a ridge point to Lake Kopello where we walk along the edge of the lake which according to researchers the water temperature averages 2˚C As you climbing you get excellent views of the four lakes along the valley below. The last section to the peak is steep on solid rock and can be difficult when snowing or iced up and it may be necessary to use ropes for safety. On a clear day you get fantastic views of all the main peaks, Mt Stanley, Mt Speke and Mt Baker. The top of Weismann’s Peak is relativity flat or dome shaped with deep moss growing on the rocks creating a beautiful atmosphere. For those who want to climb the highest point we can take a gentle walk across the moss covered domed shaped ridge to Stella Peak 4,626 metres. Return to Bugata Camp. Sleep at Bugata Camp.
Day 6: - Descend to either Kiharo Camp 3,460 metres or Samalira Camp 3,170 metres
Early morning set off around Lake Bugata and the outlet of Kopello Lake then climb 200 metres to the confluence of the two valleys . As you descend down the upper areas of the Nyamwamba Valley there is a large area of thick Giant Groundsel with dense evergreen undergrowth and moss with the rocky peaks towering above. As you descend the valley you will notice the terrain is made up of several flat boggy areas where millions of years ago glaciers sat and melted leaving a wall of big rocks in front of where it lay. The valley is home to many Red Forest Duiker (Cephalophuc nigrifrons rubidus) At night you may stay in Kiharo Camp at 3,460 metres an area rich in evergreen plants and babbling streams. At night the air is filled with the calls of the rock hyrax as they sit in the rocky cliffs high above.
Note:- As it is necessary to skip one of the camps you may either stay in Kiharo and enjoy the lush vegetation and rocky cliffs or may descend to Samalira Camp at 3,170 meters making a shorter trek down to base camp the following day.
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