#1 You Have to Use a Guiding Company
To head into these mountains – You absolutely, without an option, have to use a guide. There are two companies that offer trekking services into the mountains. Here are the two companies compared side by side.
Rwenzori Trekking Service
The guides are knowledgeable, friendly, and experienced. They have the best technical knowledge of ropes and gear and have also received wilderness medical training. Bryan is the guy in charge and he is super helpful and friendly. If you call ahead, he might even pick you up from Kasese Airport or the bus station!
Rwenzori Mountaineering Servies
Headquarters are in the village of Ibanda, there is also an office in Kasese. This is a community-based guide service. Unfortunately, it lacks proper organization and one will notice a lower standard in the quality of training and equipment. However, if you are willing to overlook these drawbacks, the trek to the peaks are shorter…
I highly recommend Rwenzori Trekking Service. I feel fully confident about this recommendation because it is based on my own experience, multiple conversations with other trekkers about their experiences, conversations with guides from both companies, and locals from the communities.
That being said, the rest of this guide will provide information that presumes you will be using the Rwenzori Trekking Service as your guiding company.
#2 Pick Your Adventure
Be sure you make the time to go for at least six days – anything less and you won’t have the opportunity to visit all the different types of climate: rainforest, bamboo forest, heather zone, the alpine zone, and then the glacier zone. Many of the plants are endemic to this region and unless you visit all the zones, you are seriously missing out on the diversity of these fascinating mountains.
Take at Least a 6-day Trek, but here are all of your options…
Price includes all guides, porters, meals, and accommodation while in the mountains.
1 Day Trek Forest Walk
2 Day Trek To Kalalama Camp
3 Day Trek Kyalavula Loop
4 Day Trek to Mutinda Lookout
5 Day Trek Mutinda Loop
6 Day Trek to weismanns peak
8 Day Trek to Mt. Baker
9 Day Trek to Margherita Peak
10 Day Trek Three peaks
What these prices do NOT include:
UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) gate entrance fee of $35 per day
This must be paid in cash on entry into the park. (Exception: 1 day trek, the entrance fee is included in the guide price)
Tips for your Guides and Porters
They work hard; make sure you budget some appreciation for them
If you need to rent any gear
Climbing ropes and harnesses with carabiners and crampons are supplied free of charge but you are welcome to bring your own. Items for hire: Sleeping bag $10, Warm jacket/sweater $10, Rubber boots free, Gloves $5. Prices are per trek regardless of number of days, not per day.
#3 Know when you are going and what to expect.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is chilly and wet – expect daytime temperatures of 10-15°C, with much colder nights.
Rainy season – expect tons of mud and rain every day, but no one else in the mountains other than you.
Dry season – better chance to see animals, not as muddy – but crowded.
January-February and July-August are the driest months, but heavy rain is possible at any time, so come prepared.
The best time to climb the mountain is from June through to August and from December to February.
#4 Stay at Rwenzori Trekkers Hostel.
Stay at the hostel the night before, as it’s a huge help for getting all your gear sorted. They will even watch over the bags that you don’t want to take with you. And here’s what’s even more amazing – they have hot showers! That’s a huge special occasion here in Uganda. Enjoy!
Rwenzori Backpackers Hostel
Telephone +256 (0) 774199022
Rwenzori Backpackers is situated in Kyanjuki village above Kilembe and is 12km from Kasese town.
In Terms of Packing….
#5 It is ACTUALLY COLD and you must be prepared.
It’s freezing (literally) as you reach the higher altitudes. While you can usually giggle at what Ugandans call cold while you’re running around in short sleeves and flip-flops, here it really is freezing.
Make sure you have all the gear you need: warm socks, warm hat, very warm jacket, gloves, and layers.
TIP: I highly recommend bringing little hand warmers that you can stuff into pockets and sleeping bags. It will make your nights much more enjoyable.
#6 Muck Boots
Your new best friend. Definitely take up an offer for muck boots. They are way better than your hiking boots because they are extra grippy on the rocks (which is a life saver) and if you hit any mud (which is guaranteed in the rainy season) they are your best chance to get through it.
#7 Prepare for rain and mud.
Rain gear is a must. The Rwenzoris go hand-in-hand with water. Water is everywhere. Make sure you have a good rain jacket and a good pair of waterproof pants. Your hiking boots should also be waterproof, but most likely if you hit mud or rain you are going to want to be in the muck boots the guides provide. In addition, you’ll definitely need a bag cover because rain is part of the daily routine here.
TIP: I highly recommend waterproofing your bags. There is a spray, and a product that you paint onto your bag – It will help keep the dampness out.
On the Journey…
#8 Wildlife Viewing
Animal viewing is up to the luck of the day – you never know what you might see. You might get lucky and see quite a few animals – or walk for days without seeing anything. Keep your eyes peeled, though it is almost guaranteed that your guide will see any animal before you do. They are unbelievably skilled at spotting wildlife.
IMPORTANT NOTE: some of your porters will be returning after only a few days (as supplies diminish, porters are sent back down), so make sure you have some shillings in your backpack to tip them with before they leave.
#9 Definitely Tip
Show gratitude to the people who make your trip possible. This means everyone – your porters, the guards, and your guides.
Many times it is quiet and behind the scenes, but everyone is working hard to make sure your trek is as smooth as possible. Tipping is also very much appreciated as your crew does not get paid much, and tips really are the best way to show your appreciation. And this way, you know the money goes straight to them and their families.
#10 Make Friends!
Bring snacks to share with your guides, and learn a bit of the local language. You are going to be with your crew for many days. The better relationships you build, the more gratifying the trip will be. This is your chance to learn about some of the cultures here in Western Uganda from the locals, and they also love hearing about your culture as well. Take this opportunity to learn!
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This article was written based on information collected in the spring of 2016 and will be subject to change.