Despite the beauty of the Rwenzori Mountains - which includes otherworldy heather zones, beautiful lakes, glaciers and bamboo forest, with rich biodiversity found throughout - Mount Stanley receives far fewer visitors than Mount Kilimanjaro. Thus trekking here is recommended for those seeking a true off-the-beaten-track adventure.
How hard is climbing Mount Stanley?
This trek is, as you might expect, no walk in the park. You need to have a good level of physical fitness and ideally plenty of experience with trekking before doing this hike, given that a Mount Stanley trek involves long days of walking at altitude on challenging terrain.
Moreover, scaling walls of ice is a part of the trek, so experience in that area would also be useful, as well as with the use of ropes to climb rock faces. The trek will also involve traversing some bogs, although with wellies on this is perfectly manageable.
How long does it take to hike Mount Stanley?
Although it may be possible to do the trek in less time, a typical Mount Stanley climb involves ascending to the summit of Margherita Peak (the highest of the mountain’s two peaks), with 8 days of trekking and 7 nights spent in camps up in the mountains.
We do a substantial amount of trekking each day, but not at a breakneck speed, which allows us to stop at amazing viewpoints and the many other places of interest along the way.
What does a typical itinerary look like?
After flying in from Entebbe, we begin the trek from Kilembe, the base camp. We trek up 1146 metres to Sine Camp, at 2596 meters, where we will spend the night. On the second day of trekking, we hike up to Mutinda camp at 3,588 meters, where there is a spectacular viewpoint.
The following day we will hike to Bugata camp (4,062 meters), passing through a valley of beautiful fauna, streams and waterfalls. At this point, the trek gets tougher, with steep ridges and bogs to traverse. However, this is one of the most beautiful parts of the trek.
On the fourth day, we head up to Hunwick’s camp (3974 meters), going through Bamwanjara pass, where views of the towering snow-capped peaks can be enjoyed. The next morning we begin the hike up to Margherita camp (4,485 meters), passing through the valley where the stunning Lake Kitandara is situated.
The sixth day is the longest but most rewarding: we begin at 2:00am (this feels bearable after breakfast and a good cup of coffee) and climb Mt Stanley, passing through dramatic glaciers and ice walls to reach the top of Margherita Peak at 5109 metres. After revelling in the panoramic views and the great achievement of getting this far, we descend back down to Hunwick’s camp.
The following day, we continue our descent, ending up at Kiharo camp (3,430 meters), a lovely spot surrounded by dense vegetation and imposing cliffs, having gone through Oliver’s pass. On the final day of trekking, we pass bewitching forests and rivers, until we reach the base camp. The night is spent in a local hotel, a welcome dose of comfort after such a rewarding yet demanding hike.
Is it always included in a Rwenzori mountains trip?
Not, many come to visit the Rwenzori mountains without scaling Mount Stanley. It is possible to do a circular route through the mountains over the course of a few days or less - allowing you to see much of what this beautiful part of the world has to offer - without ascending Mount Stanley. For example, we offer a 5-day tour that includes three nights in the mountains and three days of trekking, during which time you will see beautiful heather zones, clouded forests and incredible vistas of snow-capped peaks. So it is definitely possible, for those who are not hardcore trekkers, to get a lot out of visiting the Rwenzori mountains.