The hike starts at the
Day 1 climbs 1600 meters of vertical and put us at the start of the circuit, a hut called Nyabitaba. On that first day we got our first glimpse of the intense greenery that can only come from one of the wettest places in the world, the
Day 2 is an introduction to the bog. After crossing the
Day 3 we entered the surreal landscape of the Rwenzoris, walking through thigh-deep mud and little tussock hills (grass mounds that offer a chance to hop and avoid the mud,) the plants are unlike any we have ever seen and are endemic only to this range: purple cactus-like plants and bizarre trees. We were supposed to stop at the Bujuku hut, but we asked our guide if we could instead divert to the highest hut, Elena hut, that also happens to be the staging ground for climbing the highest peak in the range, and he obliged. So we trudged straight uphill to 4550 meters (about 15,000 ft) thankfully leaving the bog behind and entering a range of boulders, rocks, and sheer cliff faces at the base of the
game for us to accompany them.
Day 4 started after a mostly-sleepless night of nausea and headaches due to the altitude, we were up at to attempt the peak. After several hours of hiking to reach the base of the first glacier, we roped up and put on whatever motley equipment
was leftover: Guy had a homemade harness and Rusha had ill-fitting crampons. Our guide was missing both and was hiking the glacier i
n rubber gumboots and a walking stick. Thankfully this sketchy situation was ameliorated after our companions decided to turn back after a semi-technical down-climb, and we were lucky enough to continue with their equipment: ice axes, crampons, harness, and rope. Our guide also got sunglasses from the other guide which made his life much nicer and made us feel safer that he could actually see. We proceeded to climb 2000 vertical feet on a crevasse-strewn glacier, then a short technical rock climb and summited 16,763 ft margherita peak (5109 m) in the clouds and gale-force winds, with enough time to document the moment and revel in our accomplishment: the highest Rusha has been in her life and the highest non-volcanic peak in Africa. We finished the day by returning to the hut and descending to Kitandara hut, at a much nicer elevation of 4000 meters to rest up.
Day 5 started with a climb to 4300 m (the highest point on the central circuit) and then descended steeply to a hut at 3900 meters, Guy Yeoman hut. We enjoyed not suffering from headaches or nausea but Rusha managed to touch some plant that caused her to have a major allergic reaction with some angioedema. Luckily the reaction was limited to eye and lip swelling and was improved with some Benadryl and Prednisone in the trusty first-aid kit.
Day 6, our last day, was an amazing amount of downhill. We dropped 2500 vertical meters (about 8000 feet!) Most of it was clambering over the usual Rwenzori terrain of rocks, roots, bog, and mud. It was steep and directly straight down. After several doses of Alleve we arrived back at our starting point in the village where we said our goodbyes to our group of porters and guide and hopped on bodas down to the town of