Uganda has several unusually beautiful mountains, each so distinct from the other that none proffers the same experience.
They however all provide an exhilarating physical and sensual experience that forever remains vivid and cherished. Of these;
The Virunga Volcanoes
Virunga Volcanoes in south-western Uganda formed by tectonic events millions of years ago are mountains of extremes. They are cold, wet and rugged with a wilderness of exotic-looking afromontane vegetation with fantastic plants such as giant Lobelia and Groundsel that delight the botany lover. In total there are eight volcanoes shared and distributed between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Their mounts are climbable, for instance Mt Sabinyo (3669m), Mt Muhavura (4127m) and Mgahinga (3474m). The trekking opportunity also offers chance to see some of the 100 species of birds found in Mgahinga Gorilla Park, including the rare Rwenzori Turaco and the Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird.
However, two mountains over shadow them and offer the main opportunities for mountain climbing in Uganda- the Rwenzori Mountain and Mt Elgon, and alongside this, there is the added attraction of sight seeing.
An ascent of the Rwenzori is one of Uganda’s and Rwenzori National Park’s oldest and most enduring attractions because the Rwenzori presents one of the most challenging mountaineering experiences in Africa for it is the highest mountain range in Africa. The mountain is a massive block of Precambrian crystalline rock that faulted up the rift valley floor, and rises up to 5109m high, it’s peak is snow capped and represents the third highest point in Africa. The mountain range stretches for about 100km, at it’s centre are several mountains that are permanently snow and glacier covered: Mt Speke ( Vittorio Emmaneule is it’s highest peak at 4890m); Mt Baker ( Edward is it’s second highest peak at 4843m); Mt Gessi ( Iolanda at 4715m); Mt Emin (4791m); and Mt Luigi di savoia (4627m). These and it’s three highest peaks, Margherita ( 5109m), Alexandria ( 5083m) and Albert (5087m) all on Mt Stanley are mountaineering challenges that test how far human strength, courage and endurance go.
Although the mountain contains a variety of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, and the rare Rwenzori Leopard and Rwenzori colobus, it’s unlikely to see more than the odd hyrax, blue monkey and Rwenzori Turaco. However, the mountain park compensates.
The Rwenzori’s high altitude vegetation that drapes the mountain which includes the Everlasting Flower (Helichhrysum) giant Erica (heather) Lobelia and Seneco (groundsel), the numerous chill streams that flow leisurely into the rivers and lakes of the rift valley, truly delight the nature and botany lover.
Mt Elgon is a fast emerging popular destination for budget trekking compared to the Rwenzori. It is an extraordinary mountain that sits astride the Uganda- Kenya border and is the only volcanic mountain in Uganda said to have one of the largest surface areas of any extinct volcano in the world. It is the 8th highest mountain in the world. Wagagai is the highest peak of the mountain at 4321m while Koitoboss on the Kenyan side is just 4187m. Although it isn’t the Rwenzori, Mt Elgon is a big mountain that undeniably poses a daunting challenge to many a trekker, and it’s not very well-worn paths unlike the Rwenzori’s make it even more so.
Tourism on Mt Elgon is still relatively underdeveloped and self reliance for some necessities and comforts may be called for, such as appropriate clothing, camping and cooking equipment, and food. Sasa Trail is the most popular route to the summit and has three established camping sites. It requires a minimum of three days to do the trek and five to reach the Jackson’s Summit, Wagagai and Suam Gorge. Other trails are the Piswa trail and the new Sipi trail.
The mountain is beautifully littered with cliffs, caves, gorges and waterfalls. It’s upper slopes are draped in tropical montane forest, while above these a vast tract of alpine moorland extends over the caldera and at the top is a collapsed crater covering 40 sq km. The views from the higher plains are among the most spectacular in Uganda.