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Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains: Tips for the first time hiker

Following these safety tips can amount to having a safe and enjoyable experience on any hike, especially when dealing with long-distance treks that reach an altitude as high as Mount Rwenzori’s.

The Rwenzori Mountains are found along the border of Uganda & the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are protected within the Rwenzori Mountains National Park of Uganda and the Virunga National Park in DR Congo. However most trekkers use the Uganda side for the ultimate climbing experiences to capture the Magherita Peak, the third highest peak in Africa.

To both first timers and experienced hikers, Climbing Ruwenzori is the highlight of most adventure seekers to Western Uganda. Climbing to the top of its staggering 5109m high summit is guaranteed to astound you and make your jaw drop. The first-timer hikers can even do this adventure and are welcome to the Pearl of Africa. Below we share with you some of the tips that beginners need to know so that they can get started with planning the next expedition in the Rwenzori Mountains;

Can beginners climb Rwenzori? 
Yes! The best Rwenzori climbing experience as a beginner, you should be fully aware of the conditions, seasonal weather patterns, costs, and requirements to prepare yourself for this challenge. Here are the things you should know before climbing Rwenzori for the first time. 

Skill level and age
If you are new to mountain climbing, there’s no need to worry. Although the climb to the mountain’s summit is a multi-day, high-altitude trek, you do not necessarily have to be trained in climbing to get to the top, especially with a tour guide helping you. At the right time of year, the terrain and trail conditions are smooth enough for most committed hikers to reach the peak. One of the few restrictions you’ll find for climbing Mount Rwenzori is age. Only those over the age of 10 can embark on this climb. 
 
Go slow & drink lots of water
One of the most common phrases you will hear on the mountain is “go slow”. When climbing 10 – 20 thousand feet, it is important to pace yourself. The slower you go, the more oxygen you will get in your body and the better you will acclimatize.

Pack the right gear & bring a headlamp  + extra batteries
Packing the Right Gear for Rwenzori is essential when climbing. When you are in camp you won’t have any electricity, so it is important to prepare for low light situations. Whether you are camping or staying in the huts, your eating area and bathroom will both be a short walk from where you are sleeping. When it is dark, this can be very difficult if you don’t have a headlamp or other way to light up the path in front of you.

Tipping is optional yet expected
Tipping is a good gesture, but not necessarily, a common practice. When hiking Rwenzori, tipping is a bit different. The crew that takes you up the mountain consists of a lead guide, assistant guide, chef, and a team of porters plays a huge role in the success of your summit, making sure that you take the proper precautions in what you eat, when you sleep, and how much you climb each day. Tipping guides and porters after the hike is important. You are directly helping their families and local communities with your tip.

Booking a Rwenzori guide
If you want to successfully climb the Rwenzoris on your first try, it is worth booking a local tour agency to help guide you along the way. Climbing to an altitude of nearly 5,000 meters is no picnic but can be accomplished by most hikers with the assistance of a guide that knows the terrain and local environment. Here is some knowledge you can expect your guides to be well equipped with:

Terrain: The terrain and trail conditions of multi-day treks vary especially on the Rwenzoris. That is why having a guide who knows how to approach each evolving landscape will assure you that you are prepared for anything.

Weather: As will be mentioned below, the weather on Rwenzori Mountains will vary. Having the insight and experience to approach the contrasting conditions on your way up to the summit will be vital.

Safety checks: You can count on professional guides to give you and each individual on your tour consistent safety checks throughout the expedition.  This is to monitor health-risks such as altitude sickness, fatigue, and other mountaineering protocols.

Finding a reliable tour agency can be a challenge, with many tour operators having a summit success rate of a mere 50%.  This is due to a lack of responsibility and care provided by lackluster tour agencies, with their goal being to make quick profits instead of guaranteeing customer satisfaction.

So, make sure you do your research and book with a trusted and professional tour operator with a high summit success rate. When you book with a reliable tour operator, you can count on their guidance on your trek every step of the way; they will provide you all the support you need to make it to the summit.

You can also do a safari after you finish your climb, as it is one of the best ways to rest and relax your muscles after an intense week of hiking.  The recommended safaris include gorilla trekking in Bwindi, and wildlife safaris to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kibale Forest.

Safety tips for climbing the Rwenzori Mountains
Even if you have all the gear and meet all the requirements for starting your climb up the Rwenzoris, you still need to know a few safety protocols to ensure you have a safe journey. This is why having an experienced tour guide by your side on your first climb is encouraged; they’ll have all the necessary equipment on hand such as emergency oxygen, should an emergency occur. They can also perform regular safety checks and make sure you’re doing well as you climb higher up the mountain.

However, personally looking after your safety is just as crucial; keeping yourself aware and alert throughout the trek will be just as essential to ensure the safety of you and everyone on your trip. Here are some vital safety tips to keep in mind on your journey:

Pace yourself
When you are hiking, especially on multi-day, high-altitude treks, you should remember that it is a marathon, not a race.  Taking your time and not being in a rush can help you avoid fatigue. Remember, it is the journey, not the destination!

Take frequent breaks: It is much better to stop, take a breath, and relax throughout the day to keep you from burning out in the end. This becomes increasingly important as you get closer to the summit, where the air becomes thinner and the chances of altitude sickness increase with each step.

Acclimatize: If you can acclimatize to higher altitudes before beginning your trek, you will feel more fit and prepared for what’s ahead on your way up the top.  An excellent way to do this is to arrive at your destination a couple of days earlier and condition yourself with some day hikes.

Water: There is probably nothing more important than staying hydrated on your Rwenzori climb. Frequently drink water throughout the day and while resting in the evening.

Following these safety tips can amount to having a safe and enjoyable experience on any hike, especially when dealing with long-distance treks that reach an altitude as high as Mount Rwenzori’s.

Conclusion
If you are interested in Rwenzori Trekking in Uganda, you will be happy to hear that the experience is open to just about everyone. You just have to be prepared and by following the tips offered above, you’ll be ready to cross climbing Mount Rwenzori off your bucket list in no time!

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