Mud on the Montes Lunae

Wednesday 12 February 2014
CATEGORY: Adventure | Expedition

Mud, mud, mud….and a bit of hail and a long, long way to trek…we are finally back in (sort of) civilization (=a place where they serve beer) after hiking eight days into the midst of the heart of Africa. It all started in Kilembe, a small Ugandan mining town, derelict since Idi Amin ‘s regime and only recently revitalized by the Chinese (yet another mine in Africa they have taken over). Due to a very random flight path of our bush plane, which saw us visiting half of Uganda before ending at our final destination, we only started hiking in the afternoon – a delay with consequences, as the sky in the Rwenzoris tends to relieve itself of all possible weight by the latest of 2pm…. we walked straight into a massive thunderstorm, with floods, hail and torrential rain….try crossing a big river in that conditions… well, we did it and continued up the mountain, into a fauna that could be straight out of a fantasy novel – “shire” meets “avatar” – an abundance in green, mosses everywhere, giant ferns and heathers… and higher up countless huge (=4m+) senecias and lobelias. We were just waiting for an Ewok to come round the corner! And the mud – thats a total different story. Did I talk about gumboots in my last blog? Well, I would say you haven’t been in mud until you are stuck knee-deep, for hour after hour! What a pleasure it was to be on firm ground in the end again.

Along the way we also learned, why it was so difficult for Sir Stanley & Co to find the real peaks… they are constantly covered in mist… we only saw our objective, the 5109m high Margarita Peak on Mt Stanley, when we stood just in front of it (speak a few hundred meters on our sixth day!). Hence we thought ourselves lucky when we actually had a view on the summit!! From Margarita we went on to Alexandra peak, the sister peak, which has not been successfully climbed since more than eight years. Indeed the melting glaciers had caused some serious rock falls that has rendered the original ascent route impossible. Together Maria and myself found a new route up the peak from the Col, loosely resembling the Duke of Abruzzi’s original first ascent route… however it wasn’t pretty, lots of loose rocks (yet again caused by the melting ice due to global warming) made it quite difficult… nevertheless we succeeded and took also our local guide Enock to his first summit of this peak! As Alexandra lies fully in Congo, we can now also claim a successful summit in the DRC! The descent was another story… tricky abseils over an exposed route, where the ropes got stuck a few times, took its toll and only after twelve long hours we managed to get back into camp – thank god the weather held (for once)! Spending the next two days hiking back the 40+km to civilization we can now recline with a nice pint of Nile Special! Cheers!

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