Margherita Peak, Uganda
After slogging through the muddiest trek on the planet, the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, it was finally time for payoff: the ascent of Margherita Peak, 16,763 feet. As we close out 2021 and hope for a payoff for suffering through the last two years, I offer this blog as a small ray of hope. This pandemic will not last forever. The mud in the Rwenzori Mountains didn’t. It finally terminated in pristine snow and ice and spectacular views across the stony peaks of the Rwenzoris.
The other trekkers opted out of the Big Climb. So they only came home with stories of green and mud. Me and the two guides took me up alone beginning before day broke. This chill was refreshing after days of humidity and intermittant rain. The air had a bite and it actually felt good. It wasn’t long before we met the ice and they fitted my hiking boots with crampons. With spiky shoes I greeted the sun peeping through the clouds in the first light.
The steeps were anchored with ropes. I didn’t ask how often these were maintenanced. They worked fine and I was thankful someone anchored them there.
As the morning wore on the cloud cover mostly remained solid. After all, these are the mountains that the European explorers didn’t know about for so long since they hide in near permanent cloud. The last bit toward the peak alternated between rocky and icy. Steep, but doable. I was a little breathless with the thin air and exertion.
It was a great relief to stand in the chill breeze atop the fifth highest mountain on the continent. A moment for cheers and photos. The clouds weren’t so thick to obscure the surrounding peaks. The guides told me that often happens. It would have taken something away from the achievement if all I could see was the sign at the top.
No time to rest, we had to head back down. It was a long, long hike back through the snow and ice and then came the mud. Again.
I hope 2022 doesn’t turn to mud like the last two years. I hope it’s a peak with thousand-mile views. Happy New Year.