Of Mountains and Mud.... - Nomadic Travel
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One of our regular clients, Geordie Taylor recently returned from the Rwenzori Mountains where he summited the 5109m Margherita Peak, the highest mountain in Uganda. He wrote us an epic 5000 word account of his trip! We have (severely) abridged his piece for the blog, but any climbers interested, click here for the full version.


We begin Geordie’s account with his summary. This is why he did it:

“I’ve done the Inca Trail, I’ve done Kilimanjaro, I’ve done Cotopaxi in Ecuador and Mount Roraima in Venezuela. I’ve done the Coast to Coast, the UK 3 peaks and the Yorkshire 3 peaks but this trek was definitely the hardest I have ever done or will ever do. Whilst I’d understand if, having read this, you decide it’s a bridge too far, too hard, too expensive or just plain crazy, try not to be put off completely. I’m 55 and it was exactly as I expected. I’d trained for it and prepared for it both physically and mentally. I’d obviously have preferred to do it with my buddy but that wasn’t to be. The people of Uganda are a joy to be amongst. I was treated with great kindness. The guides and their crew were superb. If you like extreme trekking and you’re prepared to have every fibre of your being pushed to the very edge then the Rwenzori Mountains must surely be on your bucket list. Why do I do it? I do it simply because I still can. My very good friend, Ray Brown, died suddenly of a heart attack the day after I’d decided to do this challenge, so – most unlike me – I decided to raise money for the British Heart Foundation in his memory. Over £3,000 later, I dedicate this trek to him.”

Geordie flew from London to Entebbe via Doha  He began his journey with climbing buddy Ewan. However, on day one, “It soon became apparent that the Euan I knew and had trekked with all over the world for the last 6 years wasn’t the Euan walking alongside me. The bloke beside me was struggling to get to the shops, never mind the summit. …Two hours later at the park entrance ranger’s post, he and I had one of those unspoken but utterly clear conversations that friends of many years can do with mere gestures. It was clear to me that it wasn’t safe for him to go any further and it was clear to him that I was going to the top –with or without my mate. We hugged and set off again … me up, him down.”

Wellies at th ready

“Three hours later I reached Sine camp, nestled in the rain forest at 2300m. We’d got there at quite a pace. I suspect my guide was testing me, seeing how fit I was after Euan’s departure. I hope I impressed. The camp was brilliant, a real 5* treat compared with the scabby tents on Kili and other renowned treks of the world. It had a real wooden hut with 10 bunk beds and 4” foam mattresses … and it was all mine. Sadly the loo was a typical rag-tag tent surrounding a hole in the ground, but … what do you expect? A good 3-course meal was followed by a presentation. In Doha, I’d bought 200 Marlboro fags, the sort that smokers in Kasese can only dream of. I handed out 9 packets, one to each of the crew that were now responsible for my wellbeing. This was a masterstroke because from that point on, these guys couldn’t do enough for me. Sleep that night was sound.

Day2 … 7k from 2300m to 3630m in 6½hrs

“We set off at 9am, lovely and warm in boots, shorts & t-shirt. The usual format was established; ie. I’d push on with Jeff as my guide whilst the crew clear up, pack up and catch up, passing on to the next camp ahead of me. I’m carrying my backpack of about 8kg with wet-weather clothes, water, essentials and so on whilst Jim, a young kid of about 18 has been assigned my other bag, 15kg of all the usual paraphernalia associated with trekking in the mountains. It was steep, climbing up through the rain forest into the bamboo zone, further up into the heather zone with all the lichen and lobelia – it was beautiful. We stopped for lunch by a river, after which I was advised to change footwear … it was time for the wellies. I’d read some blogs about this trek that suggested that wellies are a good idea as it tends to be boggy underfoot, so I’d deliberately purchased a high-end pair specially for it. There were whoops of appreciation as I unpacked my luxury footwear, donning them with a twirl. …

Essential footwear

Day4 … 7.4k from 4060m to 3980m in 7½hrs

“If I thought day3 was hard work, today was brutal. …
“….Fear in turn drives the adrenalin which in turn drains the energy. It took 1¾hrs to get down and I was absolutely knackered. …
“We walked a couple more hours in some flat bog and eventually turned into a valley and started a steep 500m ascent up to Butaghu Camp just below 4,000m. As we arrived, I was cold, I was soaked, I was very tired, I was utterly dispirited and it finally dawned on me that I was feeling very lonely. Listening to the World Cup in French from The Congo did little to change my morale. …

Day6 (part 1) … 2.7k from 4480m to summit at 5109m in 6½hrs

“Up at 2.30am, dressed and kitted out, quick bowl of porridge and we’re off at 3am…. The pitch darkness is speared by our head torches. Sam’s is like a lighthouse compared to my slightly embarrassing candle. It’s dry,… not a breath of wind and I’m dripping with sweat! … I’m fully geared up against the elements … and there aren’t any. But there is a 300m, near-vertical rock-face that requires all 4 limbs to scramble up and around. ….

“Suddenly the rocks ended and a new “mass” appeared in the darkness. This was the snow line of Stanley Glacier, Africa’s largest ice sheet. ….

From bog to snow and ice.. Wellies to crampons and ice axe... “We stepped off the glacier only to be confronted by a 20m vertical rock face with fixed ropes attached. Nothing could stop me now and I pulled myself with surprising ease straight up the face. I could see the summit and a minute later, following a short rock scramble, I was standing 5,109m up on Uganda’s highest point. With a tear in my eye, I hugged my two guides, relishing the euphoria of my achievement. It was 9.30am … we’d taken 6½hrs to cover 2.7km and lift a mere 600m. The camera came out but sadly there were no views to speak of. Any hopes of seeing the other Rwenzori peaks, Uganda or The Congo were completely dashed by the cloud, so we got the smokes out instead. …

Relief at the Summit Day6 (part 2) … 6.9k from 5109m to 3980m in 8hrs

“All the muscles and joints exhausted by the ascent are given some respite whilst the descent sets about the other parts of your body that you’d previously forgotten about. …

“The rain got harder as we crossed the rocks back to the Stanley Glacier. …“We finally arrived back at base-camp at about 1pm. Standing there in my bunkhouse, I was soaked, I was cold, I was knackered and felt absolutely bloody fantastic! I’d done it, and I’d done it in spite of the bogs, and I’d done it on my own…

“Very quickly we were back into the bogs and my worst fears were confirmed. It was awful. …I had bog in both my wellies and my salopettes had doubled in weight as they captured and hung on to the mud. ..
“It was ghastly. At 6pm, we arrived into the camp. I was a zombie. I was in bits. I fell onto a bunk and I confess I cried. I can’t remember ever being so tired, so exhausted, so miserable. I desperately wanted a hug and there was no one there. …
“Then, just I started to dry and warm up, the final straw arrived – diarrhoea.

Day8 … the last day, 16.5k from 3630m to 1450m in 7hrs

“My flight out of Kasese was scheduled at 3pm which meant we had to be back at the Trekking office by 1pm, which in turn means a 6am start this morning. I knew we had a long way to travel and a long drop in height so we had to get a wriggle on. …. I’d asked Sam to call ahead to ensure a case of beers and a packet of fags were all present and correct on our arrival back at the office. During the call, he was told that the river we’d crossed with ease on the way up was now a raging, impassable torrent. … “ The river had become a raging torrent

For the rest of the story, click here.  It is quite an account and well worth the full read. Thank you Geordie for your honesty and your effort. I am sure Euan is –  and Ray would be –  deeply proud of you.