Starting Altitude: 4,062 [13,327 ft.]
Ending Altitude: 3,174 [10,413 ft.]
Total Descent: 888 meters [2,914 ft.]
Total Distance: 11.3 kms [7 miles]
Hours Taken: 6 hours
Camp: Samalira Camp
Descent (Descent/Distance): 79 m/km.
It rains for several hours again in the night, and it makes me feel trapped, knowing the kilometers of tussock meadows between us and the bottom of the mountain are slowing turning into waist deep sludge. Our gateway out is closing. My feet are tender, swollen, raw-open wounds, and I can tell they are already infected.
I have to tape them every morning, and I know that if I have to dawn the gum boots, the chaffing will be disastrous. I have been cinching my shoes extra tight to reduce them from rubbing the wounds on my ankles, but in descending from the peak the day before, my toes have been bashing into the tips of the shoes, and I am already worried that my two big toe nails will not make it out with me.
However, spirits are high in the morning as the skies are clear, and the sun rises a deep red over the surrounding peaks. We have not been dry or warm in a couple days, and we are excited at the potential of being so. My knees and back are sore from scrambling down from the peak the day before, and we spend time stretching in the morning in preparation. We debate and decide against the gum boots, shiver into our damp gear, and as the light starts spreading over the meadows below, we begin.
As we enter the tussock meadows, the clouds roll in over the valley walls, and we constantly monitor them trying to decipher if we are walking into a storm. Thankfully the sun keeps fighting off the clouds, and we wade through the meadows without much issue. Coming to the top of the Mutinda valley, we are treated to a view all the way down to Lake George in the flatlands below.
Passing out of the lower end of the valley, we return to the forests of giant heather, and at this lower elevation, the mountains seem alive again. We see the Rwenzori turaco’s red wings darting through the canopies, and glimpse blue monkeys watching us carefully through the branches. As the melodies of song birds begin weaving through the trees, we are reminded how harsh the environment we had been in was. So much so, almost everything that lives on the mountain avoids it.
The trail zig zags back down below the mists, and we hear the rushing of the river again. As the giant bamboo starts appearing in the heathers, we arrive at Samalira Camp, which provides vast views over the jungles below, all the way out to the haze of farmlands beyond the park boundaries. The sun warms the air and the ground, and we lay out everything we have on grass, logs, and tree branches, drying our clothing for the first time in days.
Butterflies and painted beetles flutter around our clothing, and we amble down to a little stream and wash ourselves in the pure glacial water. The cold helps the swelling of my feet, and I clean puss, mud and blood from their wounds. My hands are calloused from gripping my walking stick and my body feels hardened and taut, but the stream is soothing, and washes away the harshness of the mountains.
Chameleons slowly meander out on branches doing small little push-ups as they walk, and revolving their eyes around like turret guns watching for prey and raptors from above. As the sun goes down we hear communities of chimpanzees far below in the forest calling to each other, and see the lights in the town of Kasese turn on, and we know the urban comforts we left behind for the beauty of the mountains are now not far away.