Mount Karisimbi hiking

Mount Karisimbi hiking : Mount Karisimbi is the highest of the volcanoes among the Virunga Mountains. The Virunga Mountains are a chain of raptured mountains bordering Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These mountain ranges are a branch of the Albertine Rift Valley which border the western branch of the East African Rift located between Lake Kivu and Lake Edward. The Virunga mountain rangers consist of eight including Mount Karisimbi which is the highest at 4,507 metres followed by Mount Mikeno at 4,437 metres, Mount Muhabura at 4,127 metres, Mount Bisoke at 3,711 metres, Mount Sabinyo at 3,671, Mount Gahinga at 3,470 metres, Mount Nyiragongo at 3,462 and finally Mount Nyamurangira at 3,058 metres. 2 of these volcanoes Mount Karisinbi and Mount Bisoke are found in Rwanda, Mount Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabinyo are found in Uganda while Mount Nyiragongo, Mikeno, and Nyamurangira are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Seven of these Volcanoes became dormant and only Mount Nyirangogo that remains active till date. Mount Karisimbi is the highest of all and Mount Sabinyo is the oldest mountain with a height of about 11,923 feet above sea level.

Mount Karisimbi is situated in Volcanoes national park, Rwanda’s most rewarding national park where to only find the Mountain gorillas. The mountain is on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and is surrounded by the rest of the Volcano Mountains. Mount Karisimbi derives its name from a Kinyarwanda word “Amasimbi” that means “White Shell”, a snow-like feature at the summit that covers the top during the dry season. Mount Karisimbi has a Brance caldera and two crater lakes at the summit.

Hiking Karisimbi Mountain

Climbing Mount Karisimbi is one of the strenuous hikes in Africa but very adventurous. The hike involves crossing from the Bisoke side through thick jungle, steep slopes, and muddy trails to the top of the mountain containing fascinating volcanic features, dense forests and vegetation for about 6 hours before reaching the first stop at an altitude of about 3,700 metres where you will camp overnight before your each to the top of the summit in the next day. Given the location of the mountain in Volcanoes national park, the hike to the summit offers great views of different bird species and primates like the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys which inhabit in this montane rainforest and the trail to the top passes close to the Dian Fossey grave yard. The peak also has exotic plants in four belts of vegetation from the dense forest at the base to the barren volcanic core at the summit.

Hiking to and fro Mount Karisimbi takes 2 days to reach the summit and climbing the mountain starts at the park headquarters of the Volcanoes national park called Kinigi at 7 am with a briefing from the park officials where you will be register and get guidelines to follow when hiking. After the briefing, hikers will drive to the starting point AT Bisoke hike along with their hiking gears and escorted by the ranger guides and porters.  Climbing to the summit takes approximately 7 -8 hours with a midway stop for lunch. Hike to about 3,700 metres for an overnight. On the next day morning, hikers start ascending to the summit for one hour. At this level the hike is steeper and quite difficult to hike through the thick, strong winds and fogs with less reflection. While at the summit, the scenery is beautiful with great views of the Nyamulagira, Nyiragongo volcanoes in Congo and Muhabura Mountain in Uganda. After an incredible moment at the top, descend back to the starting point. This takes about 5 to 6 hours to reach.

Hiking to Mount Karisimbi requires a permit and this permit costs $400 per person. Hiking permit must be booked in advance before you start the hike from the Rwanda Development Board, a body that governs the Rwanda tourism activities. Once a permit has been bought, there is no refund for cancellation so hikers must be well prepared to hike without thoughts of cancellations. This permit fees, exclude transport and accommodation fees for the trip and must be catered separately.

When to Visit Mount Karisimbi; Hikers interested in climbing Mount Karisimbi, it is best advised to visit during the dry months of the year although visits throughout the year are accepted. Given the fact that the mount is steep and slippery, it is a more reason to hike the mountain during the drier months of January, February, July, August and December as compared to the wet periods as it is equally impossible to hike to the top. These include the months of March, April, May, October and November.

Packing list for Mount Karisimbi hiking;

To hike mount Karisimbi, hikers must be well prepared because you need to be physically fit and in good health to be able to climb through the seep and slippery slopes to the summit. Practise days before you start the hike because the hike is really difficult, so keeping fit is very important. Hiking Mount Karisimbi also requires hikers to prepare mentally for the high altitude conditions which are difficult and slowing to continue. Thus more reason all hikers must hire porters to help in carrying your luggage, tents and other hiking items at an extra cost of about $20.

Below are some of the packing list for Mount Karisimbi hike including;

  • Very good hiking shoes/boots with long stocking for tacking in the pants you will be wearing. This helps to prevent insects from crawling inside your body. It’s advised to have more than 1 pair of shoes and more clothing.
  • Ensure you carry warm clothing which including long trousers, shirts, sweater, waterproof jackets, good gardening Glovers, and good hats.
  • Pack your warm beddings and a sleeping bag and if you wish, carry your own tent to avoid extra costs of hiring a camping tent from the park.
  • Given that hikers sleep overnight, meals will be required to be pack. Carry your snacks however; you can hire a cooking team from the park headquarters who will help in cooking your meals during the hike at an extra cost.
  • A walking stick is also an important tool that will help in supporting you during the hike.
  • Porters are not supposed to miss on your hike. These young people are familiar with the hike and are available to help in carrying your pack bag containing a camping tents and beddings, camera and binoculars.
  • Insect repellents are also recommended to help with the insect bites.

In conclusion, mount Karisimbi is one of the challenging mountains to hike in Africa and if not well prepared both physically and mentally, you will not be able to reach the summit. Visitors to interested in hiking Mount Karisimbi can blend the experience with gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park to make the experience more interesting and adventurous


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