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Africa, Uganda, Rwenzori Range, Traverse, Various Ascents, and New Peaks

Rwenzori Range, traverse, various ascents, and new peaks. From January 31 to February 12, Cam Burns, Charlie French, 12 porters, one ranger, and I traversed the central portion of the Rwenzori range, from Roccati Pass south to Kilembe. The traverse included ascents of Mounts Speke (16,042'), Stanley (16,763'), and Baker (15,889'), as well as an ascent of Keki (13,760') in the Nyamugasani Valley and two previously unclimbed peaks (13,400' and 13,440’) in the Kamusongi Valley.

Leaving Nyakalengija on January 31, we hiked four days up the Bujuku and Mugusu rivers to the northeast side of Mount Speke, making camps at Bigo Hut, Skull Cave (named for human contents), and on Speke’s “upper eastside.” On February 4 Cam, Charlie, Josiah Makwano, Peter Babughagle, and I traversed Speke from the northeast to the southwest, by way of the Vittorio Emanuele summit. We intended to ascend the Vittorio Emanuele Glacier; to our surprise the glacier was gone. The slope that once held the glacier was bare rock. We hiked this slope toward the ridge connecting the Ensonga and Vittorio summits. We needed crampons and ice tools just beneath the ridge. On the crest we scrambled south through dense mist to the Vittorio summit, encountering some technical climbing. We descended Speke’s southwest ridge.

On February 6 and 8, respectively, we made ascents of the Margherita and Edward summits of Stanley and Baker.

On February 9 we bushwhacked south around the east side of Kitandara Lake. East of the Butawu River the vegetation opened up in a large burn area (the result of a Ugandan Army skirmish with rebels). Skirting Weismann Peak’s west ridge, we climbed a steep slope into the Kachope Valley, camping at Kachope rock shelter. The porters enjoyed reading the graffiti in this shelter, as the signatures were those of “very old men” they knew back in the village.

From Kachope we crossed Bamwanjara Pass (14,600') to the Batoda Valley. After descending halfway to Lake Batoda, we headed east over a low pass to the Nyamugasani valley. Here we surveyed our approach to the Kamusongi River valley and identified a peak called Keki (cake in English), which was named by Humphreys (1933) because of the impression the peak left on his hungry expedition. Osmaston and Pasteur described Keki as “steep sided and maybe difficult to climb. No ascent has been recorded.” While the porters went to set up camp at Bigata rock shelter, Cam, Charlie, Fred Bosco, Peter, and I headed to the mountain. Keki’s northwest face is an uninviting cliff, its west side steep vegetation. After dumping our packs north of the summit, our team broke ranks, with each person aiming for what he thought was the best route to the top. After 30 minutes of climbing we coalesced just beneath the summit, sweaty and scratched. We noted Keki’s elevation and coordinates, and found a cairn beneath some moss. Keki had obviously been climbed in the past, probably from the east, which is the side we descended. After traversing the peak we circled back to our packs to find our porters. They had been unable to locate Bigata rock shelter. Following a short discussion we descended the Kamusongi Valley to Mutinda rock shelter and camp.

On February 11, Cam, Charlie, Peter, Fred, and I cut through steep jungle to a col between two rocky spires south of Mutinda. From here we climbed a three-pitch lower-fifth- class route to the summit, sometimes via vegetation and sometimes beautiful rock. We marked the summit with a cairn, noting elevation and location: 13,400'; N 0° 16' 37.2", E 29° 55' 3.6". Later that day Cam, Charlie, and Fred soloed another slightly higher peak farther southeast. As it was one of Cam’s daughters’ birthday, we dubbed the peaks Zoe’s Needle (the lower summit) and Mollies Tower (higher).

Benny Bach