Margherita Peak via Margherita Glacier

Page Type
Uganda, Africa
Route Type:
Time Required:
Half a day
Rock Difficulty:
5.2 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 2 Votes

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Margherita Peak via Margherita Glacier
Created On: Aug 4, 2006
Last Edited On: Dec 30, 2010


As of May 4, 2010, it was reported that the standard route on Margharita Peak is closed because a large crevasse opened up blocking the route. Thank you to Alpinist for posting this info! Check out the source here. I believe that a new way to the summit has been worked out as of the fall of 2010, and will get more firm info here when possible.
Nearing the Summit of Mt. StanleyAscending the final portion of the Margherita Glacier above the col between Margherita Peak and Alexandra Peak. The route cuts back to the climber's right shortly.
This has become the traditional route on Margherita Peak of Mt. Stanley, and is an enjoyable ascent that combines many of the best aspects of a peak ascent in the Rwenzori including climbing smooth slabs to access the Standley Plateau, a crossing of Africa's largest single ice sheet, an ascent of the heavily crevassed Margherita Glacier with its many formations of rime, and a nice final rock scramble to the summit of the third highest mountain in Africa. If you are lucky, the mists will be swirling about you and fantastic shapes of rock and rime will waft in and out of view as you make your way towards the summit. If you are even luckier, the weather will be clear and you will get views across to Mt. Speke, Mt. Baker and into the jungles of the Congo.

The route as it is presently climbed contains portions of earlier routes. The route up to the Stanley Plateau as well as the topmost part of the climb from the saddle between Margherita Peak and Alexandra Peak, was completed by the Duke of Abruzzi, J. Petigax, C. Ollier, and J. Brocherel in 1906. Click here for a link showing Sella's pictures. The second picture down shows the saddle between Margherita and Alexandra. The last photo shows Margherita as the further away partially obscured summit. Much of the route on the Margherita Glacier was first climbed by G. Noel Humphreys, E.H. Armitage, R.T. Wickham and G. Oliver in 1926.

Getting There

I am assuming that the ascent will be made from the Elena Hut. Refer to the general page on Mt. Stanley for getting to there. It is also possible to approach this climb from the "Moraine Hut" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). (I haven't provided information about reaching this hut because of the ongoing political unease in the DRC.) However, if you do find yourself approaching from the Moraine Hut, ascend possibly steep slabs to the south-east until you gain the West Stanley Glacier. Ascend this to the east until the Stanley Plateau is reached. The Osmaston and Pasteur guide (1972)says that once you are on the glacier, "Keep to the right (South) close to the rock buttress on the South side overlooking Lac Gris, to avoid crevasses in the middle of the glacier. The glacier is steep and much may be bare ice. A course almost due East leads to the N.W. foot of Moebius." I do not know how accurate this information is given the ongoing recession of this glacier. The first ascent of this line was made by J.J. David in 1904.

For people starting at the Elena Hut in Uganda, walk to the south from the hut, past the outhouse, to a small pond. From here, several different routes can be followed to the Stanley Plateau. One possibility is to climb directly up cracks and gullies to the west that pass through a line of steep rock to more moderate slopes above. Continue to the west on broken talus until reaching the Stanley Plateau. A second option is to continue to the south from the small pond in the direction of the steep cliffs of Kitasamba and the Coronation Glacier for about 50 or 100 meters where it is again possible to turn west and ascend slabs in the direction of the fabled glaciers of the Rwenzori. Once at the glacier, climb steep snow or ice to reach more gradual slopes beyond. Eventually, you may pass an outcropping of rocks on the left then walk out to the north-west onto the Stanley Plateau.

Route Description

On the Stanley PlateauClimber on the Stanley Plateau. The route proceeds down in a line from the photographer reaching a gully giving access to the Margherita Glacier seen beyond the climber's head.
Descent to Margherita GlacierThe descent Gully leading down to the Margherita Glacier from the Stanley Plateau.
When you look to the northwest from the Stanley Plateau it is very likely that you will only see fog. However, if you do catch a glimpse of the peaks in front of you, the nearer one on the left is Alexandra Peak, and the farther away one to the right is Magherita. In the past twenty years, the snow on the South Face and South-East Ridge of Alexandra has melted away so that it is largely a rock peak with only bits of ice and rime clinging to the north side of the ridge (and possibly a thin coating of fresh snow). Near the bottom extent of the S.E. Ridge, there is a large rock buttress that extends down and out of sight behind the snows of the Stanley Plateau. In the link is directly behind the bright red cap. Walk horizontally along the Plateau in the direction of this buttress, eventually beginning a gradual descent. As the buttress is approached, leave the ice and climb down a steep scree filled gully to the north (a slight right turn) for about seventy meters to the Margherita Glacier below. In doing this you will be passing just to the east of the toe of the large buttress forming the base of Alexandra's S.E. Ridge. The bottom photo on this link shows a climber just entering onto the Margherita Glacier with Margherita Peak in front and to the right of the climber beyond the ice and the bottom of the buttress of Alexandra on the left. As of 2010, it appears as if it is necessary to climb a short section of rock (maybe including an attached ladder) to get from the gully, up to the current lower edge of the ice. There are some photos in the Bjørstad article noted in the external links. If this is the case, there has been dramatic melting in the past 6 years since I was there! From the base of the Margherita glacier climb up the ice between the steep rock cliffs of Alexandra Peak on the left and Margherita Peak on the right. Sections of this glacier are quite steep with large crevasses often overlain with a thin coating of snow. In other places, strange rime and ice formations may rise up intriguingly out of the glacier. Continue up to the snowy ridge between Alexandra and Margherita Peaks. There may be crevasses extending completely across the glacier just below the ridge. From the ridge, turn right, and climb steep snow up towards the rock. Once close to the cliff, traverse to the east (right) to a place with vertical but broken rock that provides access to the East Ridge of Margherita. As of 2010, this section of the climb has a ladder leading through the vertical rock to the ridgeline. There is a photo at this link of the final rock wall but it is hard to see much detail. From here, scramble back to the West to the Summit of the Rwenzori. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is on the West of the sign, Uganda on the East.

Descend the same way that you came with a possible rappel to regain the Margherita glacier.

Essential Gear

In reaching the Elena hut you obviously should be bringing whatever standard backpacking gear that you prefer. The guides and porters and many of the tourists prefer Wellingtons to hiking boots in passing through the thick mud. Additionally, these boots friction much better than mountaineering boots on wet mossy slabs.

The weather tends to be raw and damp but not unbearably cold. It is good to have mittens and a warm hat, and whatever clothes you prefer for hiking in foggy 0 degrees Celsius weather with intermittent sleet/rain/snow.

For the climb:
ice axe
sun glasses
prusiks or some sort of ascenders for crevasses
possibly a snow picket or two largely for crevasse rescue

Since this is a UN Heritage Site, almost all ascents include a guide from the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services. The standard routes may have fixed ropes in places. The guide that I had did not have any climbing gear such as stoppers or cams, and just held the rock behind flakes to belay but without the guide, I would bring a couple small/medium sized cams for the rock pitch just below the summit. (I seem to remember that this would have worked but that was a couple years ago so I don't exactly remember. If someone else recalls what protection would work here please add a comment). The hardest moves are those just getting off of the glacier then the climbing becomes a scramble.

External Links

To learn about the history of the first ascents, read:
Fillipo de Fillipi Ruwemzori, an account of the expedition of H.R.H. Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, The Duke of Abruzzi, Archibald Constable, Dutton, 1908.

There is a recent (2010) trip report on climbing Mt. Standley by Petter Bjørstad here. It includes a few clear photos of the range including Mts. Emin, Speke, and Gessi. It also shows current pictures of the route above the Elena Hut. A route description to the summit with links to lots of pictures can be found here.

An excellent but outdated climbing guide (most of the glaciers have melted):
H.A. Osmaston and D. Pasteur, Guide to the Ruwenzori: The Mountains of the Moon, Mountain Club of Uganda and West Col Productions, U.K. 1972.

Both of these books are at the American Alpine Club Library in Golden Colorado

I would highly recommend bringing:
Andrew Wielochowski, Ruwenzori Map and Guide, West Col, 1989.

A good book with more recent photos is:
David Pluth, Uganda Rwenzori A Range of Images, Little Wolf Press, 1996. The dramatic picture on page 41 labeled as Mt. Speke is actually Mt. Stanley with the Stanley Plateau and the SE Ridge of Alexandra prominent. Margherita Glacier is the rightmost blob of white.

The group responsible for peak ascents:
Rwenzori Mountaineering Services
PO Box 33 Kasese Uganda
Tel. 256-41 237497

In The Future

I hope to add a few more images to this page at some point in the future.