Mount Elgon is a prime trekking mountain in East Africa. Elgon is a huge volcano with the largest crater of the major peaks in Africa. The caldera is one of the world's largest.
It name derives from it's Massai name of "Ol Doinyo Ilgoon" which translates to "Breast Mountain" and was also known as "Masaba" on the Ugandan side.
Mount Elgon is my favorite peak in Africa. It is less crowded than Kilimanjaro, just as spectacular, and since there are less people on the slopes, you have a much greater chance of spotting wildlife. There are several waterfalls on the slopes, and there are even hot springs to soak in inside the crater! Climbing the mountain is an experience not soon forgotten.
Mount Elgon consists of five major peaks:
Wagagai (4,321 meters); Uganda.
Sudek (4,302 meters); Kenya/Uganda border
Koitobos (4,222 meters); Kenya
Mubiyi (4,211 meters); Uganda
Masaba (4,161 meters); Uganda
Our film was lost on our Africa trip. Please post any photographs you may have! See the links in the Links Section for more photos of Mount Elgon.
The peak can be climbed from the Uganda or Kenya sides, but as of late, the best route is from Uganda, even though it is a longer walk. I know only the Uganda side of the mountain, and thus this will be the side mostly described.
Mount Elgon via Uganda
To get to the trailhead, make your way by bus to Tororo and then Mbale. From Mbale catch a "matatu" (mini-bus) to Budadiri. This is the trailhead. There are hotels is Mbale and one in Budadiri. You must arrange everything for the climb (permits, porters, and a guide) in the national park service station in Budadiri.
Mount Elgon via Kenya
To get to the trailhead, make your way by bus to Eldoret and then to Kitale via "matatu" (mini-bus). From Kitale, a limited number of matatus go to Mount Elgon National Park. You are apparently not permitted to walk the roads with in the park, so you may have to hire a driver at the park entrance to take you closer to the mountain.
The Sasa River Route, on the Uganda side, is the route we took and may be the best route up the mountain.
Attractions along the route include a good chance of seeing Colobus and Blue Monkeys, as well as other wildlife, and side trips to waterfalls, hot springs, the crater floor and other summits.
Because of all the wonderful side trips available, five to six days is recommended.
The Pisawa Route is one other route commonly used from the Uganda side and from the north and from Kapwata. It is said to be longer and less steep than the Sasa River Route.
Round trip distance is 49 kms and seven days is recommended.
The Sipi Route is a new route that has been constructed from Sipi Falls. This would make a fine loop with the Sasa River Route.
Round trip distance is 56 kms and four to six days is recommended.
The Suam Trail is another less used road that is slowly gaining in popularity.
There are three commonly-used routes on the Kenya side. One is through the Mount Elgon National Park and you must have a 4wd (walking along the road is not permitted). A second route is from Kitale, Endebess, and Masara. A third route is via Kimilili and is said to be the best route from the Kenya side. Note that the highest summit is completely on the Uganda side and you may be told not to cross the border. Unfortunately, a full traverse of the mountain is not allowed at this time.
You must pay a park fee and get a permit, but this is much more reasonably priced than say, Killimanjaro.
Park fees on the Uganda side in 1997 were $7 per day per person in 1997. Porters and guides were not required in 1997, but were encouraged. In Dec. 1997 guides were $8 per day and porters were $7 per day. We found it was worth the money to have a guide and porter.
As of 2005, using guides became mandatory. Current information from 2012 states that the fee is $90 a day including guides and all park fees. As of 2012, camping fees are 15,000 Uganda shillings which is equal to close to $6 a night. Porters are also 15,000 Uganda shillings per day.
If anyone has more current information, please post current prices.
I haven't been able to find the prices for the Kenyan side of the mountain, so if anyone has current information, please post.
The climb can be completed in 3 long or 4 shorter days. Five days or more are recommended in order to visit the hot springs and crater, in addition to the summit.
There are two dry seasons. One is mid-December through March, and the other one is June and July. Trekking during the dry season is highly recommended.
You can camp near Budadiri, but the hotel is cheap, so I would stay there. The normal campsites on the mountain are Sasa River and Mude Cave camps. No camping is allowed in the crater. There are no usable huts on the mountain at this time.
The weather is wet very often, even in the dry season. No accurate weather forecast are available for the area, other than it will be drier in the dry season, and wetter in the wet season.
I have been unable to find a weather link.
Sipi Falls, not far from the Budadiri area, is one of the most beautiful areas in the world (though was being deforested in places on our visit. Don’t miss it! At least five spectacular waterfalls spill off the cliffs here ranging in height from 70-200 meters (230-670 feet) high.
Mount Elgon has many caves as well, and much wildlife. The area is famous for the elephants that come to the caves to lick salt.