News Archive (Added 06/09/00!)
The Wall of Death
Report By: Matthew Hurst - Masindi Unit (Hampshire)
When I was first told that there was a chance to climb Mt. Elgon while in Uganda, I was in two minds about accepting. After all, it was a little higher than anything I had ever previously climbed in the U.K. In the end however, I think it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
On the first day, we left Jinja and travelled to Mbale where we signed several guest-books, and then visited a school for a reception. We spent the rest of the day travelling to the guest house where we ate a delicious evening meal in the dark (another power failure). We spent the night in a lizard infested room, and were woken early next morning to pack our kit in readiness for the porters.
The first morning on the mountain was fairly easygoing, travelling through the lowlands and admiring Uganda’s lush vegetation. At one o-clock, as if on cue, it started to rain and we stopped in a wooden hut for lunch. Crumbling bread and cheese spread or jam were going to be our staple diet for the forthcoming four days. After lunch we trekked on through the rain, up the appropriately named wall of death, and on to the Sasa River camp.
We pitched our tents in the rain as best we could, and boiled up our Wayfarer meals before snuggling exhausted into our sleeping bags for a good nights sleep.
The next morning we once again woke bright and early to climb up to the Mude Cave camp before lunch. This was a hard slog, with many of us suffering from altitude sickness already. We did however all make it to the camp on time, and had the tents pitched before the one o-clock showers. After lunch we had the option of visiting the waterfalls, or staying at camp, and knowing that we had to be up at 2:30 the next morning I chose the later. Dinner that night was similar to that of the day before, and afterwards we wormed into our warm sleeping bags to bear the fairly cold night ahead.
Climbing over 1K in the early hours, on nothing but a mug of soup, is not something I would advise, but I did it all the same, and live to tell the tale. If the first few miles were described as hell, especially on the head which beat constantly in rhythmic thumping patterns, there is not a word in the English language to describe the endless rolling terrain that followed. Flat plain after flat plain saw the peak get no nearer. Eventually however, after 5 hours of mind over matter, the tip of the mountain was in view. From there on morale was high, and we all made it easily to the top.
Never in my life have I felt such achievement as I did when I stepped onto the highest rock and stood poised with the Union Flag, for a quick photo. With this small ceremony repeated for each person, we set of back down the mountain, eager to get to an altitude where we would be able to think straight and breath easily.
We arrived back at the Mude Cave camp in time for lunch and then set of down the mountain to the Sasa River camp. That night we ate what was probably our best mountain meal, and it was well deserved. We stayed up long into the night, singing and dancing round the camp fire with the porters. Will even took an active part in the circumcision dance!
The next morning was to be our last on the mountain and we were woken early to the news that the ladder scaling the wall of death had collapsed. The porters were to leave early to repair the ladder. We packed our kit, handed our bags to the porters, and then set of behind them at a leisurely pace. We arrived at the wall of death to find the ladder had already been repaired. We were dubious about going down it, but the Soroti group had already made it safely and so we risked it.
Having survived the wall of death, we made our way, half walking, half scrambling down to the guest house where we had stayed the night before.
All in all I would say it was a fantastic experience, with some breath taking views and a comfortable challenge. I would really recommend as a must to any enthusiastic walker visiting Uganda.
Uganda 2000 is not over yet. In November Alan Beavis, Network Co-ordinator and David McKee (HQ) will visit Uganda to help the Network plan for the future. You can be part of those plans by attending the next Network Meeting
Photographs and reports of Uganda 2000 will continue to be posted onto the site in the coming weeks.