Day 8 was the last day of the trek. It was primarily supposed to be descending with some “gentle rolling hills” in the middle. We left at around 8:30 am and it was supposed to be about a 6 hour hike out.
This hike was definitely easier than the day before, but it was still difficult. There was more than 2000 m of steep descent which reeked havoc on our knees.
We took a quick detour over to a couple of waterfalls, one right next to the camp, and the other a little further down called Cathy Falls which was named after Jon Hunwick’s (the owner and founder of the Rwenzori Trekking Company) wife.
Then there was about 600 m of climbing split into 2 very steep sections in the middle. We wore our gum boots the whole way and they rubbed the bottom of our feet and smashed our toes. I had blisters and swollen feet the next day and Jay had blackened and bloody toes.
But with all my experience from the day before, I was getting better at navigating the mud. And my boots weren’t getting stuck as much. I still did some dancing when I slipped on the trail, but it was much better than yesterday. I could tell which logs to step on, and which ones were more slippery. I was also able to descend the steep inclines without crawling on my butt. I retired my trusty walking stick that Henry had gotten for me and used an actual trekking poll that Jerome, one of the executive porters, so kindly gave to me to use.
We were so excited to see the metal bridge we had passed on the first day and were told that would be the way we would be returning.
After the metal bridge it was another 20 minutes to the rangers station on flat ground. Once we reached the rangers station, all the porters were waiting there with our bags. And we all walked out the 3.2 km back to the hostel where we started.
Overall, the trek was extremely challenging. The level of physical and technical skill it required to ascend and descent the mountain was very high and everyone in the group thought so. The Germans had done many mountaineering treks and by the end, Klous was limping along and Marina was done. Thomas has also done many difficult treks in his days and said that he had never done one this difficult. The mud, the snow, the ice, the rain, the steepness, the crampons, the ropes, the ascenders – every day presented a new challenge, but we made it through together.
I’d have to say the trek was as much of a mental challenge as a physical challenge as well. By day 3, you are exhausted and haven’t even reached the halfway point yet. Navigating the mud and terrain requires that every step be calculated and deliberate which can be exhausting. You are also constantly trying to reconcile the desire to get to the top with your energy level and knowing the next days will require just as much energy. I had to take each day one at a time. By the end of the day, I was sure I couldn’t do anymore, but then I’d wake up after a good rest and feel like I could go again. It was all about believing that you could keep going.
I also have to say that the difficulty of the trek is highly weather dependent. If it snows on the peak, the difficulty level skyrockets. If it rains and creates mud and the rivers swell, the difficulty level again skyrockets. We had beautiful weather the first 5 days and were very lucky. However, the 6th and 7th day, the snow and the rain took a toll. It seems like you could start the trek a different day and have a completely different experience.
I was proud to be able to complete what I did on the trek. I know Jay was sick a lot of the time, but I think he really enjoyed the challenge. It is an experience we’ll be talking about for a long time to come.