This was a difficult one for me. Somehow, I didn’t quite pay much attention to the words “advanced grade” that appeared on the Mountain Slayers Uganda poster that advertised the trip. After all, I had conquered Mount Wati and Wanale before, so Mount Sabinyo would just be another mountain added to that list. It didn’t quite pan out like that.
The great thing about any challenging experience though is that you learn a lot from it. You learn more than you would have had it been a breeze. Failure is the greatest teacher (in my mother’s words, “education is not cheap”) and even though I don’t quite consider it a failure to have not summited Mount Sabinyo, I do consider it a temporary defeat. And I learnt a lot.
1. Pack light
Boy or boy, I think one of my biggest drawbacks on this climb was that huge, stuffed backpack I had on my back. When I climbed Wati, I didn’t carry a day pack, just a camera and a large bottle of water. At the time, I thought I’d made a huge hiking blander not to have snacks, extra clothing, sunscreen, painkillers (you name it) but in hindsight, that was my greatest asset. I was light and I could move with ease.
This time around I had layers upon layers of clothing that I didn’t need. Just a few minutes into the hike I was tearing them away and stuffing them in my (already full) backpack and loosing time. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be prepared, by all means be prepared but keep it basic (don’t compromise on water). Better still, support the local community and hire a porter. That option was available and I am using it next time, for sure.
2. Enjoy the view
I am so glad that I “stopped to smell the roses” even though it may have cost me a summit (or three). Oh, I didn’t really tell you about the mountain (look at me, scattered and all). Well, Mount Sabinyo is an extinct volcano that stands at 3,654m above sea level and is located in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Kisoro district. The mountain is fondly referred to as “old man’s teeth” because of its jagged summits. The highest summit marks the intersection of the borders of DRC, Uganda and Rwanda. Pretty cool, right?
I didn’t get to any of the summits but I did enjoy the journey to the (almost) top. It was a steep climb with a defined trail. The terrain is rugged and starts off with a bamboo zone with large, tall masses of bamboo trees. As you ascend, strange gigantic trees with beard like leaves seem to sort of pop out of nowhere and swing in the clouds. It gets cooler and foggier as you climb. When you stop and look around, it resembles a scene from a fantasy movie. Peeping through the trees are breathtaking views of the mountain peaks and the land below. We could see both Uganda and Congo as we ascended. It was quite the experience for any nature lover.
I’ll let pictures do the rest of the talking for this one.
3. Don’t eat too much
Granted it was a long hike, the whole day actually. Because of this, we were provided a packed lunch and to top that off, I’d packed a load of snacks ranging from groundnuts, to biscuits, to sweets. Name it. Because I had so much food (and a heavy bag) I was tempted to eat along the way (even though I wasn’t really hungry). This slowed me down and somewhere around 3,000m ASL I developed what I later learnt was altitude sickness. My body didn’t adjust well to the change in air pressure (less oxygen supply) and nausea, dizziness and fatigue hit me like a tonne of bricks. I kept thinking I would throw up and yet I really wanted to keep going. It was an emotional one for me – the battle between mind and body. Eventually, body won and I slowly made my way back through the bamboo zone and back to camp. The food might have had something to do with it.
4. Stay positive
This is the most important one of them all. Climbing a mountain is no easy feat and I’ve learned that it’s more a mental challenge than a physical one. Surround yourself with enthusiasts (like the Mountain Slayers) and you will most likely make it to the top. Pack light, enjoy the view, eat light, listen to your body and a summit is only a matter of time. No matter what, think happy thoughts and if you don’t make it to the top, well, you could write a blog post like this one.
Have you climbed a mountain before? What was your experience like? What did you learn?
Do let me know in the comments below. Xx.