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Mount Karisimbi

Mount Karisimbi

Mount Karisimbi

Mount Karisimbi is the highest of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains. It is a huge dome, now dormant, that dominates the range, more in girth than in height. Its name in Kinyaruanda means white shell, which refers to its often white-capped summit. Interestingly, this cap results not from snow but from hail and sleet which accumulate in the higher elevations from its frequent storms. It is located within the Parc National Des Volcans, and many of the volcanoes are connected by good trails.

The going is quite steep and good navigation is required not only through the lower slopes, but also on the mountain itself. It consists of secondary jungle and in the most gives an aerie appearance. It is close the the jungle HQ of Dianne Fossey the renowned gorilla expert.

The ascent of Karisimbi (at 4,507m the sixth-highest mountain in Africa, after Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Ruwenzori, Mount Meru (Tanzania) and Ras Dashen in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains) is a two-day excursion; ORTPN will provide guides but trekkers should have suitable clothing and equipment. This activity needs to be arranged at least 2 days in advance. Cost is $400 and includes the guide but you may need to pay an extra $10 for tent hire.

The drive from the park office to the trailhead is 16 km and takes about 30 minutes to the car park where the road ends. Here you shall meet your porters (who you hire at Rfr5,000 per day and this’ not included in the cost). The climbing starts from about 2,600m ASL.

At about 2,067m ASL, you reach close to the Dian Fossey tomb and gorilla graveyards (but visiting would require you pay an extra fee). Your will then traverse different vegetation zones: bamboo and wild celery on the lower slopes, ideal food for gorillas. Then hagenia forest, with old man’s beard moss on the branches. Then above 3,000m, the marvelous giand groundsel and giant lobelia. Your first camp is at 3,700, a similar altitude to Bisoke, clearly visible behind the camp.

The next day you wake as early as 5:30AM for your breakfast and early departure. The trail gets steeper, much as the fog closes in and ground gets muddy. The terrain gets more tougher here. At about 4,000m, you are above the tree line, the slopes become more exposed and here you need to wear your gloves and hat. After about 2 hours ascent, you start on you last hundreds meters of climbing, walking on volcanic scree (more like grey gravel but not loose). The wind starts getting harder and visibility drops to 25m. Suddenly, you realize you cannot climb the anymore – you are at the summit! The Congolese border is just within a few feet from here. The descent back to the car park takes about 6 hours (including breaks at the camp and the others).

Other Vital Facts:
Volcanic status:   Dormant
Year first climbed: 1903
Latitude: -1.5
Longitude: 29.45
Difficulty: Scramble
Elevation (feet): 14787
Elevation (meters): 4507

Best time for hiking mount Karisimbi Volcano in Rwanda

Hiking Mount Karisimbi is done throughout the year. The dry seasons are the best seasons because there is less rainfall and more sunshine. The dry season happens in the month of June, July and August and starts again December, January and February. Dry season is the best time to hike Mountain Karisimbi because the trails are dry making the hiking easier. The wet / rainy season happens in the months of March, April, May and September, October and November and during these months there is a lot of rainfall which makes the trails muddy and hiking difficult. However the scenery is best during the rainy season and can turn out to be the best hiking time for those that are ready for the challenge of a difficult hike.

What To Pack For Mount Karisimbi Hike

The Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks usually provides guides to help you climb different trails but trekkers are advised to come with:-

Good hiking shoes, a sweater/warm clothing, a waterproof heavy jacket, a hat and walking stick

Packed food for the overnight stay before reaching the summit
A tent for camping overnight
A sleeping bag
Porters to help carry your backpack, tents, cameras and other equipment

Hiking Permits For Mount Karisimbi 

Hiking permits for Karisimbi are usually obtained from the park headquarters. Yes is very possible to obtain the permit on the day of the hike however we strongly encourage hikers to book in advance just to make sure they are expecting you. The cost of hiking Mount Karisimbi is 400USD per person. Africa Adventure Vacations is always ready to organize  the entire tour by providing transportation, booking accommodation and securing mount Karisimbi hiking permits. Our team of experienced office staff and field guides are always available to help you plan an adventurous hike up to the summit of this beautiful volcano. We highly recommend hiking the top of this volcano and gorilla trekking to guests who are physically fit.