Mount Karisimbi is one of the 8 volcanoes that form the magnificent Virunga Massif, is the highest and sixth highest mountain among the 8 mountains that form the Virunga Massif and in the whole of Africa respectively, with an elevation of 14, 787 feet/4507meters above sea level. This is one of the natural wonders that Rwanda boasts about and is an attraction that everyone who visits Rwanda should try. This magnificent Volcano is situated on the borders of two countries that is Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. This Volcanic Mountain derived its name from a “Kinyarwanda” word “Amasimbi” which means “White shell” because of the snow capped summit of this mountain especially in the months of December to March and June to August, Surprisingly what you see as snow on the summit of this mountain is not snow but instead sleet and hails that accumulate from the storms during the mentioned months. On the Northern side of this mountain is the Mikeno volcano, the eastern side is Mount Bisoke and Mount Nyiragongo is situated on the west of Mount Karisimbi.
The spectacular chain of Virunga mountains in western Rwanda is home to Mount Karisimbi, a dormant volcano that towers over the surrounding lands at 4,507m tall. It is in fact the highest of the eight major mountains in the mountain range, and the fifth highest mountain in all of Africa. Its name may mean “little white shell” in Kinyarwanda thanks to its often white-capped summit, but spend the two days it takes to climb to Karisimbi’s sharp-peaked summit and you will realize there is nothing little about this volcano.
Starting from your base at Bisoke, you will begin the arduous two-day climb through dense rainforest up the sides of Karisimbi. Along the way you may witness emissions of smoke and steam from the volca-noes that flank its sides, including the deadly Mt. Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After trekking six hours on the first day, spend the night camping in a tent on the mountain at a breathtaking altitude of 3,700m, and witness an explosion of stars in the clear African skies. A further four-hour trek the second day will take you to the summit, where you can stop to take in the view of the volcanoes, the calm lakes, the dense forests and all the other majestic sights of the land. You will witness the diverse and striking landscape of Rwanda from the highest point in the country.
The climb up Karisimbi is a demanding one that will test your physical fitness, but the rewards are well worth it.The cost of a Karisimbi hiking permit (which includes a guide): $ 400/ person and $300/person when in a group.
The experience of climbing this mountain is strenuous but totally priceless and rewarding. Although it is very strenuous to climb, once you reach the summit you will feel like remaining there because of the spectacular view of the volcanoes and the refreshing air at the peak. The hike takes two days and starts at 7 am and is conducted for 6 hours.
Some of the interesting features you should expect when you climb mount Karisimbi include Muntango Summit-a crater pit found on the Southern side of the Mountain. There is another summit called Branca summit that is about 2 kms wide. This summit comprises of a number of explosion breccias, tuff and pumice which all spice up the attractiveness of the mountain and the visitor’s experience.
Best Time to Participate in the Mount Karisimbi Hike
The best time to hike the Karisimbi Volcano is usually the dry season from January to March and July to October. But due the fact that the Volcanoes is on a high altitude and located within a tropical rainforest, it is often hard to predict the weather and it can rain anytime. The rainy season is not preferred because the trails are always slippery and muddy during this season.
How the Hike is Conducted
As earlier mentioned, the hike usually takes 2 days and starts at 7am with briefing at the Kinigi Park headquarters. You will then be driven for about 40 minutes to the trail head (about 16 kms form the Park headquarters).The hike begins from an area of about 8530 feet/2700meters above sea level.
After 6 hours hiking while traversing the forest across different vegetation types/zones and encountering different attractions including mountain gorillas and the Dian Fossey grave, there will be overnight camping at 12,139 feet/3700 meters above sea level. You will put up your tents, prepare food and rest so that you proceed with the hike the following day.
The next day begins by getting up early and taking breakfast by 6am then continue hiking for the remaining distance to the summit. Much as it takes less time, it is more challenging because as you move higher, the steeper and more strenuous does it become. It is advisable that hikers go slowly on day two because at about 131,123 feet/4000meters, you will feel the effect of the high altitude.
The summit has a TV antenna that signals that you have now reached the long awaited destination of the journey. The cool breeze here and the magnificent views of the surrounding volcanoes make Mount Karisimbi worth climbing. You can even have a short picnic on this summit, take photographs then prepare to descend to the starting point. Descent takes about 6 hours and involves first descending to the Camp at 3700 meters then continue up to the trailhead.
In conclusion, climbing Mount Karisimbi is one of the strenuous yet rewarding hikes that tourists can engage in when they visit Rwandan for a gorilla trekking safari. Much is it is strenuous to climb, the spectacular views that tourists are rewarded wit when they climb this mountain makes them endure the pain for the sweet fruits. The process might be painful but the fruits are sweet and will make you forget about the pain.