Ascent of Volcan Karisimbi in 2010

Climber: Morgan Batt

Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Volcan Karisimbi
    Location:Rwanda/Congo DRC
    Elevation:4518 m / 14826 ft

Ascent Trip Report

Mountains in the mist

What do a vet, a doctor, a mountain guide, a soldier, a farmer, a politician, and a merchant all have in common? They all play for a Rwandan soccer team named scroteam. And more thing that are all in year 12 school, but their dreams of adult life jobs and playing soccer for Rwanda one day are very real. They are an amazing group of young men who come from a small village of Kinigi in the north of Rwanda. Under the looming presence of 7 volcanoes. Mount Karisimbi being the tallest in all Rwanda. Hence, my presence that day in Rwanda when one of the boys invited me to play soccer with them in the middle of an Irish potato filed with a plastic rubbish bag soccer ball. The area is awash with daises swaying their pyrethrum into the air. Two old ladies greet each other on the road. Dressed in yellow sari type clothing they look like rag dolls but they gently touch right hands as they pass obviously good friends – I wonder what their story is.

Rwanda has a tragic recent story of genocide. The want to be doctor soccer team player Peter told me his father was killed in the 1994 genocide where nearly one million Rwandans were killed by rebels. The other boys acknowledge the killings but don’t linger in the past. Rwanda is a country where they have embraced the present and are steaming ahead in modern effie=cent ways. Hardly anyone drives a car and the modern raodspacked with daily ambulations of hope. Filled people with a past that has taught them to be suriviors. Rwanda has the highest population density of Africa.

The soccer boys impressed me so much with their hunger for the future that I asked them what I could do for them, maybe a new soccer ball. I wanted to be part of their lives there and then. But they all agreed that they wanted a Rwandan English French dictionary for their school. 15000 francs worth. I was gob smacked. I agreed in a flash and we went into town to buy the book. I hope they make their dreams of being professionals and famous soccer players and go on to rebuild this amazing mountain nation land locked in the middle of Africa.

I turned to walk home and finally saw Karisimbi peak in the setting sun. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day.
I met Edward my mountain guide at the Parkqu de Volcano Head Quarters at 0900. We headed off to the base of the mountain. Edward is a very tall Rwandan. His life began in a Ugandan Reguee camp until he could return with his mother and sisters back to their home land. Even though he was born in Uganda he believes he is still a Rwnadan. From the daisy fields of the laocl village we walk u to the 76 mile volacanic rock fence to meet a Section of Army soldiers who were to accompany us on the climb just to be sure the Congalise rebels, poachers or land mines are all kept at a safe distance. Remember Ed says don’t wander off the path too much or boom. This area is also a sanctuary home to the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. This trek we were on also passes the palce and tomb of Diane Fossay whose grave we pass. She was killed in 1985 by rebels while studing these gorillas in the midst.
Again the mud track was boot sucking. The swamps almost impenetrable. The quick stepping light jumping ankle turing steps look almost like an elephant ballet. So ballet stepping we gently climb the slopes of Rwanda’s highest peak. The army soldiers walked ahead and behind with AK47s and 66mm rockets followed by our porters, john and Theo, then Ed, then me and then the SGT and the rest of the soldiers behind.
The scenery is stunning and the golden monkeys madrigal in their chatter.
It started to rain. On goes the red cortex, head down, mud sloshing I determinedly carry on. We reach the hut at 3pm at 3621m. A great open shelter. Ed asks if I want to continue and summit today. YES. So we drop packs and trudge up.
The ‘commando forest’ section would test the skills of a contorted acrobat as we step over, under, through and around thousands of twisted branches of Judas trees, pines, lobelias and other assorted riotous jungle seeping in mud. How do you get mud on a 50 degree slope? We pass through the jungle and onto wet alpine moor land and up into slippery ice slopes. We summit at 5.32pm. I look like a gorilla in the midst. Mud covered black starchy ground near te communication towers of Mt Karisimbi. A few photos and mass we descend about 6pm. One and a half hours later we reach the hut pitch black and raining still. One does not so much descend the mountain as become with it and slide down. I strip naked, dump the wet boot sand clothes beside the tent, and climb into my sleeping bag and sleep.
Breakfast was amazing. I sat around a camp fire with the army boys chatting and learning Kinyarwnda, and drinking milk from plastic bags heated on the coals. The sun is peaking through the mist and I am happily eating potatoes roasted in the fire. We down tents and leave at 7am..
The mud is even worse than yesterday after the rain. We arrive back at the village at 10am. Dasies, ubicquous yellow plastic cartons, a church singing. We head back to the National park HQ and onto showers at the Kingi Guest house. Showers are hopeless but at least it was hot. Mud scrubbing takes up the rest of the day reading while clothes dry.
The story could finish there but I want to share with you an experience in the Rwandan Capital Kigali. As taxis are more expensive I decided to get a ride to the Post Office with the motor cycle taxis – very cheap but scary. I walked out onto the street and start asking who would take me after negotiating I guy takes me to the Post Office. Down hill up hill swaying with the no rule traffic we head in to the heart of Kigali city and the Post Offcie.l But all there was was a hole in the ground. I asked again where is the Post Office and he says there pointing to the constructions site. Another man steps forward asking what was happening. As I explain that I wanted to go to post some letter and he has brought me to a hole in the ground. A crowd is now gathering listening to the excitement. We all soon realize that this area use to be the Post Office but the office was moved to another part of the city until the new one is built and that all said I wanted the psot office and here it is. It was a typical miscommunication. So 500 francs later more taxi swaying and I arrive at the operating post office. I decided to walk home . Rwanda is an amazing sybaritic place of destruction, hope, dreams, volcanoes and young men with soccer ambitions. Mhulacosi Rwanda. Thank you.
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