Ascent of Mount Cameroon in 2009
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||4040 m / 13255 ft|
Ascent Trip ReportWe were no more than 50m out of hut when the path forked. I yelled back to our guide who was finishing the packing before joining us, “which way”. “Up” was the response. After a few clarifications we took the right fork and up was all there was – 3000m of it over the next two days. I was trekking on Mount Cameroon, the highest peak in West Africa at 4095m. Historically Cameroon was and is an ethnically diverse place. The Portuguese explorers sailed up the Wouri River in 1472 and named it Rio dos Camarões (River of Prawns (Shrimp)) giving the country its name. Out of the diversity of the Cameroon history their flag tells the story – red for unity, green for hope and yellow for prosperity with the gold star of unity the most prominent. The country is spectacular and the prawns are large and tasty.
Our host for the trek is the Cameroon Ecotourism Organisation (firstname.lastname@example.org). They arranged all details from guides, porters, tents, park fees, huts and food. Although the company could do with a new set of business principals they are reasonable at what they arrange, and the local Bakweri people around Buea benefit from the jobs May I suggest you stay in Buea at the Parliamentary Flats Hotel – it’s only one star but it is clean and the food at their second floor ‘restaurant’ is good with great views.
The start to the track is at the Governor’s House in Buea where the taxi dropped me off with the guide. Taxies are a riotous affair for no sooner had we jumped out of the car when a man unceremoniously dumped a live pig into the boot of the taxi scaring the already jammed in female passengers.
The track is a winding goat path up past a military Base, the local prison, family farms and into the thick jungle canopy. We hiked up for 3 hours to hut 1. Just below the hut is a scraggy trickle stream, the only water on the mountain, where thousands of bush bees (harmless) congregate adding a certain hum to the place.
The hut was built 5 March 1968 and has more graffiti on it than a New York subway carriage. We meet two Russian trekkers who had taken 7 hours to reach the hut. They were sitting exhausted on the veranda drinking beer and smoking – they claimed the mountain was too tough. Their robust figures said other wise. Evan, another trekker, arrived and joined our group. Dinner was dried fish and rice cooked in tomato paste, onion, carrots and palm oil- excellent. Dessert was fresh fruit and chocolate - this was Christmas dinner. The two Russian trekkers decided to go down, wise move, and off they waddled.
Five-thirty morning rise. There was now no where to go after the forked path but up. It was not meandering or rambling but up. We passed through the jungle into forest and then into the steep savannah and then the beginnings of alpine peat. We slowly negotiated past 60 young Christian pilgrims coming down from their Christmas sunrise service. The by pass was a rather hilarious affair for a few moments with people slipping every where. Past the lonely tree of knowledge and up to hut 2 at 2800m. Drink water as it is hot. We then made it to hut 3 around 2pm. I timed the walk so that we gained 100m every twenty minutes. This rhythm kept me sane as it was tough going. Hut 3 was a very welcome sight and a good place to sit around acclimatising to the altitude. There were some local guys running down the mountain in training for the Mount Cameroon race – the best time for the race held every year is 4 hours 12 minutes up and back. Hut 3 is a simple broken place built about 1978, but at least it keeps the driving hounds of wind and cold at bay. We were at 3600m. Dinner was the same tomato, onion, and carrot sauce with dried chicken. Bed was 6pm with 12 hours light sleep. It wasn’t as cold as every one said – 8 degrees, in the middle of summer and the stars were a Christmas tree of lights.
The dawn saw awake and ready for up. Breakfast was coffee and stale bread – yum. The walk was a bit easier than the last two days. We put the fumaroles with their sulphur spurts behind us and reached the summit at 8.01am. It was a magnificent clear windless 10 degree morning. The summit is along a thin narrow whaleback ridge with distant views only in one direction and the other way is toward the trig point and sign “Mount Cameroon” - erected by Guinness.
Rather than the standard turn around and walk back down I had arranged to walk over the top of the mountain down the other side so as to do a full traverse. The next 6 hours was spent scree skiing down the slopes for about 500m then an amazing walk over razor sharp larva penitentes. From the 1981, 1998, and 2001 lava flows you pass through millions of flowers of the savannah fields, down past the black sands and ash of the volcano craters and the three sulphur pits and into the jungle at Mann Springs the only other water source on this side of the mountain. So carry lots of water as it is scarce. Mann Springs is a simple concrete box holding a little trickle of precious water. We filled up and purified the drinking water. The hut was a traditional grass hut and was a great relief from the drizzling rain that had suddenly set in. That night we all sat by the fire for a primordial session of stories and the now ubiquitous tomato, onion, carrot and dried fish dish.
The morning saw some hilarious visits from two field mice and us scrambling to get out of the hut. We soon packed and plodded off down through the jungle. I was ever cautious of the jungle elephants rampaging around us as we crossed their trodden paths numerous times. You would not want to startle one. We ended the day into the bamboo forest and the beginning of the village farms. At our camp were the ruins of an old Dutch sugar cane and cinnamon refinery.
The final trek down was a beeline straight to the black sand beach of the local village perched on the Atlantic Coast of Africa. The waters were warm and refreshing with magnificent back views to Mount Cameroon and Little Mount Cameroon. On the way to catch a taxi to Limbe we met the local village chief who showed us a bit of his village. In Limbe the hotel showers were great and hot, and the food had no tomato paste. The only thing I wanted to do now was eat prawns (shrimp).
Just remember the right fork and up. You can’t go wrong.
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