Ascent of Mount Cameroon on 2015-03-02
|Others in Party:||Adrian Rayner|
|Date:||Monday, March 2, 2015|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Motorized Transport to Trailhead:||Taxicab|
| Elevation:||13255 ft / 4040 m|
Ascent Trip ReportTo visit Cameroon you need an invitation letter, typically from a tour operator (we used Hady Guiding Services) or hotel. Then a visa, which involves a fair bit of paperwork. Also yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter the country. Local currency can only be obtained in the country, main choices being to take euros and change them on arrival, or trust the ATMs (Visa not Mastercard it is said - although in my case at Douala airport my Visa debit card didn't work but my MasterCard credit card did - ATM at Buea bus station also OK).
Note also that a guide is mandatory for the summit, although apparently it's permissible to hike unaccto the Intermediate Hut and it might be feasible to go on and bag the summit, although any guide met would presumably take a dim view.
Instead of the basic 2 day guided version we choose the 3 day, taking a longer descent route southwest towards the coast. A 4th day would apparently increase the chance of sighting the forest elephants (we don't) although this didn't quite fit our agenda.
When to go: the dry season ends 15 March (the locals seemed very definite about this date!) - during our stay the atmosphere was very hazy but we had no rain (missed a few thunderstorms). During wet season the views would be better (when not actually raining). Another consideration is the Mt Cameroon Race, which is typically 3rd week in Feb or thereabouts. Around that time we assumed the mountain will be busier and prices higher.
28 Feb. ARRIVAL We fly with Brussels Air, arriving at Douala on Saturday just before midnight. The small airport is quite efficient, the two airport ATMs are working and Walters of Hady Guides is there to meet us. We're driven to Buea, about 1.5 hours, and the Capitol Hotel (N4.15110 E9.24215) opens up for us and we're checked into our rooms. Finally Walters briefs us on the hike and takes payment. All very efficient but it must be after 3am before we get to bed!
1 March. START OF HIKE Nice hotel breakfast then Walters arrives as planned to collect us. Short drive to trailhead where a tarmac road ends at a building (bank, N4.15873 E9.23012, 1015m)) where we meet our guide and 3 porters. They'll each carry up to 12kg and we each brought a day pack plus an overnight pack for them to carry. The main load is water (none on route) plus food and camping gear.
The road continues (rough although apparently just about driveable) but the footpath keeps L of it initially and shortcuts a few zigzags before arriving at a small village. Surprisingly we pass a small prison. The track climbs up through small fields, with a few forks (the hiking route is marked by white stones apparently repainted for the recent Race of Hope - which for the leaders is 4h17: 3 hours up, 1 hour down!). It then enters nice forest with some sizeable trees. Quite a few folks descending (doing the 2 day itinerary or Intermediate Hut day hike) mostly Cameroonian but a few white faces. A couple of US birders here for a months survey work are photographing a grey cuckoo shrike, an Endemic they seem quite pleased with.
In time we enter the Mount Cameroon National Park (gate, N4.17366 E9.20990, 1700m) and reaching Hut 1 (N4.17586 E9.20417, 1861m) we have a longish break for food and for the porters to catch up. At N4.18225 E9.20455, 2063m we emerge above the forest into savannah. Our trail is joined by another coming up from the R. Another break at the Intermediate Hut, rather more run down than the last. Despite the peak being a volcano, the trail is good stable footing all the way.
The gradient has been pretty unrelenting but after another 200m it relents before reaching Hut 2 (N4.19385 E9.19774, 2843m) which is tucked into a level dry gully. The hut itself is mostly collapsed but the hard standing is good for cooking and hanging out. It is about to be rebuilt: should be quite large. Arriving just before 3pm (5h15 with some longish breaks although standard time is apparently 7 hours) we have a lazy afternoon: good place to acclimatise. Weather has been dry throughout, upper 20sC lower down and cloudy, but our Hut 2 afternoon is spent in warm sunshine. Apparently the endemic bird Cameroon Francolin can be found around here although we don't see or hear any.
The lads pitch the tent and cook a sizeable meal. Then early night after this morning's very late one!
2 March. SUMMIT DAY. Thunderstorm overnight but no rain. After breakfast we hike at 0715 in hazy sunshine. Good trail continues, white paint marks (and a trail of litter). Savannah with acacias. Slope eases and we arrive at Hut 3 (N4.20932 E9.17996, 3788m). Here an old trail continues straight ahead (and soon runs out) but the main trail has been diverted R since the 2000 eruption, initially across quite new lava then continues across steep grassland. Up to L is the German summit which it seems lost some elevation in the eruption and is a few metres lower than the current summit: however it might be worth including it: the drop to the col connecting it with the highest summit is less than 50m although the climb up from Hut 3 could be rough underfoot.
The path levels off and contours L before climbing R to the summit which has a concrete block with a trig bolt: the highest point is a small outcrop a few metres beyond (N4.21798 E9.17345, 4045m). We follow a nice ridge which descends a short way to a steep drop off with a view into the small partial caldera.
It's cold and windy and we soon descend, making a short detour to a nearby summit (N4.21656 E9.17287) which appears to be 1 or 2 metres lower but worth a precautionary visit. Then descend to the path where our guide is waiting. He was fairly slow on ascent (carrying more than us) but we descend pretty rapidly, soon losing 500m. Where the slope eases the porters are waiting, having skirted L at Hut 3.
After an early lunch we continue down, fairly gentle gradient but quite rough lava underfoot with a number of smaller volcanic hills surrounding us. We take a short break at a small campsite (N4.18355 E9.14388, 3200m) near a saddle then continue down past two hills with comms masts (Elf Station). There is thunder not far away but we stay dry.
Our route passes the cone (N4.15474 E9.13827, 2771m) formed by the 1999 eruption, fairly small but with a quite impressive crater. Below is a stark landscape, initially bare then with a little brown moss colonising, then quite a range of vegetation including such familiar (in the UK) plants as bracken and old man's beard.
Reaching the forest we stop at a small campsite (N4.14455 E9.12057, 2286m, supposed to be Mann Spring which is supposed to be 2440m...) and the lads get the tents pitched and the fire going. It's been a 7h30 day: 3h30 up and 4h down: rather less than the 10-12h estimated. The day shouldn't be underestimated however, particularly the descent which can seem quite long in the afternoon heat after a 1200m ascent.
3 March. DAY 3 Plenty of thunder overnight but again no rain (although some wetness on trail side vegetation further down).
Fairly leisurely 0715 start, with porters following a little later as usual. Good trail, initially through nice mature woodland, then contouring path crosses grassland, recently burned with green regrowth contrasting with blackened ground. We cross a couple of lava flows. Most recent was in 2000 which reached all the way to the coast.
Majority of route is in forest, a little slippery underfoot on occasion but generally good. We pass another group descending, also Hady guided, apparently a group of banking execs recceing for an event next year.
Lower down we start to encounter cleared areas which are for crops (coco yam). At N4.13016 E9.21413 we join a dirt road which soon brings us to a village, Bokwango, our finish point (3h45). We walk a couple of dirt streets to a bar (N4.13422 E9.22120, 951m) at the end of the paved road. Here we're met by a couple of taxis which drive us the short way back to Hady HQ (N4.16442 E9.24163). Here we enjoy a "bucket shower", collect a few things we'd left there for safe keeping, thank and tip our team (no specified need and not a large amount but they have served us well).
We're advised our best bet for Mt Oku is the overnight bus to Bamenda and we're advised to get a taxi down to the bus terminal (Musango Bus Services; ATM nearby) and arrange this straight away. Good advice: there are about 6 seats left. Cost XAF 550 each (5 GBP). NB this is the 70 seater coach: the minibuses have a bad reputation wrt safety.
This done, we get a taxi back up to the Capitol Hotel where we know we can find a meal, peace and quiet and wifi. Our American birder friend Jacob from Kansas Uni is there and we have a catch up: their main survey group have just arrived. Oddly he knows about Ultras, including the two in Equatorial Guinea - which both sound tricky...
Mid evening we get a taxi back down to the Musango terminal for our overnight bus. We climb Mount Oku two days later.
Mt Cameroon photo album
|Summary Total Data|
| Total Elevation Gain:||9925 ft / 3025 m|
| Total Elevation Loss:||10135 ft / 3089 m|
| Round-Trip Distance:||22.7 mi / 36.5 km|
| Grade/Class:||YDS 1|
| Quality:||7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)|
| Route Conditions:||Road Hike, Maintained Trail|
| Gear Used:||Guide, Porters, Tent Camp|
| Nights Spent:||2 nights away from roads|
| Gain on way in:||9925 ft / 3025 m|
| Distance:||7.1 mi / 11.5 km|
| Start Trailhead:||Buea 3330 ft / 1014 m|
| Time:||8 Hours 45 Minutes|
| Loss on way out:||10135 ft / 3089 m|
| Distance:||15.5 mi / 25 km|
| End Trailhead:||Bokwango 3120 ft / 950 m|
| Time:||7 Hours 45 Minutes|
|GPS Data for Ascent/Trip|
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Peaks: climbed and unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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