Shared by three countries, Mount Sabyinyo’s location is exceptional. This extinct volcanic mountain soaring 3,645 meters above sea level is at the intersection of frontiers separating Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Sabyinyo is also an adjoining point of Volcanoes National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Virunga National Park belonging to Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC respectively.
Sabyinyo is a treasure showering blessings to three countries. Its slopes are home to the mountain gorillas from which substantial amounts of dollars are milked. A lot has been said about the great apes residing in the Virunga Massif and some of us have had the privilege to visit them several times. While visiting the gorillas and golden monkeys, we tend to look farther and wonder what it takes to get to the summit.
Climbing mountains may not be your cup of tea but the frenzy around this challenging activity is unbelievable. Some people climb mountains to battle their personal demons, tackle their insecurities or satisfy their empirical urges.
The therapeutic impact of such expeditions is hard to comprehend but this notion is validated by credible studies. Have you ever wondered why monks go to the mountains to meditate? Some people go to the mountains to get lost while others go there to find themselves. Well, most of us run to the mountains to look for nothing but adventure.
In some cases, hikers spend a fortune to climb mountains. Tourists spend between 35,000 and 100,000 dollars on Mount Everest’s packages. Climbing the highest mountain in the world costs a lot of time too. It takes up to 10 days to reach the base camp from the Nepalese side. When they make it to the camp, they usually spend six weeks acclimating to low-density air and practicing before making the final five-day summit push.
Getting to the summit is optional but coming back is mandatory. The round trip is insanely long, ridiculously expensive and extremely strenuous.
High mountains do not scare obsessed hikers. As a matter of fact, they inspire them. The view of Sabyinyo from the distance unleashes its power of attraction and dares them to climb it. As a newly converted hiker, I can testify being moved by this effect. When we look at mountains and admire them, they give us a challenge and we answer the call by tying our shoelaces and pursuing trails leading our steps to the summits.
Unfortunately, Sabyinyo’s summit is not accessible from Rwanda. However, as more and more people around the world turn to the mountains for answers, Rwanda will likely find a way to open this attraction for summit-bound climbers regardless of its level of difficulty.
In the meantime, hikers toil their way to the top from the Ugandan side. It is a creepy, physically taxing activity but that is the beauty of it. At some point, climbers use ladders nailed to the knife-edge ridge to ascend higher.
It’s a different world up there. The air is thinner and the force of gravity is weaker. On Mount Everest, climbers don’t only buy food and water, they also purchase oxygen.
Mount Sabyinyo’s summit is usually misty. The fog affects visibility but on a lucky day, the view of the surrounding landscapes is spectacular. Congo looks virgin but high population density in Rwanda is evident.
Besides Sabyinyo, there are seven other mountains along the Virunga chain formed between Lake Kivu and Lake Edward within the Albertine Rift. Five of these elevations are lined up along Rwanda’s northern border. Karisimbi and Bisoke are shared by Rwanda and the DRC while Gahinga and Muhabura are partitioned by the boundary line separating Rwanda and Uganda. As mentioned earlier, each one of these three neighboring countries owns a piece of Sabyinyo. Mikeno, Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo are exclusively in the DRC.