Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hiking Mt. Cameroon

Bob, Sharon, Jonathan, Kevin, Susan and I set off on an adventure that started with a flight from Lagos, Nigeria to Douala, Cameroon. The flight and immigration went smoothly (which is unexpected because K&S forgot their Yellow Fever vaccination cards) and to our surprise a van/bus organized by Mount Cameroon EcoTourism Organisation (Mount CEO) was there to pick us up and take us to Buea, a town situated near the base of Mount Cameroon (1000m elevation), where the tourism organization was located. Before dealing with planning for the hike we were taken to check into our hotel and to a restaurant for dinner, which we preordered on the drive (chicken with rice or chips/fries). We then met with Gwendoline at Mount CEO to start making arrangements for the hike to the top of Mount Cameroon (4,040 metres (13,255 ft)) which would start the following morning. We opted for the 2.5 day trip starting at Buea, sleeping at Hut 2, then summiting and hiking to Mann Springs to camp and then into Bokwaongo, where the hike ended.

We woke on Saturday morning, ate breakfast at the hotel and headed over to Mount CEO to meet the guides who would each be carrying 15kg of our camping gear and water (required to have one guide per person to support the org). The hike started about 9:30AM.

Here is a photo of Bob and me the morning of the hike.
Hiking through the farmland where cocoa yam, banana or plantains, and cocoa were the primary crops, typically tended to by the women.
The two-horned chameleon. In my short search on the web I could not find pics of this species.
Stopping for a short rest in the forest.
Hut 1 and lunch!
An intermediate hut.
Does this picture give you an idea of how steep the slope was?! Cameroonians do not believe in switchbacks... they just hike straight up!
We arrived at Hut 2 (2852m) around 4:30PM, where we set up camp. Bob was not feeling well early in the hike and by the time we reached camp, extreme fatigue and fever had set in. He immediatley crawled into the tent and tossed and turned in pain and discomfort all night. By morning he decided (a VERY tough decision for Bob as he is not a quitter) that he could not go on to the top of the mountain and had to go down, while the rest of us went on.

Am I a terrible girlfriend?? He insisted that I go on without him. Really!
Sharon & Jonathan at Hut 3. The temperature had obviously dropped and we were all wearing our cold weather clothes. The afternoon hike from here to the summit (about the last 300m)
was not as steep as the hike up to this point, which was a relief! The wind was a bit gusty with complete cloud coverage! Sharon and I at the summit! We made it! Unfortunately the group pic was blurry and there was no view due to the clouds!
Once we hiked down the skree on the steep slopes of the mountain, the temperature quickly warmed up and we spent a good chunk of time hiking over a lava field and then through the savannah.
Our knowlegeable guide Samuel. He was amazing at estimating times to the next stop!
Looking back onto Mt. Cameroon after crossing the lava field.
The 1982 and 1999 craters. Beautiful!
The contrast between the black lava and the vegetation was striking! Sharon will never buy a pair of REI boots again! Always bring gorilla tape and string/rope.
After almost 10 hours of hiking we made it to our camp for the night at Mann Springs situated at the edge of the forest. The guides slept in the straw hut and we slept in our tents. There was a spring where we filtered and stocked up on water for the next day of hiking.

The next morning we hiked out of the forest and back onto the savannah / lava field.
Back in the forest.
Unfortunately we heard chainsaws and saw the evidence of the logging that is currently taking place. Our guide said most of the big trees are gone annd that loggers are now supposed to get permits to cut down trees but we were not sure how well that process is regulated.
Back in the farmland. Our guide Samuel is holding up the cocao yam.
In Bokwaonga, happy to have completed the amazing journey to the summit through many landscapes and happy to be finished!
The group... reunited!
One of the guides chose to carry the bag on his head... and at the beginning of the hike it weighed 15 kg (33lbs). The black bag belonged to the one of the hikers and the plastic bag belonged to the guide. The striped water jug was full at the beginning of day 1!

Flip Flops!!!
Plastic Sandals on sharp and rough lava!!
There is a race every year from Buea to the summit of Mt. Cameroon and back to Buea (the Guinness route, the route we took up the mountain) and the fastest runners do it in 4.5 hours in plastic sandals! They are amazing!


IamMBB said...

Sounds great. Hope Bob had a speedy recovery.

Ma-nfarr said...

I'm grew up in Buea and immigrated to the United States about 14 years ago. Reading this just makes me very happy! I tried hiking the mountain while in College (1996) and only made it to hut 2. I hope to hike to the summit and back one day.