Mount Sabyinyo is one of the three mountains found in Mgahinga National Park The mountain that has three summits standing at 3423 meters, 3537 metres and 3669 metres high is a mark of the intersection of the Virunga Mountains that cut across Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic republic of Congo.
The mountain lies within all the three countries thus DRC – Virunga National Park, Rwanda – Volcanoes National Park and Uganda – Mgahinga National Park but its biggest portion is in Uganda’s Mgahinga National park west of Lake Bunyonyi.
This extinct volcano is one of the 8 Virunga mountains and the oldest among the eight; it is named after a Kinyarwanda word that means tooth “Sabyinyo” because locals say the mountain’s multi-summited top looks exactly like an old man’s teeth, in some villages it’s actually called old man’s teeth. This mountain holds great religious importance to the locals that live around it.
Mount Sabyinyo is covered by rich forest vegetation on the slopes part of the Hagenia forest and comprises of a variety of trees species that make the perfect habitat for the unique and endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and different bird species including the Albertine endemic Rwenzori Turaco among other forest species.
Because the mountain is a habitat for mountain gorillas, most visitors to Mgahinga National Park normally trek the mountain for the mountain gorillas; however, this mountain’s trails can also be hiked to experience the different craters on the mountain and also get to the mountain peak to see the three mount summits.
Apart from being trekked for mountain gorillas, mount sabyinyo is not normally hiked because of its difficult trails; of all the eight volcanoes this volcano is by far the hardest to hike that most hikers opt to not take a hike on its trails.
However though it’s a difficult mountain to hike, it has the most rewarding experience of all the eight volcanoes; first, it has three peaks each in one of the three countries Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, so you get to stand in all three countries at the top, it also has several craters that you meet as you move up the hike and not forgetting the rich vegetation cover of the hagenia forest. In fact, on your hike you will experience bushy areas, grass patched sections, flowery ascents and breathe in the cool fresh air among other things that this heavy yet rewarding hike will be worth all your time. Taking a hike on the mountain will be a lifetime experience for you.
The hiking on this mountain normally starts at the Mgahinga National Park offices, with a briefing by the authorities at 7:00 am, after the briefing you are assigned a ranger, given hiking sticks and off you go to the trailhead in Kisoro to start your hike up the mountain.
You will hike for a total of about 8 to 9 hours depending on your hiking experience and speed, and after the hike you will get back to the park offices to return the hiking sticks and off you go to your accommodation.
Normally hikers get back to their accommodation at 6 pm some 8 pm, so it’s better to block off the whole day for the hiking experience. However, sometimes hikers will be forced to get back to the trailhead before they reach the peak, in cases where the weather becomes unbearable to continue climbing especially during rainy seasons or when the gruesomeness of the hike gets to you that by 1 pm or 2 pm you have not made it to even the first summit, you just turn back and slope down because you won’t be able to get to the summit before dark.
It’s important to note that though the mountain has three summits, most people don’t go past the first summit because again the hiking is quite cumbersome.
Because the trails of this mountain are so difficult to hike, it’s not advisable for non-experienced hikers to take it and the hiking trail in Mgahinga National Park had been improved with handmade ladders at steep points of the trail that help climbers to navigate the hike a bit more smoothly.
Like for all other volcanoes, the temperatures at the summits are not human-friendly, there is less oxygen at the top and it’s extremely cold, hikers’ normally take between 20 to 50 mins or less at the mountain summits before the temperatures force them out of there.
Hiking attire for mount Sabyinyo is the same as the one for the other volcanoes hiking that includes but not limited to – waterproof hiking boots, long sleeved clothing, between heavy and light clothing, raincoat, hat preferably stocking hat, gloves and other items you see fit. Never forget the carry packed meal or snack and water to take you through the whole hiking experience.
Also for this hiking experience, though you are experienced, you will need a porter to help you carry your luggage on the hike and to support you on the steep points; so you need to hire a porter from the park before you start the trekking experience.
Hiking trips to mount Sabyinyo are done all year round from Mgahinga National Park and mostly during the dry seasons because the mountain trails are less slippery and the mountain temperatures are more bearable. A hiking permit costs 85 USD per person per hike and is acquired from Mgahinga National park offices. It’s advisable to book a permit at least 2 to 3 days in advance at the park offices so that the park can make a hiking ranger or guide available for you.