Mt. Elgon is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Its vast form, eighty kilometres in diameter, rises 3070m above the surrounding plains, providing welcome relief in more than one sense of the word. Its mountainous terrain introduces variety to an otherwise monotonous regional landscape.
It’s cool heights offer respite for humans from the hot plains below and its higher altitudes provides a refuge for flora and fauna.
Mt. Elgon has been regional landmark for a long time: this extinct volcano is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features, first erupting around 20 million years ago. It was once Africa’s highest mountain, towering above Kilimanjaro’s 5895m. Millennia of erosion have reduced its height to 4321m, relegating it to 4th highest peak in East Africa (and 7th on the continent). However, its 4000km2 surface area is still the largest base of any volcanic mountain worldwide.
Mt. Elgon is a hugely important water catchment. Its forests receive up to 3000mm of rain each year, which they store and release to support flora, fauna and more than a million Ugandaâ’s. Elgon’s water is equally important to many Kenyans, for Mt. Elgon is bisected by the international boundary. The mountain’s natural vegetation, and it role as a giant biological sponge, is protected by Mt. Elgon National Park on both sides of the border. The Uganda park, which was upgraded from a forest reserve is 1993, cover 1,110km2 Though its Kenyan counterpart measures just 170km2, it is adjoined by a forest reserve and national reserve. These parks and reserves in both countries combine to form a trans boundary conservation area covering 2,229km2, which has been declared Man & Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO.
Hikers are appreciating Mt. Elgon’s deserted moorlands. A climb on Mt. Elgon is to explore a magnificent and uncluttered mountain wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to higher regional mountains. Indeed the ultimate goal on reaching the top of Mount Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4321m Wagagai pear, but the descent into the vast 40km caldera.