We quickly made our way north in Cameroon to Yaoundé, perhaps one of the most chaotic cities in Africa. The traffic is absolutely crazy and the people very loud. Cameroon is also the most corrupt country we visited, meaning that we often got stopped by the police asking for bribes, although we usually just waved them away and drove through the checkpoints. In Yaoundé we stayed with Armel and Regina and their newborn son for a few days. We tried to get the visa for Benin there, but were unable to find the embassy, which turned out to be in Douala. We therefore decided to get it in Nigeria instead and drove through Douala to the city of Buea at the foot of Mount Cameroon. In Buea we met Mieke and Hannah, two young Dutch women working for the NGO Livebuild. We had a great time with them in their huge house with Dutch food, fun activities and lots of friends, most of whom were American Peacecorps volunteers.
We had arranged to climb Mount Cameroon in two days, although the advice was to do it in three. We showed up early in the morning with sleeping materials, clothes and several other items at the rendezvous site where we met our three porters and guide, Henry. We soon started our climb with an easy leg through the jungle to Hut 1, which took us a few hours. Then, we left the jungle for the savannah, where we walked to the intermediary hut. From there the climb turned nasty over steep, rocky terrain. The rocks keep tumbling under your feet, so the trick is to only step on the grass. Meanwhile, you are high above the clouds and mist and occasionally have a beautiful view of the mountain, although the summit is not yet visible. After climbing for what seemed like hours, we reached ‘the magic tree’; here the terrain becomes less hostile and it’s a short walk to Hut 2, which was our base camp for the day. Base camp consists of three rooms with a platform raised above the ground where you can sleep. We had a good meal, a rest and then met a Norwegian climber, Lars. Lars is a seasoned mountaineer and has climbed 63 mountains, each one of which is the highest in the countries he visits. Mount Cameroon was not the highest mountain he had climbed by some distance, although he had promised his wife not to go above 8000 metres, so no Everest and no K2 for Lars. He did, however, visit the highest point of Vatican City, which is a small hill in the garden that his guide had allowed him to step on.
The next day we got up just after sunrise to start our ascent to Hut 3, and then the final stretch to the summit. After leaving base camp we could soon feel that the air contained less oxygen and we had to adjust our pace to ‘slow & steady’. After a rest at Hut 3, we walked over a moon-like landscape to the summit at 4095 metres, which we reached around noon. At the summit it was freezing cold and incredibly windy, so we quickly put on all the clothes we had. Then we drank a whiskey with Lars to celebrate our first, and his 64th mountain. With almost clear weather, the views on the summit were absolutely breathtaking.
After the celebrations were over we realised that we had to climb all the way down the mountain in just one afternoon; afterall we had taken the 2-day instead of the 3-day tour. So we started our climb down to Hut 3, had a rest, then went to base camp for a big lunch and to look after our blister-covered feet. We then climbed to ‘the magic tree’, except this time we weren’t so pleased to see it, because it meant we had to go down the steepest bit of the descent. After you get into the rhythm things get better, but we were happy to see the intermediary hut and get back into the jungle. After walking through the jungle for a few hours, with a rest at Hut 1 of course, we reached the place where we started our climb one day earlier just before sunset. We thanked our guides and porters, got into a taxi and drove back for a well-deserved rest. It was also a forced rest, because we could barely walk for two days.
If you want to climb Mount Cameroon contact HADY Guiding Services at (+237) 77 43 03 01 or (+237) 93 85 03 49. Most of the guides and porters are students doing the work to support their education.