Mount Karisimbi Volcano
Mount Karisimbi is an inactive volcano in the Virunga Mountains on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At 4,507 metres (14,787 ft), Karisimbi is the highest of the eight major mountains of the mountain range, which is a part of Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Karisimbi is flanked by Mikeno to the north, Bisoke to the east and Nyiragongo to the west, on the other side of the Rift Valley. Karisimbi is the 11th highest mountain of Africa.
The name Karisimbi comes from the word ‘amasimbi’ in the local language, Kinyarwanda, which means snow. Snow can mostly be found during the dry season in June, July and August on the top of the volcano. Between Karisimbi and Bisoke is the Karisoke Research Centre, which was founded by Dian Fossey in order to observe the mountain gorillas living in this area.
On February 27, 1908 an expedition led by Egon Von Kirsch stein was coming down the Branca Crater when a hailstorm and snowstorm caused twenty of the expedition’s porters to perish
Karisimbi, the highest of the Virunga volcanoes, is a complex volcano with a symmetrical sharp-peaked summit. The 2-km-wide Branca caldera, located SE of the 4507-m-high summit, is filled by viscous lava flows and two explosion craters. The large, 1.2-km-wide Muntango pit crater is located south of the summit of the basanitic-to-trachytic volcano. A broad lava plain, formed from lava flows erupted within the caldera and along a chain of parasitic cones, extends SW. More than 100 parasitic cones erupted along a NNE-SSW zone that extends to the shores of Lake Kivu. The youngest Potassium-Argon date obtained is about 10,000 years before present (de Mulder, 1985). The youngest eruptions from Karisimbi produced a group of dome-shaped parasitic vents east of the caldera, which fed viscous lava flows that traveled as far as 12 km to the east, and lava flows from the SW-flank satellitic lava vents.
Hiking Mount Karisimbi volcano
Mount Karisimbi involves a 2 day hike which sets off at 7am, with the meeting of the ranger guides at the park headquarters at Kinigi, thereafter driving for approximately forty five minutes to the starting point of the trek in the park and up the mountain. After 6 hours trek you will set up camp at 3700 for the overnight. The following day you hike up to the summit before embarking on the return trek back to the starting point and end of the Mt. Karisimbi Hike.
A hike to Karisimbi’s summit is not an ordinary one, but also affords sights of several bird varieties, primates like monkeys and Gorillas since the volcano lies in the primates’ park of Parc National des Volcans (Volcanoes national park). It is also known for its exotic plants in its four belts of vegetation, from the dense forest at its base to the barren volcanic core at the summit.
The hike up the summit is characterized of muddy trails especially during rainy season, though due to the altitude, it can rain at any time of the day.
You need relatively good health and stamina to hike through the slippery slopes to reach the summit which is white capped as a result of hail and sleet which accumulate in the higher elevations from its frequent storms. This implies that one may have to incur an extra cost of hiring a porter ($20 per day) to help in carrying your luggage and hiking equipment.
Other activities around Mount Karisimbi
Volcanoes National Park is a top safari destination with a growing number of travelers coming into Rwanda to visit mountain gorillas in the wild. Other activities in the park are
- Golden monkey tracking,
- Hike to the Dian Fossey grave site,
- Tour to the twin lakes of Burera & Ruhondo,
- Hike of Bisoke volcano,
- Cave tours in Musanze,
- Bird watching and community ecotourism in Iby’Iwacu cultural village.