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Mount Cameroon

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Despite the 400 km stretch of coastline along the Atlantic, over 240 indigenous tribes, and the opportunity to see wildlife galore in several national parks and reserves, Mount Cameroon remains one of the Republic of Cameroon’s highlights.

The breath-taking summit of this isolated mountain was first reached in 1861 by Sir Richard Burton. (Yet, there are sketchy stories of a successor named Joseph Merrick. It is said that the Jamaican Baptist missionary who was posted at Santa Isabel in the 1840s may have reached the top of Mount Cameroon, but there is no concrete evidence to confirm this.)

Although Mount Cameroon, which covers an area of almost 1290 km², is recognized internationally for climbing and hiking, other attractions include the annual Mount Cameroon Race of Hope, sponsored by Guinness and hunting.

Farming is also noteworthy. Crops include tea, cacao, tea, bananas, rubber, and oil palms which thrive thanks to the fertile soil and rain that is ranked as some of the heaviest of the planet. (On the south side of the mountain annual precipitation clocks in at 10,000 mm.)

The Best Time to Visit Mount Cameroon

The best months for climbing Mount Cameroon are December, January and February.

Mountain Fact File

Continent:  Africa
Country:  Cameroon
Province:  Southwest Province
Location:  23 km inland from the Gulf of Guinea, and 180 miles west of Yaounde.
Coordinates:  4.2174 ° N, 9.1727 ° E
Height:  4,040 meters above sea-level.
Prominence: 3901 meters.
Range: Cameroon Mountains forming part of the most western range of mountains and hills that separate Nigeria and northern Cameroon.
Other Nature Info:
The eruption phases of this active volcano span over 10 million years. (It has erupted 9 times in the 20th century.)

A previous eruption in 1922 saw the lava actually reaching the Atlantic Coast. During March and April of 1999, the lava stopped only 200 meters short of the sea in the south, cutting off the coastal highway. The last time was from May to September in 2000.

In February 2012, tourists reported seeing ash and flames emerging from the mountain, accompanied by the sound of brief explosions. No other volcanic activity has been reported since.

Mount Cameroon is expected to erupt every decade or two though.

Mount Cameroon Name Origin

This 4th most prominent African mountain has many other names. These include Cameroon Mountain, Mont Cameroun, and Mount Fako. Another title is Buéa Mountain, as this is the name of the colonial town founded on the south-eastern slope.  

It’s also known as ‘The Chariots of the Gods.’ The first reference to the volcano by this name is found in documentation penned by the Carthaginian, Hanno the Navigator, and dates back to the 5th century BC.

Locally, it’s called Mongo ma Ndemi, which translates as the ‘Mountain of Greatness,’ or ‘Mountain of Thunder.’

Mount Cameroon Geology and Formation

The Cameroon Volcanic Line extends from the northeast part of the country into the Atlantic Ocean to the Annobon Island. This chain of volcanos was formed 110 million years when the land mass broke in two forming the South American and African continents with a smaller rift occurring in the latter.

Fast forward 30 million onwards where another rift caused the African plate to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. This didn’t split the land again but instead formed magma conduits to the surface. Mount Cameroon was specifically created by rifting along a north-north-east leaning fissure which caused the mastiff to be extended in that particular direction.

9 of the volcanos of the Cameroon Volcanic Line including islands are active. Mount Cameroon is one of these and is the largest in Africa and is a Plio-Quarternary stratovolcano. Although some geophysicists describe it as terra incognita, it’s mostly comprised of dark dense igneous basaltic-to-trachybasaltic rock made of pyroxene and labradorite created by the lava flow.  Partial melting of the plume formed Mount Cameroon’s magma.

Of further geological interest is that fractional crystallization is evident due to the deposits of trace elements of oxides, clinopyroxene, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase found.

The area is dotted with dozens of cinder cones along the flanks and the true summit of the mountain is found near the middle of the summit plateau.

Climbing / Hiking Mount Cameroon

Climbing Mount Cameroon, although a challenge, is considered a must when visiting this African country. The diversity of the terrain from the rough basalt steps to dense rainforest provides much visual stimulation and more to focus on other the strain of aching muscles!

As climbers and hikers are not permitted to travel up the mountain alone, local guides and porters can be found in the town of Buea which is also the best starting point. The Mount Cameroon Ecotourism Organisation can assist.

Mountain Huts and Attractions on Mount Cameroon

  • Hut 1: This is one of the largest huts on the mountain with fresh drinking water facilities. It’s reachable after a 3-4 hour hike through the rainforest and is situated at a height of 1,875m.
  • The Magic Tree: This is one of the main attractions besides the summit about 1,100m short of the next hut altitude-wise. Covered in special reflective tape so that it can be seen from a distance, the tree is part of local legend as it survived the previous volcanic eruptions. Tourists, on the other hand, say it’s called this because it’s a magic they made it up that steep incline!
  • Hut 2: The trail between the first and second hut is steadily rocky and steep as it is through the savannah and up basalt steps.  There are no water facilities here. This hut is approximately at an altitude of 2,750m.
  • Hut 3: Another steep hike reaching 3,800m prior to the end goal of the summit at 4,095m.
  • Mann’s Spring: This is a common stop particularly for camping when returning from the summit. The route is not as strenuous as the others and is more level. The natural spring allows for some pleasant cooling down.

Hiking Trails on Mount Cameroon

  • Guinness Route/Guinness Track: This is the most popular because it’s the most direct to the summit. Spanning less than 42km, the route generally takes 2/3 days. Experienced climbers can complete this in a day. The same route is followed by athletes when competing in the Guinness Mount Cameroon International Race a.k.a the Race of Hope. They only take about 4½ hours to cover that distance!
  • Elephant Forest Route: This hike includes a wilderness reserve and is generally included in the 4-day summits. However, what is tactfully not mentioned is that the odds of actually seeing an elephant are only 1 of 10.
  • Bamboo Forest Trail: A 2-hour trek through the bamboo forest ends in drinks on Limbe beach. Most of the weeklong itineraries have this on offer.

Climbing or Hiking Mount Cameroon – Our Top Tips

  • Guides: Although the Ministry of Tourism guides are less expensive, it’s not unheard of that costs are cut through skimping on food and water. Best to pay a little more to ensure comfort and enjoyment.
  • Take It Slow: Although this is not the highest mountain in the world, there’s still the risk of altitude sickness due to the drastic ascent (50° where the savanna starts). Allow enough time for bodily acclimatization and take other precautionary measures. Purchase altitude sickness pills before the time as the 2 closest pharmacies are somewhat clueless!
  • Pack Smart: Ensure warm clothes (layering is ideal), a hat, and comfy shoes are worn. Don’t forget bug repellent as huge soldier ants give nasty bites!
  • Safety First: Always register with the park rangers. They need to be aware of all hikers in case something goes amiss. Most of the routes on Mount Cameroon go from hut to hut where registration is also required.
  • Help The Environment:Unfortunately, not all hikers are environmentally conscientious. Do something kind by picking up bits of trash on the way. Suprisingly, lollypop wrappers and plastic whiskey sachets litter Mount Cameroon the most! (The alcohol is explained later)

Skiing on Mount Cameroon

Despite being one of the places in the world with the heaviest rainfall, particularly on the southwest side of the mountain at Debundsha point, the clouds and rain are prohibited below the upper slopes. The area above 3,000m is thus barren and similar to a desert.
However, despite the high volcanic activity, snow does occur on the summit region for short periods of time with the highest point regularly being dusted with snow.

According to Amar Andalkar, skiers that catch that bit of snow just after it has fallen (and with a bit of luck too) could perhaps enjoy the extremely rare possibility of actually skiing on this high tropical mountain’s summit cinder cone.

Legends of Mount Cameroon: Efaso Moto

Efaso Moto is believed to be the god that protects controls the eruptions of Mount Cameroon. He is mostly happy and protects the people as long as nothing is removed. Efaso Moto shows his displeasure by making the ground shake and spewing fire into the air.

It’s said that these eruptions occur when someone attempts to block him from seeing his betrothed, Liengu la Mwanya. His wife is a mermaid and this is why the lava always tries to get the sea.

The Bakweieri tribe also attribute the last eruption in 2000 to the death of Monono Otto who was a traditional chief. Singing and dancing stopped the lava flow. To further appease Efaso Moto they give him offerings of whiskey (also called “hot drink”) which explains why the mountain is littered with such!
Another legend involving Efaso Moto concerns the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope. Although the race is consistently won by Cameroonians, it’s accepted that the god will never allow the same athlete to win the race more than once as it is seen as a triumph over the mountain.

However, this curse seems to only affect male athletes as Sarah Etonge has won the race four times in a row! Living nearby, she is called the “Queen of the Mountain” and runs to the top on a weekly basis if granted the time. Whether or not that is up to Efaso Moto or her 7 children is another question altogether.  
To make the most of your trip to Mount Cameroon, install the below two apps to conveniently take photo routes and measure the height for peaks in the surrounding area.
Routes.Tips App
Happy travels,
The Routes.Tips Team

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