We wake very early (between 3:00 - 4:00 am), have a hot drink and a light, high energy snack before setting off. It takes about one and a half hours to reach Elena Hut (4540m) which we bypass on the way to the peaks. After Elena the climb is steep and can be tricky if covered in ice but is firm underfoot as the trail is on hard rock. Margherita Peak is a technical summit and we will use ropes, harnesses, carabiners, ice axe, helmets, ice screws, figure 8's, ascenders and slings. At the edge of the glacier (4765m) we will need to put on crampons and harnesses and walk at set distances apart. There are not many crevices but it is important here to follow instructions from the guide closely. The scenery is spectacular as the sun begins to peep over the horizon near the upper areas of the glacier, affording fabulous photographs of the sun-tipped main peaks - Alexandra and Margherita. The climb down to Margherita glacier can be challenging. A new fixed static rope has recently been installed with bolts every two metres leading down a ledge to the top of a six-metre aluminum ladder. This route is much safer than the original ladders and we can attach to the fixed static rope with twin lanyards from our harness. It is not classed as a technical climb and it is straightforward in dry conditions. The climb up Margherita glacier is steep with the first part around 30 degrees gradient. The toe of the glacier is much steeper and does require some effort. Generally we walk across the newly exposed rocks to the other side of the glacier where it is less steep. Near the top of the glacier we then need to climb around an exposed section, which is also bolted and roped, before following the ridge running to the top of Margherita Peak. The exhilaration of reaching the top (5109m) is enormous as we look across Albert Peak to the Democratic Republic of Congo then east across a huge expanse of the Rwenzori Mountains. After enjoying the scenery we then descend directly to Butawu Camp.
(Note that in the case of bad weather, it may be necessary to stay in Margherita Camp again instead of going lower to Butawu. On the following day it will then be necessary to pass Butawu Camp and continue to Bugata Camp.)