Gako Hill

  • Gako Hill
  • 2170 m
  • Prominence 95 m
  • Location: South 01.81311, East 029.93718 (GPS)
  • Rwanda
  • Difficulty, YDS class 1
  • Climbed May 28, 2022.


How to get there:
When driving the main Hwy. from Kigali to Ruhengeri, the road crosses over what looks like a pretty promising hill. When driving north, I decided to investigate the prominence of this hill on my return travel, provided that there was ample time to do so.
Route description:
To get to the northern top, start from the access road to the hotel. Walk straight (keep right of the hotel), walk near some recreational field, descend slightly to a shallow saddle, then ascend in easy terrain to the summit.
The military fenced in area on the east (right) side of the road should most likely be left without any further exploration (see below). There is an antenna on the west side of the road. Next to this antenna there is a small local hill that competes for being highest, location S01.81311, E029.93718.
It is possible, but not certain that the highest point is inside the fenced in military area. The soldiers there are not happy with letting anybody visit, quoting that it is a secret area.
I had just had a very nice hike of Kabuye. Driving back to Kigali, we had tons of extra time to spare before my very late departure to Istanbul.
We first stopped near the hotel access road. I walked over to the high point, on the maps it has the same highest contour as the hill slightly more south on the east side of the Hwy.
Next, we drove to the area where the military fenced in area is located. I walked up to the gate and asked the soldiers there if a brief visit to the highest point would be possible. Unfortunately, they seemed pretty determined that this would be impossible.
OK, the next best option was then to only check the approximate elevation along the Hwy. outside of the fence. I did a short walk, then upon returning to the car, several of the military had assembled and they were definitely unfriendly, claiming that what I just had done was in fact not allowed. A brief discussion followed, I noticed that there was indeed a pretty distinct small hill on the opposite side of the highway. I went there and recorded a waypoint, but this was not appreciated either.
A soldier presented himself as Patrick, he said that he was in charge of the local military unit and that we were under official arrest. Ok, at least some more time would now pass. After some more talk, he explained that he would need to take a photo, then write an official report of the incident. This all took about 30 minutes. I later learned that the report might go all the way to the Minister of Defense, quite impressive!
We then continued to Kilgali where we had a nice dinner in a fairly upscale hotel. Simon drove me to the airport. Impressive security here. The car had to pass through a tunnel without any passenger or driver. The floor would push the car through. I gave Simon my last 20 dollar bill as extra tip, then said goodbye.
Now it turned out that they did not want to admit anybody to enter the terminal building until about 2 hours before the flight. My flight was at 0130, so I waited in a nearby coffee shop. The guy working there followed Arsenal football and was full of praise for Martin Ødegård. Returning to the terminal, I was now told that I needed a third Covid test before departure. This despite of the fact that Norway already long ago had lifted all restrictions.
The test would cost 5 USD, I asked if this could be paid by card. Yes, except that their credit card machine was broken. A new machine was found, but it did not work any better. Finally, a guy from Kenya paid the 5 USD for me - many thanks! The test was (of course) negative.
A long queque for checking the Covid test was next. I noticed that the Diamond Track and Field event in Eugene, Oregon was in progress and that Jakob Ingebrigtsen would run against a faamous runner from Kenya. I got out of line and watched the competition live on my laptop. Jakob won without difficulties.
This ended my trip to Rwanda. Only a long flight home before arrival Sunday evening.