Nyiragongo A trip to hell and back

I started early at 6 am in the morning at the Charitas hotel in Goma. Chide was (like always) on time at the hotel to pick me up. We did a short gear check and then we started to go to the park entrance of the Virunga National Park. The park itself is operated by Institut Congolais pour le Conservation de la Nature (ICCN). From Goma you drive approximately 20-30 minutes over unpaved roads. When Chide and I arrived, he did all the paper work for me.


For the trip you usually rent a porter for a day (24 USD) and a chef. Especially the chef takes care of all food and water supply on the mountain which is very convenient. If you do not have the right gears with you then you can rent everything you need. The gears that I saw were all in excellent condition - still I brought my own stuff with me.

Food preparation for the trip

Chide waited at the trailhead until I disappeared in the forest of Virunga National Park. The trail has 4 stops, the 5th stop is the camp on top. Between every stop you walk around 40-45 minutes and then you have a break for 15-20 minutes. In total you climb around 1500 meters in altitude change and walk 8 kilometers. Our small group was accompanied by two rangers. Both had a Kalashnikow for security reasons.

The trail to the summit

The first part of the trail is going through forest. It is not steep at all, nevertheless the untrained person already feels the relatively high altitude (>2000m). On all break points the rangers have installed benches. Since it is quiet warm in the lower parts of the trail I think it is important to drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration.

For most of my fellows it became difficult when we reached break point number three. Here the steep part starts (and it does not end until the base camp on top). Also the vegetation changed from forest to green bushes and a kind of grass mixed with volcano stones.

At break point four most of my fellows looked exhausted. It took us from there another 1.5 hours time to find the way up to the basecamp. Especially the last 200m altitude change to the top are relatively steep. It is easy to slip away when it is raining. Having good hiking boots can definitely prevent this.

Reaching the summit ridge was amazing. By looking to the crater you could already feel the impressive heat coming from the bottom of the lava lake.

The look into the crater

At the rim of the crater winds of sulfur passing by. The entire scenery frightening and alarming.

The largest liquid Lava lake on earth

At sundown the fire in lake started to became clearly visible. Amazing and stunning!! After a couple of minutes it felt like meditation by looking into the fire. Fortunately on top of the mountain - very close to the ridge - the park administration built huts for the visitors.

Our huts on the summit of Nyiragongo

To my own surprise they were really cosy and nice inside. There was enough space to accommodate two people including luggage etc. I had my own sleeping bag with me and felt immediate comfortable. In between our chef prepared a delicious dinner. He served a warm soup (I believe it was pumpkin soup) and as main dish freshly grilled beef. Exactly what was needed at after this trip.

Everyone was exhausted - Dinner

At around 8 pm I felt super sleepy, so I decided to sneak into my sleeping bag. One of the porter told me that we have to wake up at 5.30 am. And this really happened.

Good morning

The wake up ceremony was like expected - loud knocks on my door ... It was cold, wet but I slept to my own surprise extremely well on 3500 meters altitude. After 5 minutes in the sleeping bag I decided to get up. The morning light was incredible.

Breakfast prepared by Peter

Peter the chef was already in the middle of the preparation of breakfast. It was a robust and delicious meal - mmmhhhh. Before we packed our Rucksacks we took the final chance to look into the crater. Again, it was amazing and stunning. Unbelievable that such a thing exist on earth and that I have had the opportunity to visit such a place.

Standing on the crater rim - A picture from the inner crater to the rim (Drone)

The way back to the trailhead was the same as walking up the mountain. Our chief estimated a walk time of around 3 hours for 8 kilometers. Unfortunately on the way back one fellow team member stumbled over his feet. The result was fatal - he injured his middle finger on the right hand with a open fracture. After a few seconds of shock we realized that I was the only one in the team with a) a proper first aid kit and b) enough knowledge to give him first aid. The entire medication took us around 30 minutes and Davina was assisting me to provide the help.

Good - after 4 hours we arrived at the trailhead. Chide was, as expected, waiting for me.

At around noon Chide brought me back to the hotel in Goma. There I took a shower (it this was necessary!!) and a rest until 3pm. Chide booked for me the Charitas hotel - it is not a five star hotel but it had everything what I needed and expected. The outlook from my balcony was amazing. I had a direct view on Lake Kivu.

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