Mount Elgon is on the border of Uganda and Kenya. The mountain is named after the Elgonyi tribe, who once lived in huge caves on the south side of the mountain. It was known as “Ol Doinyo Ilgoon” (Breast Mountain) by the Maasai and as “Masawa” on the Ugandan side. Mountain Elgon has been an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago. With the largest surface area of any extinct Volcano in the world (50km by 80km), Mountain Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in East Africa, with the second highest peak in Uganda (Wagagai peak, 4321 m) second to Margarita peak of Mountain Rwenzori. Mt Elgon contains the largest intact caldera, a collapsed crater covering over 40kms at the top of the mountain, surrounded by a series of rugged peaks.
Mt. Elgon consists of five major peaks:
- Mubiyi (4,211m or 13,816 ft)
- Masaba (4,161m or 13,650 ft)
- Wagagai (4,321m), being in Uganda.
- Sudek (4,302m or 14,140ft) in Kenya
- Koitobos (4,222m or 13,248 ft), a flat topped basalt column (Kenya Side)
C.W. Hobley became the first European to circumambulate the mountain in 1896. Kmunke and Stigler made the first recorded ascent of Wagagai in 1911. F. Jackson, E. Gedge, and J. Martin in 1890 made the first recorded ascent of Sudek. The main peak is an easy scramble and does not require any mountaineering equipment. Other interesting features on this mountain include:
- The caldera — Elgon’s is one of the largest intact calderas in the world
- The warm springs by the Suam River
- Endebess Bluff (2563m or 8408 ft)
- Ngwarisha, Makinyen, Chepnyalil and Kitum lava tube caves. Kitum Cave is over 60 meters wide and penetrates 200 meters. It is frequented by wild elephants that lick the salt exposed by gouging the walls with their tusks. It became notorious for its association with the Marburg virus after two people who had visited the cave (one in 1980 and another in 1987); both contracted the disease and died.