Climbing Sierra Leone’s highest peak, the 46th most isolated in the world, is an experience not to be missed. It is also an ultra-prominent peak, one of the few in West Africa. Not only is it a beautiful natural environment, but the trail and cultural experience are also interesting. On this trip, Loma Mansa peak is the main objective, all other peaks are a bonus for us. Some maps refer to this peak as Bintumani Mountain, which can be confusing; however, my understanding is that both names can be used interchangeably.
Choosing VSL Travel as our local tour operator was a great decision. They took care of the logistics, made the trip very comfortable and interesting and we found the country safe and welcoming. Technically we didn’t need guides, but it was nice to learn from the locals and explore Sierra Leone. Thank you so much!
- Day 1. 7h30 ascent from Foria village at 408 m to the summit at 1945 m, finally 2h00 descent to the camp at 1340 m.
- Day 2. 3h50 descend to Foria village at 408 m.
The trailhead village has caused some confusion because of its name. Locals and some sources say the trail starts at a village called Sinekoro, but on some maps there is another Sinekoro village in a different location. Other maps refer to this village as Foria. To avoid confusion, it is best to use the coordinates of the trailhead rather than the names.
Alex describes the route from Kabala to the village of Foria as an “African massage” – a rough stretch of road with several river crossings and sections where high clearance in a four-wheel drive is essential. After banging my head on the roof of a car, I think it is a good idea to wear a helmet or fasten the seatbelt. It took us four hours to cover the last fifty kilometres of this trip. Before that, we had travelled from Lungi airport to Makeni on a good tarmac road, where we bought food and drink for a few days.
A few kilometres before the start of the trail, in the village of Banda, Alex spoke to the local chief, paid him some money and offered us an optional payment for village development. After paying the fees, we drove to the village of Foria, where we were allowed to pitch our tents on the football pitch. The children brought us benches to sit on while we waited for dinner and watched the bush fire approach. The locals assured us that this happened every year and that we were safe. When I woke up at 1am I could still hear the fire, which only stopped in the morning.
Alex made us a delicious omelette and as the first light of dawn broke we began our trek to the summit. The first few miles were relatively flat, with a mix of forest and swamp. We walked along a wide, comfortable path often used by the locals. As the sun rose, I could feel the temperature rising; it wasn’t too bad yet, but by midday it would be unbearable.
After five hours of walking we reached a flat field and Camp 2. We set up our tents, had some snacks and continued walking towards the summit. We planned to descend that day and spend the night in camp, so we left a few unnecessary kilos in the tents.
We had a relatively easy, gradual walk from camp to the summit. The trail was not obvious, but it wasn’t difficult to find our way; we just walked towards the summit. We were lucky twice: firstly, we had the chance to see a very fast black mamba, and secondly, this fast black mamba was not interested in us. The locals swore they had never seen a snake there before. Things change!
Finally, just a kilometre or two from the summit, we can see it. The closer we get, the more obvious it becomes that the last stretch is steep rock. Many people stop before this rocky section, but we know that there is a path that leads to the top – the true summit.
The last fifty metres to the summit may seem a difficult climb, but there is a path to the right that is also steep and has some exposed areas, but should not be a problem for those who really want to reach the true summit.
We were excited to reach the summit plateau, which was quite large and relatively flat. A cairn marked the summit and we also found a concrete marker made by the father of one of the local guides. A few metres from the cairn were the remains of what was probably a cylindrical concrete pillar. Mist, clouds and smoke from burning forests obscured our view somewhat, but we could still make out the surrounding peaks and valleys. We spent half an hour savouring our achievement before it was time to descend.
We slowly made our way down the steep slopes, moving quickly across the slabs and grassland. Soon we were back in camp where Alex had prepared another lovely dinner. The sun was setting and a light rain started, but it only lasted about an hour.
After a quick breakfast in the morning, we headed down steeper slopes into the jungle. We made another interesting stop at a straw hut before continuing the rest of the way to the car and the village.
We had a great time and an interesting adventure climbing the ultra prominent and ultra isolated peak. With plenty of time left in the day, we headed back. towards Makeni. Tomorrow we will try to climb Sankan Biriwa.