I’ve been in Sierra Leone for over 5 years and have never made it to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Crazy, I know. I can say I tried though because we did make a serious attempt last December but unfortunately failed. Yes, I know, it’s not even a tough mountain to climb, but we really didn’t make it and I can assure you it’s tougher when you’re going up the wrong mountain.
That’s right, up the wrong mountain. You see, a friend of mine organized the trip (which I am happy about! Thanks S!) and in the end there were probably about twenty of us that headed out together. I suppose with so many people something was bound to go wrong. There were a couple of men at the front of the group, with maps. That might have been part of what made the hike complex: men with maps. We had only just started on the trail when people started to question where we should turn off of the path at the foot of the mountain to head up the mountain. Supposedly there were markings on the rocks and trees and about 10 minutes down the path, the men at the front thought they saw markings and decided to head up the mountain. The rest of us followed. Mind you, there was a lot of serious questioning, doubting and second-guessing because the path was not much of a path and the markings were not very clear. There were two Sierra Leonean guys at the back (neither of which had climbed Sugar Loaf before) who said they thought the turn-off was a bit further along but by this time half of the group was already scrambling over rocks and fighting their way through the bush. It was too late to turn back. So we continued.
After an hour we reached the top – sorry, not 'the' top but 'a' top. Knowing Sugar Loaf would have taken longer to climb we realized that we were not actually on Sugar Loaf. So, even though we could see that Sugar Loaf was the adjacent mountain we were clueless as to how to get there (at least most of us were). What followed next was very interesting. Group dynamics are amazing, especially when you have 20 or so people on the wrong mountain! We ended up walking along more paths, then backtracking, and trying new paths, sitting on tree stumps deciding what to do next, discussing in small groups, etc. I was happily in the group that decided to sit, relax, have a snack and follow the leaders. After some time we decided that we had hiked long enough (2 ½ hours at this point) and we would head back down the mountain and call it a day. After all, we had an enjoyable the hike, some good laughs, were surrounded by good company, but just went up the wrong mountain. So down we went.
Of course, on our way down, we ran into the right path with obvious markings on the trees. By this time we had hiked for 3 hours and knew it would be another hour up and then hiking back down again. So, feeling happy with our accomplishment for the day, most of us decided to continue down the wrong mountain to the cars while a few people continued to the top of Sugar Loaf. We made it back to the cars without any injuries and with smiles on our faces. And to top it off we drove up to Leceister Peak and enjoyed the view followed by a delicious lunch at Mamba Point. To be honest, I thought the hike was great. It was definitely an adventure and now I get to look forward to climbing Sugar Loaf again. Hopefully I’ll make it to the top of the right mountain next time.