Rwenzori national park is located in the western part of Uganda on the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park covers an area of 998 sq km. It was named after the famous Rwenzori Mountains also referred to as the legendary “Mountains of the Moon” described by Ptolemy in AD150.
The Rwenzoris, commonly to as the mountains of the moons are found a few kilo meters north of the equator, rising over 4000m above the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley, is the highest mountain in Uganda. The region’s glaciers, waterfalls and lakes make it one of Africa’s most beautiful alpine areas. The mountains have extraordinary flora and fauna which includes Buffalo, bushbuck, chimpanzee, Elephant, giant forest hog, and leopard are present although rare.
To hike the great mountains you require a minimum of Seven days for a rewarding hike. However 10 days is the best for the hike to the peak (Margherita: 5109 m). The Rwenzori range has 6 major peaks, Mt Stanley (5,109m), Mt Speke (4,890m) Mt Baker (4,843m), Mt Emin (4,798m), Mt Gessi (4,715m) and Mt Luigi di Savoia (4,627m). The highest peak in the Mt Stanley complex is called Margherita peak (5,109) and it is this peak which makes the Rwenzori Mountains the 3rd highest range in Africa.
The Rwenzori Mountains
The mystic Rwenzori mountain ranges have long been known as the Mountains of the moon. Located in western Uganda, the Rwenzoris, one of the highest mountain ranges in the world has many historical legends.
In AD150, the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy wrote of a snow capped mountain range, deep in the heart of Africa that, he claimed, was the source of the Nile and which he called the Mountains of the Moon.
Over the centuries this curious notion of tropical snow faded into mythology and, when John Speke found the Nile’s exit from Lake Victoria, a place in fiction for the Mountains of the Moon seemed assured. But then, in 1889, Henry Stanley emerged from central Africa to announce that such a mountain did exist. He mapped it by its local name of Rwenjura – or ‘rainmaker’ thus the origin of the name “Rwenzori”.
In due course mountaineers explored Ptolemy’s Mountains of the Moon. Though just miles north of the Equator, they found in the high Rwenzori glaciers and snow peaks whose melt waters represent the highest springs ofthe Nile. These trickle downwards into U-shaped glacial valleys where, supplemented by up to 2500mm of rain/year, they saturate the broad valley floors to form great soggy bogs. Within these rain and mist filled troughs, loom specimens of Africa’s bizarre high altitude vegetation and stunted trees enveloped by colorful mosses and draped with beards of lichen.
This remarkable landscape is bisected by the Uganda-Congo border which passes through Mt. Stanley the highest peak. The Ugandan Rwenzori is protected by the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and, in Congo by the Virunga National Park. The park can be explored along a 7 -day trail that meanders along the Mobuku and Bujuku valleys beneath the highest peaks. Though distances are short, the terrain, altitude and weather combine to create a tough trek, the difficulty of which should not be underestimated.
After its sighting by Stanley, the weather confounded several attempts to scale (or even observe) the mountain’s main peaks. In 1906, the Italian Duke of Abruzzi timed his expedition more carefully, making his attempt during June and July. He and his companions succeeded in scaling, mapping and photographing all of the main peaks and establishing the layout of the high Rwenzori.
Things to Do in the Rwenzoris
From spotting different varieties of wildlife, seeing the flourishing and wide variety of flora and fauna while on hikes and nature walks, to discovering beautiful waterfalls- the Mountains of the moon are magical.
Add that to viewing of the mesmerizing crags and snow-capped peaks, the beautiful of valley of nine lakes, the magnificent bearded lichen hanging from giant heather’s with a backdrop of rocky cliffs, it’s easy to say that the Mountains of the moon should be on every travelers bucket-list.
Climbing the Rwenzoris
Are you a first time climber or an avid climber?