What Are Mountains of the Moon?
The Mountains of the Moon, or the Rwenzori mountain range, forms an eighty-mile long backbone on the frontier of Zaire and Uganda in East Africa, and extends northwards to within 70 miles of Lake Albert. Little-known and less frequently climbed, the 120km-long Rwenzori range, on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), isn’t as high as Kilimanjaro but requires greater technical skills and endurance.
The name Rwenzori means “rainmaker” and the mountain can be notoriously muddy and tiring to climb. Rwenzori national park, nine hours’ drive west of Kampala, offers crowd-free hiking and a sense of wilderness absent on Kilimanjaro. Springing from the bottom of a rift valley, it reaches a height of 16,794 feet with Margaret Peak.
The name “Mountains of the Moon” is a very ancient one, for Herodotus, Aristotle and Claudius Ptolemy all had vague ideas that the source of the great River Nile lay in some far distant mountains, the fabled “Mountains of the Moon”, the silver peaks whose glistening snows fed the lake sources of the Nile.
However, it was not until 1888 that the Rwenzori Range was first discovered for the Western world by the great American explorer Henry Morton Stanley, and climbed for the first time in 1906 by the Duke of Abruzzi. Several earlier explorers had camped within the area, but had been defeated by heavy rainfall.
Photographer Vittorio Sella took a number of photographs of the Rwenzori Mountains during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, documenting the retreat of the range’s glaciers. Sella’s photographic work is conserved at the Museo Nazionale della Montagna in Turinand at the Istituto di Fotografia Alpina Vittorio Sella in Biella, both in Italy. The Makerere University, Uganda, also has a selection of his images.
The first traverse of the six massifs of the Rwenzori Mountains was done in 1975, starting on 27 January and ending on 13 February. The traverse was done by Polish climbers Janusz Chalecki, Stanisław Cholewa and Leszek Czarnecki, with Mirosław Kuraś accompanying them on the last half of the traverse.