The Rwenzori Mountains


The Rwenzori mountains, found on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), offer an adventure unlike any other. This range, often referred to as the Mountains of the Moon by Claudius Ptolemy, boasts stunning landscapes and the opportunity to conquer Africa’s third-highest summit, Mount Stanley. Unlike the crowded trails of Kilimanjaro, the Rwenzoris remain relatively untouched, adding to their mystique and allure.

A Night of Reflection


As I lay awake the night before my attempt to summit Mount Stanley, I couldn’t shake off the altitude headaches. Memories flooded back of a similar sleepless night during a climb at Kilimanjaro. However, this time, doubts crept in. The Rwenzori range may not reach the same heights as Kilimanjaro, but its technical challenges and demanding terrain presented a different kind of test. Dubbed the “rainmaker,” the Rwenzori mountains can be muddy and exhausting to navigate, even in the drier months.

A Wilderness Untouched

Located nine hours’ drive from Kampala, the Rwenzori National Park offers a wilderness experience unmatched by its more popular counterparts. Unlike Kilimanjaro, where thousands flock each year, only a handful of adventurers brave the trails of the Rwenzoris. The sense of solitude and immersion in nature is unparalleled here, with statistics showing minimal foot traffic in comparison.

Challenges and Rewards

John Hunwick, an Australian who has been exploring the Rwenzoris since 1991, reflects on the region’s turbulent past. The area was once plagued by conflict, deterring many from venturing into its depths. However, since 2009, the mountains have been safe for exploration, with trails opening up to reveal their hidden wonders. Hunwick’s treks, ranging from short excursions to multi-day expeditions, offer a glimpse into the untamed beauty of the Rwenzoris.

Into the Wild

The trek begins with a journey through lush tropical forests, alive with the chatter of blue monkeys and the rustle of bamboo. As the altitude increases, so does the challenge, with steep ascents testing the endurance of even the most seasoned hikers. Yet, the rewards are ample, with each turn revealing new marvels of nature. From towering fig trees to surreal mossy heather zones, the Rwenzoris boast a botanical diversity unlike any other.

A Glimpse of Local Life

Amidst the wilderness, the presence of the Bakonjo people, who call the slopes of the Rwenzoris home, adds a cultural dimension to the experience. Guides like Bwambalee Joshua lead the way, their knowledge of the land intertwined with tales of their heritage. The economic impact of tourism on these communities is evident, providing livelihoods for porters and guides alike.

The Journey to the Summit

As the journey progresses, the looming presence of Mount Stanley becomes ever more tangible. Each step brings us closer to the ultimate challenge: summiting Margherita Peak. The final push is grueling, with rocky terrain and icy slopes testing our resolve. Yet, with each obstacle overcome, the sense of achievement grows stronger.

A Triumph of Spirit

Summit day dawns with a flurry of activity as climbers prepare for the ascent. Despite the physical exertion and moments of doubt, the camaraderie amongst the group fuels our determination. As we inch closer to the summit, the beauty of the Rwenzoris unfolds before us, a testament to the resilience of nature.

Reflections at the Top

Standing atop Margherita Peak, I am overcome with emotion. The clouds part to reveal a breathtaking panorama, a reminder of the sheer magnitude of the journey. Surrounded by glaciers and rocky peaks, I reflect on the privilege of witnessing such beauty. In that moment, the challenges fade into the background, replaced by a profound sense of accomplishment.

Looking Ahead

As the popularity of the Rwenzoris grows, more adventurers will undoubtedly tread its paths. Yet, for those who have experienced its magic, the memories of standing atop Africa’s third-highest summit will remain unparalleled. In a world where wildernesses are increasingly rare, the Rwenzori mountains stand as a testament to the enduring spirit of exploration.