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Mountains of the Moon

I shivered again and pulled the drawstring on my hood tighter. Living in the tropics makes one ill-prepared for the climate at 5109 metres above sea level. With each step my crampons bit into the ice and scraped roughly against the hard rock of the summit ridge.

I always prepare each group for the worst in terms of weather as the Rwenzori Mountains are often hidden in cloud but today was looking better. Giant groundsel forests had given way to stark black rocks and the ice fields of the Equator. ( Map of Rwenzori Mountains )

Henry Morton Stanley had never been here but the immense ice plateau we had crossed earlier to reach Margherita Peak bears his name. Stanley had claimed the mountains for himself refusing to listen to claims by his men of snow-covered peaks a few days earlier. Ironically he could not enjoy what was now laid before us. The steaming jungles, forest elephant and chimpanzees lay at our feet, giant heather forests and elusive Ruwenzori turacos were at ankle level (or so it seemed) and above them Lake Bujuku glistened in the early morning sunshine.

It really felt like the top of the world and Ptolemys ‘Mountains of the Moon’ are one of the most extraordinary and interesting mountains ranges I have ever climbed. In 350AD the philosopher had drawn a chart showing the Mountains of the Moon and an immense inland sea as being the sources of the Nile; the source of Egypt’s life giving water. The accuracy of his map is nothing short of totally remarkable as the Rwenzori Mountains are indeed the highest source of the mighty Nile. The storms that regularly engulf Africa’s highest mountain range dump huge volumes of water and every drop of that water (regardless of where it lands on the range) flows into the watershed of the Nile and some of it finds its way to quench the insatiable thirst of the deserts in Northern Sudan and Egypt.