The Rwenzori mountains are taller than the Alps and the Rockies, less climbed than Mt. Everest, and they encompass at least three distinct ecological climates: a jungle at the base, murky bogs en route up, and icy glaciers at the peak. Who wouldn’t want to climb them?
That’s just what Nate Dappen and Neil Losin did. After winning a $25,000 grant from beer company Dos Equis, the duo began to plan their excursion to the isolated Ugandan region. They didn’t know much at the start, but the pair—who have PhDs in biology—became fascinated with the landscape and habitat.
“The more we learned about these mountains, the more obvious it became that we had to see this place.”
The allure only intensified once they found out that climate change was quickly receding the snowy glaciers. Tropical glaciers are rare enough as is, but the Rwenzoris are currently 80 per cent smaller than they were in 1906—and may disappear completely within 20 years.
“There became this sort of urgency to our plan—if we were gonna see this place, we had to go soon. And we had this opportunity to share this place with other people before the glaciers were gone.”
They decided their goal would be to recreate photos taken by Vittorio Sella, the photographer on a 1906 expedition—the first expedition to document the mountains—in order to show how much has changed in the last 100 years.
The trek was a challenging multi-day hike, for which they needed to hire a significant crew of local porters, guides and a cook. The crew was as invigorated by the mission as the foreign documentarians, wanting to recreate their own history:
The images they captured prove conclusively that there’s much less snow around today than there was in 1906. To the modern crew’s credit, their recreations are extremely accurate whenever possible:
“It was an incredible privilege for us to see these glaciers. But when the ice is gone, people will still visit the Rwenzori mountains, with or without glaciers. These mountains are unlike any place else. They are the mountains of the moon.”
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