American model Marlina Moreno and a group of 14 other climbers have completed a eight-day trek of The Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda. The team climbed up to the summit of the mountain range, Margherita Peak on Mt. Stanley, which, at 5,109 m (16,762 ft), is the highest point of Uganda. They reached the peak on Wednesday afternoon and were back to the bottom of the ‘Mountains of the Moon’, as the Rwenzori Mountains are sometimes referred to, on Friday. They set out for the ambitious expedition on Friday last week, flagged off by Uganda’s tourism minister Maria Mutagamba at the entrance of Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Kasese. In the run up to the climb, Moreno had expressed that she had no prior experience in mountain climbing, but made known her determination to take on the daring mission. On average, the Rwenzori expedition lasts eight days, and for Moreno and her resilient team, it was covered in as much time. They endured five days of a difficult climb, all the way up to the summit, followed by a two-day descent back to level ground. Not all made the entire stretch though. Twelve out of 15 climbers successfully reached the top – including the writer – and the other three stopped short of the journey after suffering altitude sickness.

One of the trio had to be rushed back down unconsciousness but his condition later stabilized after receiving medical attention. Those who reached the Margherita Peak included chief climber Moreno, her official photographer Peter Hogel, Vision Group staff – the writer (who is also a photographer) and Samuel Kyagulanyi (works in the printing section) – Patricia Ntale (Miss Tourism), Florence Namwase and Aisha Nagudi acting as The World Heritage ambassadors.

‘I am too excited’

After the successful climb, Moreno said she was excited by the mountain ranges’ natural beauty, especially the dense forests, rocks, the glaciers and snow-capped peaks.

The highest Rwenzori peaks are permanently snow-capped, and along with Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, are the only such ones in Equatorial Africa.

Sky is the Limit

On their way up, exhaustion had started to set in, but moments before reaching the peak, Moreno burst out in glee when she had a peek at the highest sign post in Uganda that reads: ‘Welcome to MARGHERITA PEAK . . .’

She was too excited to even remember the guides’ regulations of climbers having to minimize their speech in order to conserve as much oxygen as they can at such an elevation.

“I am too excited,” she couldn’t help it.

“I never knew I could make it. This is exciting,” her voice cut through the gush of ghostly chilly wind and blinding fog.

Before long, it was time for the team to set out back down, for the longer you stay up there, the easier it becomes for the harsh elements to get to you.

Facts on Rwenzori Mountains

  • Previously called Ruwenzori Range, and the spelling changed around 1980 to conform more closely with the local name “Rwenjura”
  • Located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • The range is about 120 km (75 miles) long and 65 km (40 miles) wide.
  • It consists of six chains separated by deep gorges: Mount Stanley (5,109m), Mount Speke (4,890m), Mount Baker (4,843m), Mount Emin (4,798m), Mount Gessi (4,715m) and Mount Luigi di Savoia (4,627m)
  • Known for their vegetation, ranging from tropical rainforest through alpine meadows to snow
  • Also known for their animal populations, including forest elephants, several primate species, and many endemic birds.