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Mountain Climbing Tourism

Climate change fallout blocks route to Rwenzori Peaks in Uganda

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  May 06, 2010

Glaciers on the top of the "Mountains of the Moon," aka target="_blank">Rwenzori Mountains, have shrunk considerably since the peaks were first climbed over a hundred years ago, and since satellite surveillance and mapping has started to provide detailed records, part of the progressive disappearance of the equatorial icecaps also seen on Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. This has worried climate researchers, conservationists, and economists alike, as the fallout for the local ecosystems and the subsequent economic fallout, when runoff water quantities from the mountains begin to dwindle, will be having a major impact on millions of people living around these mountains.

Meanwhile, reports have filtered back from climbers - the Rwenzori Mountains are a national park under the auspices of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) ‚Äď that the glacier leading up to the Margherita peak has developed a deep crack, which has widened to several meters, effectively blocking the ascend for climbers. This particular glacier has shrunk to less than 20 percent, according to available records, since the 1960s, and the deep crack may be a harbinger of things still to come should global warming continue unchecked.

There is now a risk, that should the crack widen further, that part of the glacier may progressively slide away further. According to UWA sources, other smaller cracks have also been observed on other glaciers in the mountains although it could not immediately be ascertained what impact this would have on mountain climbing tourism, the major source of income for this particular national park. Many alpinists come to Uganda to climb the challenging Rwenzoris, the only "proper" equatorial mountain range besides the free-standing Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro

The equatorial icecaps were immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s book, "Snow on Kilimanjaro," and have been attracting tourists from all over the world to East Africa.

In recent reports, and as witnessed directly by this correspondent, mention was made about the Mt. Kenya glaciers shrinking to a minute portion of their former glorious self, while the Kilimanjaro icecaps are also only covering the top of the peak instead of reaching far down the mountain. Watch this space for more reporting throughout the year as the focus is now on the Mexico Summit where hopefully a globally binding agreement on the curtailing and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can be reached, as otherwise the equatorial icecaps may well be gone within the next 15 to 20 years.

Climate change fallout blocks route to Rwenzori Peaks in Uganda
View of glacier / Image via

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