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See the magnificent but melting glaciers of the Rwenzori mountains

AFRICAN glaciers are some of the fastest-melting on the planet. On Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania they could be gone by 2040, while those of Mount Kenya and the little-studied Rwenzori mountains that span Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo may vanish this decade.

Their loss will deprive scientists of critical ice cores recording the mostly undocumented climatic history of equatorial Africa, and could drive rare plant and animal species to extinction in these unique ecosystems on the mountain slopes.

Together with my wife and fellow journalist, Alessandra Prentice, I spent eight days hiking in the Rwenzoris to photograph some of the glaciers in this range before they disappear.

The main image shows sunrise over the retreating Stanley glacier, huddled in the valley between the peaks of Margherita (the third highest point in Africa at 5109m) and Alexandra, which form part of Mount Stanley. Photos from 1906 show thick ice covering the tops of the range, but glaciers now cover less than 1 square kilometre.

To get to this location, we hiked for six days, sometimes slipping into the knee-deep mud of the Rwenzoris, which means “the rainmaker” in the local language, Konjo.

The remaining images show: the melting nose of the Stanley glacier; a giant Senecio; guides Enock Bwambale and Uziah Kule from Rwenzori Trekking Services; the giant rosette of a lobelia; a porter carrying supplies through the giant heathers of the Rwenzoris (pictured above); Bwambale and Prentice on the Stanley glacier (pictured below).

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