Named after Samuel Baker, a 19th-century British explorer who in 1864 was the first European to sight and visit Lake Albert, just northeast of the Rwenzori Mountains, the local Bakonjo name for the mountain is “Kiyanja”. Now only home to one small glacier of its own, Mount Baker is the second highest mountain in the Rwenzori. In 1906 the Duke of Abruzzi climbed it to get a vantage point of Mount Stanley. The 25zero team followed in his footsteps to get the same vantage point to show the change to Mount Stanley’s ice cap in the 110 years since his expedition.
Local coffee farmers in the Rwenzori foothills say that climate change has disrupted rainfall patterns, giving them more intense rains and then drier spells in between. Fires followed two months of drought in the Rwenzori in 2012 – perhaps the first such drought in the history of the normally wet mountains (Rwenzori means ‘rain maker’). The fires destroyed 30–40 square kilometres of alpine vegetation including trees, shrubs, heathers and mosses. When heavy rains returned, the water ran off the bare slopes unchecked, turning the Nyamwamba river into a raging torrent that destroyed historic buildings and bridges in Kilembe and claimed 20 lives. Boulders the size of cars and buildings, torn in half by flood waters, are a reminder of the terrible flood and the impact of changing climatic patterns.