American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Editor's Note: Guide to the Rwenzori — Mountains of the Moon

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Editors note: Guide to the Rwenzori - Mountains of the Moon; 336 pages including 48 color plates, 25 grayscale, and 30 maps and drawings; ISBN 0-9518039-6-4. Publication date June 2006. £16.00.

The 1972 Osmaston and Pasteur “Guide to the Rwenzori,” long out of print, has been expanded and completely revised. It describes changes in the status of the range as a National Park and World Heritage Site, and records the great retreat of the glaciers. As before, it contains a detailed history of exploration, climbing, research, and management in the range and has been funded by the Rwenzori Trust, to which all proceeds will accrue. The objectives of this trust are to support scientific research, environmental conservation, and mountaineering education in Uganda or for Ugandans.

Henry Osmaston notes that naming of features in “other people’s” mountain ranges is something that has to be both appropriate and modest. The following has been abstracted from the guidebook and could be pertinent to other mountain ranges.

Onomatology (the study of name origins). Places, like people, must have names to identify them. The Bakonzo have lived and hunted in the Rwenzori for millennia. Naturally they gave names to features important to them: rivers, lakes, rock-shelters, etc. These are often either descriptive or historical but have been awarded in a limited and uncertain fashion to features such as mountains, which have only become important in the last century to explorers with other interests. The first explorer of all, Stanley, did his best for local names with Ruwenzori, though he was not entirely successful and recently Rwenzori has been adopted as nearer the vernacular. Later explorers, such as Johnston, tried to identify local names, such as Duwoni and Kyanja, with particular mountains, but did not know enough about them: these names later had to be discarded.

“New places” must have new names. Humphreys was diligent in manufacturing (not always correctly) and applying apparently local names to the minor peaks he climbed. These continue to be used, e.g., Keki for one shaped like a cake. In 2006 we celebrate the centenary of explorations that resulted in Abruzzi applying the names of European royalties (Margherita), German professors (Kraepelin), and earlier explorers (Scott Elliot) to most of the major peaks, passes, and other features. These were in accord with the political climate then, and had the official approval of the Royal Geographical Society (which had to urge on him the application of his own name, albeit modestly, to the smallest of the five main mountains). This tradition was continued by the Belgian de Grunne (Albert) and by Busk, with Philip and Elizabeth (but Busk was a Queen’s Ambassador, so he had some justification).

Whatever we may feel about such names now in our different political climate, name changes cause great confusion and the Ugandan authorities have shown praiseworthy restraint in retaining the plethora of foreign names, which do represent an interesting historical record.

As the exploration of the Rwenzori becomes more detailed, there will be a justified need for the naming of more and more features so that they may be conveniently identified. Each fresh expedition, flushed with its achievements and impelled to write about them, is liable to produce a rash of new names of its own invention. Some of these names fail to become commonplace, either because they are unsuitable or incorrect, or because they appear in a publication of limited circulation. This causes much trouble to those who later wish to study accounts in which these names are used.

In future, appropriate descriptive or personal Lukonzo (or other Ugandan) names would be preferable for naming new features, such as Kitasamba and Nyabubuya, recommended by the MCU and officially approved in 1953. All those who wish to propose new names should get in touch with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, responsible for this national park, which can guide and approve the choice of suitable names, then record them for permanent use in future editions of this guide and on Survey Dept. maps. The only recent examples of foreign personal names, Guy Yeoman Hut and Kurt Schafer Bridge, are perhaps justified, as each played an important role in the conservation and development of the Park: both names were locally proposed and both features are possibly no more than ephemeral structures.

Dr Henry Osmaston, United Kingdom

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