Follow us on

Skiing in Congo? Exploring Africa’s Last Glaciers

Africa’s glaciers sit atop the continent’s highest peaks and face a growing threat of extinction. This article will explore the snowy landscapes found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), also known as DR Congo or Congo-Kinshasa, is one of the fifty-four countries in Africa. Its capital and largest city is Kinshasa. In particular, it has the status of being the most populous French-speaking nation in the world.

Geographically situated in the heart of west-central sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo shares borders (clockwise from the west) with Angola, the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania (next to Lake Tanganyika) and Zambia. The country straddles the equator, with one-third of its territory located in the northern hemisphere and the remaining two-thirds in the southern hemisphere.

Due to its equatorial position, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experiences remarkably high rainfall, averaging 1,070 mm per year, evident in the rainforest region. This abundant rainfall fuels the growth of the Congo rainforest, the second largest in the world. Lush vegetation flourishes along the river basin until the river mouth meets the Atlantic to the west. The surrounding areas feature savannas to the south and southwest, rugged terrain to the west, and dense grasslands that expand beyond the Congo River to the north.

The Rwenzori Range, formerly known as Rwenjura and officially renamed Rwenzori in 1980 to more closely align with its original name, is a small mountain range that straddles the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its highest point, Mount Stanley, rises to 5,109 meters, making it the third largest summit in Africa after Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Among the few African mountain ranges that feature glaciers, similar to Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, these glaciers face a serious threat of disappearance due to the impacts of global warming. Rwenzori Mountains National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Africa´s last glaciers

Currently, only three mountain regions in Africa: the Mount Kenya massif (Kenya), the Rwenzori Mountains (Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda) and Mount Kilimanjaro (United Republic of Tanzania) preserve glaciers. These areas, recognized by the World Meteorological Organization as having limited water storage capacity, are nevertheless considered important for tourism and scientific research.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (5,895m) - Photo credits: Stephan Bechert/Unsplash

Rwenzori Mountains National Park glaciers

Climate change poses a persistent threat to the Rwenzori glaciers. In 1906, these glaciers stretched across six mountains, covering 7.5 square kilometers (2.9 sq mi). In 2005, only about half remained, confined to three mountains and covering approximately 1.5 square kilometers (0.58 sq mi). Studies, including those by Richard Taylor of University College London, attribute this decline to global climate change. Researchers have investigated its impact on the region’s vegetation and biodiversity. An expedition led by Klaus Thymann in 2012, affiliated with the environmental charity Project Pressure, visually documented the falling glaciers through comparative photographs. This change is evident in these images, as rising temperatures cause glaciers to retreat, causing vegetation to gradually move up into the mountains.

Democratic Republic of the Congo glaciers

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, glaciers are found on the slopes of Mount Stanley, specifically around Albert (5,087m) and Alexandra (5,091m) peaks. The Stanley Plateau, located between Alexandra Peak and the main summit of Mount Stanley (5,109m), is home to the Stanley Glacier, the largest mass of ice and snow in the Rwenzori Mountains, spanning more than a kilometer.

Mount Stanley Glacier - Photo credits: Almazoff/

Skiing in the Congo

In theory, skiing is possible anywhere there is snow, and in the Congo we can find snow and ice. However, practical challenges get in the way of good and enjoyable skiing. Congo’s limited-sized glaciers contain crevasses and underground rivers formed due to global warming. Additionally, the extreme cold during certain hours of the day makes skiing very challenging. Although there is no evidence that skiing was practiced in the Congo, mountaineering expeditions to its highest peaks are carried out. We always recommend to travel responsibly, respecting the environment, communities and local laws.