Bringing science onto the mountain side

We install high-altitude weather stations in southern Africa’s mountains, gathering vital climate change data and we build research stations, providing scientists with essential bases for their studies.

Weather stations


We purchase, install and maintain weather stations, each with data logging capability in secure locations above 1,700 metres across the mountain systems of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Our robust solar powered weather stations are made by Campbell Scientific, a worldwide provider of rugged, reliable data loggers and data acquisition systems. Installed and maintained by our team of regional technicians these weather stations are all placed in the mountains of southern Africa and the data is recorded and downloaded onto a data logger that is accessed remotely.

This data is available on an open access basis to interested parties including national governments and meteorological offices, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, UNESCO, universities from across the SADC and the rest of the world and international research organisations and NGO’s.

Data generated by each of our weather stations is uploaded automatically to a portal which records the air temperature, wind speed and direction, atmospheric pressure, humidity, rainfall and evaporation at each location every two minutes. This data is freely available and may be downloaded by anyone who needs it. It is updated hourly and 24 hourly and the historical data is available to download and export.

Our first research station is based in the Maloti-Drakensberg mountains of South Africa. The Witsieshoek-Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) Alpine Research station currently comprises two resurrected buildings from the original Namahadi Police Border Post buildings. The station is situated at an elevation of 3,069 m, at the head of the Namahadi Pass, in the Free State component of the Maloti-Drakensberg.

The Namahadi station is the highest-elevation research facility in Africa and the highest tourist mountain hut in southern Africa.

The original Namahadi Police Border Post buildings were erected in 1917 to serve as a border post for foot and bridle traffic between South Africa and Lesotho. The original buildings were extensively vandalised and left in ruins for many decades.

In 2020, our partners at the Afromontane Research Unit (ARU), led by AMRF Trustee Professor Ralph Clark, discovered the ruins and began the process of negotiating with Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge for the resurrection and re-purposing of these ruins as South Africa’s first alpine research station

This work was largely completed in May 2023, with financial support from the South African Department of Science & Innovation and the National Research Foundation (Global Change Directorate) through their Risk & Vulnerability Science Programme. Final aspects of the build have been supported by AMRF, to secure the station against the extremely harsh winters. Apart from the relaying of the walls with their original stone, all building materials were either flown in by helicopter or portered up via chain ladders. Security for the station has been supported by ETH Zurich EU Biodiversa (RangeX project).

The station’s operational financial model is a research-tourist hybrid that covers costs of maintenance, insurance and security into 2024 and beyond.

Traditional challenges for long-term alpine research in the Maloti-Drakensberg are security, access logistics, and the extreme weather conditions. This station has overcome all three of these. Click here for more information on alpine projects around the station and for information about how you can book the site for your research.

Facilities

  • The base currently provides basic shelter in the form of a large building that can accommodate up to 20 people sleeping on the floor.
  • The building has an insulated ceiling and floor, and double-glazed windows. However, temperatures at the base can drop below freezing at any time of the year.
  • Users must bring everything they need for their own use. (There are no bunks or cooking facilities)
  • Indoor lighting is provided through solar power.
  • There is a basic bathroom (toilet, shower) with a specially designed alpine sanitation treatment system (due to the extreme conditions).
  • Water is supplied through tanks from roof-collected rainwater/snowmelt; water is abundant is summer, but scarce in the dry season. In winter, the system may be frozen due to the extremely low temperatures.
  • The smaller building houses the security guards, who look after the base and associated research equipment.
  • Visitors must please take all their rubbish back with them.

Our second research station on the side of Malawi’s Mount Mulanje is in the early stages. It will provide scientists with a headquarters for field research and expeditions.

Help us on our mission

Mountains Matter. They are home to 15% of the world’s population, host about half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, provide freshwater for everyday life to half of the global population and help to sustain agriculture and supply clean energy and medicines. Help us to protect them.

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