Mount Kilimanjaro stands on featureless part of the East African plateau, on the Tanzanian side of the Kenya border near Moshi, side by side with the smaller Mount Meru. These mountains are extinct volcanoes, with Kilimanjaro actually being the agglomeration (combination) of three distinct volcanoes: Kibo (5895m/ 19,340 ft), Mawenzi (5,149 / 16,896 ft) and Shira (3,962m / 13,000 ft). whose violent creation is geologically associated with the creation of the Great Rift Valley, 100km to the West.
Arrive at Kilimanjaro airport in the early morning and transfer by private bus to Marangu (a distance of about 85 km.). Those not flying with the group will join us in Marangu. The afternoon is free to relax or to explore the local village and waterfalls. We stay in an old colonial hotel, with a long history of Kilimanjaro climbs.
After completing the necessary registration formalities, we transfer by 4WD vehicles to Nale Moru (1,950 m.) to begin our climb on this unspoilt wilderness route. The first day is only a half-day walk on a small path that winds through farmland and pine plantations. It is a consistent but gentle climb through attractive forest that shelters a variety of wildlife. We reach our first overnight stop by late afternoon at the edge of the moorland zone (2,600 m.).
The morning walk is a steady ascent up to the ‘Second Cave’ (3,450 m) with superb views of the Eastern icefields on the rim of Kibo, the youngest and highest of the three volcanoes that form the entire mountain. After lunch, we leave the main trail and strike out across the moorland on a smaller path towards the jagged peaks of Mawenzi, the second of Kilimanjaro’s volcanoes. Our campsite, which we reach in late afternoon, is in a sheltered valley near Kikelewa Caves (3,600m).
A steep climb up grassy slopes is rewarded by superb panoramas of the Kenyan plains to the north. We leave vegetation behind close to Mawenzi Tarn (4,330m), spectacularly situated in a cirque beneath the towering cliffs of Mawenzi. The afternoon will be free to rest or to explore the surrounding area as an aid to acclimatisation.
We leave our attractive campsite to cross the lunar desert of the ‘Saddle’ between Mawenzi and Kibo to reach Kibo campsite (4,700 m) at the bottom of the Kibo Crater wall by early afternoon. The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent before a very early night!
We will start the final, and by far the steepest and most demanding, part of the climb by torchlight at around midnight. We plod very slowly in darkness and cold on a switchback trail through loose volcanic scree to reach the Crater rim at Gillman’s Point (5,685 m). We will rest there for a short time to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who are still feeling strong can make the three hour round trip along the snow-covered rim to the true summit of Uhuru Peak (5,896 m), passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area. The descent to Kibo Hut (4,700 m) is surprisingly fast and, after some refreshments and rest, we continue descending to reach our final campsite at Horombo (3,720 m). This is an extremely long and hard day, with between 11 to 15 hours walking at high altitude.
A sustained descent with wide views across the moorland takes us into the lovely forest around Mandara (2,700 m), the first stopping place on the Marangu route. The trail continues through semi-tropical vegetation to the National Park gate at Marangu (1,830 m). We leave the local staff to return to our hotel in Marangu by mid-afternoon for a well-earned rest and a much needed shower and beer!
The day can be spent resting in the hotel garden or exploring the village for souvenirs. There is a highly recommended but optional village walk that explores Marangu for half a day. This village is a fascinating mixture of small but fertile coffee and banana farms, friendly Chagga people, and some beautiful scenery with waterfalls and magnificent views. Another possibility is a half-day safari in Arusha National Park, with a direct transfer from here to the airport. This area has good birdlife, some larger mammals, and is also set attractively beneath the slopes of Mt Meru. This safari has to be booked before leaving for the climb on Day 2. Those remaining in Marangu for the day take a mid afternoon transfer back to Kilimanjaro airport. Those not flying back to UK with the group will leave us in Marangu.