After completing the necessary registration formalities at the Marangu Gate, 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 ice fields 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 acclimatization.
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 local accommodations by mid-afternoon for a well-earned rest and a much needed shower and beer!