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The Rongai route ascents Kilimanjaro from the northeastern side of the mountain and is normally accessed from Kenya through the Loitokitok border crossing into Tanzania. It offers a unique and quality traverse of Kilimanjaro, approaching the peak by a remote track on the Kenyan side of the massif and reaching the summit (5896m) via the high altitude desert of the “Saddle” then descending on the Tanzania side through the Mweka trail. This route retains a sense of unspoilt wilderness and offers a totally different perspective of Kilimanjaro. Rongai Route is also apparently the easiest Mount Kilimanjaro trekking option with fairly gentle gradients and shorter daily trekking phases.
Nairobi – Oloitokitok by road
We journey south through Kenya to Kibo Slopes cottages, a base camp near the border with Tanzania. The drive takes 4 hours, on the way we invariably spot zebra, giraffe, and gazelle out on the plains.
Hiking time: 5h Distance: Approximately 8 km Habitat: Montane Forest
After morning clearance with the Kenyan customs, we transfer to the Rongai trailhead (1950m) in Nale Moru village of Tanzania, where our mountain crew will be waiting. We commence our climb on a small winding path that crosses maize fields before entering pine forest and then climbs gently through a virgin, natural rain forest where colobus monkeys are common, before emerging to the lower moorland zone. Overnight camp at 1st Caves (2600m). Water can be found just down the trail below First Cave.
Hiking time: 6 – 7h Distance: Approximately 10 km Habitat: Moorlands
The trail continues up towards Kibo, passing Second Cave (3450m) en-route, and reaching Kikelwa Cave about 3600 meters. The views start to open up and you begin to feel you’re on a really big mountain! Water is in the obvious stream below the cave, although you need to wander downhill to fetch some. Overnight at 3rd Cave camp (Kikelewa Caves).
Hiking time: 3 – 4h Distance: Approximately 8 km Habitat: Moorlands
A short but steep climb up grassy slopes offers superb views of this wilderness area. The vegetation zone ends shortly before you reach your next camp at Mawenzi Tarn spectacularly situated beneath the towering spires of Mawenzi. Spend the afternoon acclimatizing and exploring the area.
Hiking time: 4 – 5h Distance: Approximately 8 km Habitat: Alpine desert
Continue ascending on the east side of Kibo crossing the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo taking 4 to 5 hours to reach Kibo Hut. The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent, which begins around midnight. Overnight at Kibo Camp.
Hiking time: 8h to Uhuru, 6h to Horombo Habitat: Stone scree/ice-cap summit
We rise around 2330, and after some tea and biscuits you shuffle off into the night. This is where the going gets tough. The first section of the trail consists of a rocky path to the Hans Meyer Cave (5150m), also a good resting spot. The path then zigzags up to Gillman’s point (5 681m), which is located on the crater rim. This section is very steep with a lot of stone scree, requiring great physical and mental effort. Probably the most demanding section of the entire route. Do the Kili shuffle and move slowly. From Gillman’s Point, you will normally encounter snow up to Uhuru peak (5895m), the highest point in Africa. Total exhilaration and satisfaction – you made it. Weather conditions on the summit will determine how long you can spend, taking photographs, before the 3-hour descent back to Kibo hut. After a short rest, you gather all your gear for the ascent and head down to Horombo hut (3 hours) where you will overnight. The return to Horombo hut will seem surprisingly fast compared to the ascent. The total time spent walking on this day is around 14 hours, so be prepared for a very tough day. Later in the evening, you enjoy your last dinner (with soft drinks and beer for sale at the camp office) on the mountain and well-earned sleep, filled with memories and stirring emotions.
Hiking time: 6h Distance: Approximately 27 km
After breakfast you continue your descent (6 hours), passing the Mandara hut, down to the Marangu gate. It is strongly recommended not to pay your porters any tips until you and all your gear have reached the gate safely. At the Marangu gate, you sign your name and details in a register. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Gillman’s Point (5685m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895m) receive gold certificates. You now drive to Arusha for a long overdue hot shower, dinner, and celebrations!! Overnight in Impala hotel or similar.
After breakfast, we commence our journey back into Nairobi via Namanga and arrive in the afternoon hours.