Image by Crispin Jones

The Marangu Route

We mention this route first because it is one of the most well-known. This route, which is also one of the oldest, often deceives people due to the gradual elevation profile and overall shortness of the climb. Though it may appear to be easy, the direct nature of this route (only 5-6 days) prohibits climbers from acclimatizing as well as the other routes. This climb approaches from the southeast and requires climbers ascend and descend the same trail, which limits the scenery and tends to result in a sense of overcrowding. 

 

However, despite the aggressive schedule, this climb offers comfortable amenities that the other routes lack, making it one of the more popular climbs. For example, this is the only climb that offers cabins to sleep in, instead of camping. The opportunity to sleep in bunk beds each night, instead of a tent is a major plus for many people. Additionally, the camps at lower elevations also offer dining halls and washrooms with running water. Kibo Hut, due to its extreme elevation does not provide running water, however. 

 

Marangu Itinerary (6-Day Option) 

DAY 1 – Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut

Habitat: Rain Forest

Hiking Time:  4-5 hours

Distance: 8 km | 5 miles

Elevation: 6,046 ft to 8,858 ft

 

The route begins with every climber checking in at Marangu Gate. The first leg starts off in a bright green rainforest habitat filled with exotic wildlife and lush vegetation.  This habitat gradually fades away as we change zones and enter the moorlands surrounding Mandara Hut. 

 

DAY 2 – Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut

Habitat: Moorlands

Hiking Time: 6-8 hours

Distance: 12 km | 7 miles

Elevation: 8,858 ft to 12,205 ft

We start the day continuing through the forest until the trail opens into high moorland. We may get our first views of Kibo and Mawenzi peaks – two of the three volcanic peaks that make up the summit of Kilimanjaro.

 

DAY 3 – Horombo Hut to Mawenzi Ridge to Horombo Hut

Horombo Hut to Mawenzi Ridge

Habitat: Moorlands

Hiking Time: 2-3 hours

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Elevation: 12,205 ft to 14,400 ft

 

Mawenzi Ridge to Horombo Hut

Habitat: Moorlands

Hiking Time: 1-2 hours

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Elevation: 14,400 ft to 12,205 ft

 

Day 3 is scheduled as an acclimatization day. Trips scheduled for five days do not receive this extra day at altitude. Statistics bear out that this additional time increases not only the chances of summiting but dramatically reduces altitude-related issues later, such as painful headaches and the “drowning” feeling associated with lower O2 levels. 

 

DAY 4 –  Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 6-8 hours

Distance: 10 km | 6 miles

Elevation: 12,205 ft to 15,430 ft

 

We climb gradually, then cross the lunar desert of the “Saddle” between Mawenzi and Kibo. Our camp, Kibo Hut, sits at the bottom of the Kibo crater wall. Once here we rest and enjoy an early dinner to prepare for the summit day.

 

Day 4 is our last day before the summit. We ascend to the saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi peaks to Kibo Hut. All camps at this altitude are considered “dry” and have no running water. Once in camp, climbers are encouraged to eat heartily and rest in preparation for the summit push.

 

DAY 5 –  Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut

Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak

Habitat: Alpine Desert to Arctic

Hiking Time: 6-8 hours

Distance: 6 km | 4 miles

Elevation: 15,430 ft to 19,341 ft

 

Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut

Habitat: Arctic to Moorlands

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 16 km | 10 miles

Elevation: 19,341 ft to 12,250 ft

The summit push begins early, around 11 pm, and is by far the most demanding leg of the trip. The elevation gain is extreme and, in conjunction with the darkness and intense cold, climbers must be ready. The group will spend several hours climbing in darkness, moving slowly, with the goal of arriving at Gilman’s Point before sunrise, which is nothing short of spectacular. Again, it is very cold, so be sure to bring enough clothing that will permit you to enjoy the moment! From here we push to Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa! After enjoying the sights and taking pictures, we begin the descent. The drop to lower elevations happens very quickly, and by evening we are back to Horombo Hut where we spend our final night on the mountain. 

 

DAY 6 – Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate

Habitat: Rain Forest

Hiking Time: 5-7 hours

Distance: 20 km | 12 miles

Elevation: 12,205 ft to 6,046 ft

 

Our final trek brings us to Mweka Gate. Here we check out of the park, receive our certificates, and board a bus to take us to a relaxing lunch, where we will be accompanied by all of our guides and porters. When lunch convenes, we will have a short time to walk around and spend time shopping before boarding the bus back to Arusha.  

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