Detailed Itinerary: Mt. Meru 3 days
Mt. Meru (4,566m.) is the second highest mountain in Tanzania and a very underrated mountain climb because of it’s close proximity to Kilimanjaro. It is a horseshoe-shaped volcanic crater with a spectacularly narrow ridge and superb all round views. The cliffs of the inner wall below the summit are over 1500 m. high, and inside the caldera is a subsidiary peak called the Ash Cone (3,670 m.) that last erupted only 100 years ago. There is an immense variety of tree and plant life, adding considerably to the interest of the trek.
Mt. Meru is part of Arusha National Park, and the lower slopes of the mountain shelter a variety of wildlife. The routes below Miriakamba Hut are more like walking safaris than mountain climbs and our guide is an informed and armed park ranger (in case we get too close to some of the animals!). You are almost certain to see buffaloes, warthogs , monkeys, and a variety of birdlife. Giraffe and elephant are also quite common.
Accommodation is in two well maintained wooden huts that have spectacular views of Kilimanjaro rising above the clouds. The climb of Meru is very much justified on it’s own merits but is also a great way to get acclimatised for Kilimanjaro. The views from Meru to Kilimanjaro, and of the Meru crater itself, give plenty of inspiration for another mountain climb!
Day 1 We start from Momella Gate (1,500 m.) in late morning. The track soon passes some open grassland, with a good chance of seeing buffaloes and warthogs, and then continues as a steady climb through montane forest. We take lunch at, or near, the Fig Tree Arch, which is big enough to drive a car through! After lunch , the route continues through less dense forest, where there are an abundance of birds and monkeys. The black and white colobus monkeys are particularly fascinating to watch. By mid-afternoon, there are the first closer views of the towering cliffs and the Ash Cone. We reach Miriakamba Hut (2,514 m.), situated in an idyllic grassy glade, in time to enjoy the last of the afternoon sun and beautiful views over the surrounding plains towards Kilimanjaro. [5-6 hours walking].
Day 2 The walk from Miriakamba Hut to the saddle below Little Meru is a short day but a steep and sustained climb all the way. We walk through attractive, open, and lush montane forest to reach the halfway point of Elephant Ridge. This has excellent views of the summit ridge and across most of the crater floor. Whilst resting, you might spot elephants or other animals from here. The path continues uphill through giant heather and other moorland vegetation to reach Saddle Hut (3,570 m.), where lunch is waiting for us. The afternoon is free to rest and enjoy the views. The more energetic can make the short climb to the nearby summit of Little Meru (3,820 m.) for superb views just before sunset. [3-6 hours walking.
Day 3 An early start at around 2 a.m. to climb steeply to Rhino Point (3,800 m.), and then continue along an undulating ridge of ash and rock to reach Cobra Point (4,350 m.) around sunrise. The views are stunning: the cliffs of the Crater rim, the Ash Cone rising from the Crater floor, Kilimanjaro floating on the morning clouds, and west towards the Rift Valley if the weather is clear. The summit of Socialist Peak (4,566 m.) is an hour more on a superb but often steep path. The route back to Rhino Point in the sharp morning light on a narrow ridge between the sloping outer wall of the crater and the sheer cliffs of the inner wall is one of the most dramatic and exhilarating walks in Africa. We rest, and have brunch at Saddle Hut before continuing the descent to Miriakamba Hut (2,514 m.)
We take the direct route down towards Momella through open grassland and mixed forest, with good chances of seeing wildlife. This trail has excellent views back towards the crater and over the plains of the National Park. We should reach Momella Gate by late evening.
Note: The ridge between the summit and Rhino Point is not suitable for those suffering from vertigo. In icy conditions or in strong winds, it may be impossible for anyone to progress beyond Rhino Point. Sunrise from here is equally as spectacular as from Cobra Pt