Mount Meru Ascent:
Mount Meru (4566m) is the second highest mountain in Tanzania and a much underrated mountain climb because of its 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 1500m high, and inside the caldera is a subsidiary peak called the Ash Cone (3670m) 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. Mount 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. The climb of Meru is very much justified on its 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!
Itinerary: 4 days
Day 1: Mt Meru – Miriakamba Hut (5-6 hours walking)
We pick you up from your Arusha Hotel at 8.00am and transfer to Momella Gate (1500m), the start point of Mt Meru climb. The track soon passes open grassland, where there is a good chance of seeing buffalo and warthogs, and then continues as a steady climb through montane forest. We have lunch 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 is an abundance of birds and monkeys. The black and white colobus monkeys are particularly fascinating to watch. By mid-afternoon, we see our first views of the towering cliffs and the Ash Cone. We reach Miriakamba Hut (2514m), 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. Overnight mountain hut.
Day 2: To Saddle Hut (3-6 hours walking)
The walk from Miriakamba Hut to the saddle below Little Meru is a short but steep climb. We walk through beautiful, lush montane forest to reach Elephant Ridge, the halfway point. This has excellent views of the summit ridge and across most of the crater floor. During a break, you might spot elephants or other animals from our vantage point. The path continues uphill through giant heather and other moorland vegetation to reach Saddle Hut (3570m), where lunch is waiting. The afternoon is free to rest and enjoy the views. Those with more energy can make the short climb to the nearby summit of Little Meru (3820m) for superb views just before sunset. Overnight mountain hut.
Day 3: To the Summit (Socialist Peak 4556m) (10-12hrs)
We begin with an early start at around 2.00am to climb steeply to Rhino Point (3800m), and then continue along an undulating ridge of ash and rock to reach Cobra Point (4350m) arriving at 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 (4566m) is another hour further along a steep but spectacular path. On a clear day, the views are absolutely rewarding. The route back to Rhino Point along 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 (2514m). Overnight mountain hut.
Day 4: Complete climb, Transfer back to Arusha town (2-3 hours walking)
We take the direct route down towards Momella through open grassland and mixed forest, with good chances of seeing wildlife once again. This trail has excellent views back towards the crater and over the plains of the National Park. We should reach Momella Gate by late morning and meet your waiting transport back to your hotel in Arusha.