It doesn’t always have to be Kilimanjaro. All informations about the fantastic climb of Mount Meru in Tanzania. We have mastered the challenging climb.
Getting to Mount Meru
The ascent to Mount Meru starts in the Arusha National Park at Momella Gate. As the name suggests, the Arusha National Park is located near one of Tanzania’s largest cities, Arusha. The city itself has a small regional airport, but can only be reached with small aircraft.
The Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is also served directly by several European airlines, is considerably larger.
Otherwise we recommend the detour via Dar Es Salaam and then the journey to Moshi or Arusha (most agencies for Mount Meru are based in Arusha, some in Moshi). There are also buses from Dar es Salaam to Arusha and Moshi. The trip usually takes one day. But be careful, they are not always reliable and the driving style of the drivers leaves a lot to be desired.
The more reliable companies include Dar Express and Metro Express. Tickets should be booked in advance on the Internet or purchased from a local agency (however, you should know the price beforehand, otherwise you will be happy to pay too much).
Best time to climb Mount Meru
Mount Meru can be climbed all around the year. Peak times (and therefore the highest prices) for the climb are June/July and from December to February. During this time you should book your climb in good time. Otherwise spontaneous climbs are also possible. In the rainy season from March to May, precipitation and changes in weather are more likely, but it is still possible to climb the mountain.
Routes to climb Mount Meru
The ascent to Mount Meru is generally done via the Momella route and usually takes 3-4 days. Depending on how fit you are, you can choose the right option for you. We were on the summit in two days (I wouldn’t do it without acclimatisation) and then we took two days to descend.
Maximale Höhe: 4543 m
Minimale Höhe: 1564 m
Download the GPS-Track for climbing Mount Meru here: Track_Mount_Meru
Equipment and packing list for Mount Meru
Mount Meru is with 4.565m the fifth highest mountain in Africa and next to Mount Kilimanjaro the second highest mountain in Tanzania. The scale should make it clear that the mountain is by no means to be underestimated. Over 3,000m the temperatures can be slightly below zero degrees Celsius. During the descent from the summit we were accompanied by thick fog and a heavy hail shower.
For this reason, Mount Meru requires high alpine equipment for emergencies, although you can generally expect much higher temperatures. Of course, because of the climbing it is recommended to use mountain boots, at least category B and trekking poles to protect the joints.
How to find the right agency
At the moment (as of November 2016) it is not possible to climb Mount Meru individually. There were problems with some mountaineers who had no supplies at the huts and left their garbage behind. That’s why you have to book your climb with an agency including a guide. However, you can save money if you carry your luggage yourself, for example, and don’t wear straps. There is also room for negotiation when it comes to eating (which means a cook again).
Since we had rather the leisure aspect in our Focus we decided for a trip with cook and porters. The ascent should normally cost between 700 and 850 USD per person (at the four-day ascent). We did our ascent of Mount Meru with Mega Adventures, the boys are sitting in Moshi and did a great job.
A frequently discussed point is the tip for the boys who help you with your climb. I have prepared a rough guideline based on various conversations and sources, the prices are valid for the four-day trip per group.
- Guide 60-70 USD
- Cook 30-35 USD
- Carrier 20-25 USD
First day to Miriakamba Hut (Southern Route)
The first stage of the climb up Mount Meru leads us from Momella Gate to Miriakamba hut. At Momella Gate the paperwork will be done before we can finally enter. Accompanied by an armed ranger with a good firearm (after all, we are on our way for a national park with many wild animals) we make our way to the first kilometres. Since you don’t need a ranger for each group, you will also meet other groups here. If you prefer to travel alone, please let your agency know.
At the beginning we follow the road we came through and then turn right over a bridge. The first stage to the Miriakamba hut is about 14 km long and there are 1000 m in altitude in front of you. The carriers usually use the so-called Northern Route. This is a narrow path that leads directly up the mountain and shortens the distance to 6 km.
We took the Southern Route to Mount Meru and took four hours for this first stage to Miriakamba Hut. Five to six hours were planned. But you should not run too fast and save your strength for the summit day.
The most part of the stage leads us through dense forests which give us their shade and protect us from the heat and the sun rays which are also burning at this altitude. As a first stage finish we reach the Fig Arch Tree after about 1.5 hours. A large fig tree, stretching across the path, provides the gateway to Mount Meru. The road winds its way up the mountain more or less steeply.
Apart from good physical condition and sufficient water and food you don’t need to bring anything with you on this first stage. Short sections on narrow forest paths let you dive even deeper into the rainforest of Arusha National Park. Again and again we can observe buffalo, antelopes and monkeys. Watch the monkeys – they like to steal food or other loose objects lying around and are sometimes extremely stubborn. But can be freightened with a little effort.
After about 2.5 hours of climbing we turn left from the regular path and reach a small waterfall (Maio Falls) with very clear water that invites us to a short break. The last section before we reach Miriakamba hut leads over an impressive plain.
Here the Ranger’s work pays off on his way to Mount Meru. We are observed by a single buffalo from a safe distance. These animals are considered to be particularly aggressive because they have been rejected by the herd. After a short descent we reach Miriakamba hut on a little bit more than 2.500m, exhausted but happy.
The porters were there before us and so we can move into our rooms directly. The guest cabins consist of very tidy four-bed rooms, each with two double-deck beds. Behind the two cabins there are washrooms and toilets. If the water is not scarce, even a shower is possible…
Day 2 – To the summit of Mount Meru
After an extensive breakfast we head off to the summit. Usually you go from the Miriakamba Hut to Saddle Hut before you head up to the summit at midnight. Before you have the opportunity to make a short tour to Little Mount Meru (3.800m), stay there for a while and acclimatize and then return to Saddle Hut.
But we decided to climb directly from the Miriakamba Hut over the Saddle Hut to Mount Meru and return to the Saddle Hut. This option is also often chosen if you want to climb Mount Meru in three days. Here the shortened acclimatization time has to be considered, because you have to climb directly from 2.500m to the summit at 4.565m.
Sooner said than done we’re going to the first part of our climb to Saddle Hut. The trail leads over a narrow path steeply up the mountain. On the way you always have the possibility to enjoy a spectacular view of the Kilimanjaro. After an hour’s climb we arrive at Topela Mbogo and after another 30 minutes at Mgongo Wa Tembo (3.050m) we have a first longer drinking break.
From here you have a great view of the crater and Kilimanjaro. Often it is bedded on a dense cloud cover. That sometimes not the biggest animals are the most dangerous we could experience here at our own body. If your ranger means to pass a huge swarm of bees next to the path as fast as possible, you also take your legs in your hand.
On the way up to Saddle Hut you have to climb about 1000 metres over six kilometres. Depending on your fitness level, you should not take longer than three to four hours. We reached Saddle Hut at about ten o‘ clock. A second breakfast should give us the strenght to reach the summit.
After all, there are about 1,000 metres to climb and in contrast to the other stages, there is plenty of climbing to do. A slight pressure on the head reminds us of the height we are at. But everything runs smoothly and we starting our way to the summit.
The first thing to do in less than an hour is to go relatively relaxed on wide paths to Rhino Point at 3,800m. From there, the trail leads up and next to the ridge to Mount Meru. To the left you always have a great view of (insert: crumbling volcanic crater). Apart from small climbing inlays on rock faces, the paths made of lava sand in particular cost a lot of strength.
Just imagine you are walking on the beach. Again and again you sink in and slide back a little bit. On the cliffs there are some sections with steel rope, but nothing to technical. Of course, we were also lucky with the weather.
After the sun had roasted us on the previous day, we are now accompanied by dense fog and temperatures around zero as we climb Mount Meru. After passing 4.000m in altitude we notice more and more how the thin air is affecting us. Probably it was also a bit ambitious to climb an altitude of more than 2,000 meters at this altitude.
Step by step we fight our way to the summit. Every few meters, we have to take a breath. After the last steep climb we finally exhausted but happily made it to the summit. We were at the summit at about 3:00pm.
If you start climbing at midnight, your goal is usually to reach the summit at sunrise. From the summit of Mount Meru we descend for two to three hours to the Saddle Hut. With acking legs and accompanied by a hail shower we long for the hut. On the horizon the sun slowly begins to sink and reminds us that it would be better to reach the hut before sundawn.
We didn’t quite manage that, but we were half as bad – around 6:30 pm. Unfortunately, we don’t have much recognition left for the delicious food. We have been on the road for more than eleven hours now and struggle with the consequences of a summit day at this altitude. After a few small bites and a lot of tea we crawl into the sleeping bag and wait for our body to regain its temperature.
From the Miriakamba Hut you also have the possibility to make a side trip to the Meru Crater Floor.
Day 3 – From Saddle Hat to Miriakamba Hut
After a more or less sleepless night we feel like we’ve been partying all night long. A decent breakfast helps our body to slowly return to a certain level of strenght. Today the relaxed descent from Saddle Hut to Miriakamba Hut is on the agenda. 1000 m down without much effort.
After we have already reached the Miriakamba hut at noon we decide to take a walk around. The plain at the foot of Mount Meru gives us the feeling of having landed directly in Jurassic Park. Surrounded from two sides by the massif of Mount Meru lies a spectacular steppe and forest landscape. With a bit of luck you can also meet elephants, buffaloes, lions and antelopes, which is why you shouldn’t be without a ranger.
Day 4 – Miriakamba Hut to Momella Gate (Northern Route)
On the last day we have to return from the Miriakamba hut to our starting point at Momela Gate. So that we don’t have to walk the same route twice, we choose the so-called Northern Route. This narrow path is shorter than the Southern Route, which can also be used by jeeps. During the descent you have a great view of Momela Lake and the Arusha National Park. After about 1000 m of descent we reach a picturesque plain.
We turn right and have a short break at a bigger waterfall. This is where the stream that feeds the plain with water is created. Since it’s only about half an hour walk from here to Momela Gate and the feet are not stressed anymore, there’s nothing wrong with a cold shower under the waterfall. At the starting point of our tour to Mount Meru there is a cold Cola and our summit certificates before we return to Moshi by jeep.
We wish you a lot of fun climbing Mount Meru. If you like this article please share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.