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Rongai Route

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Simon Mtuy's picture

By Simon Mtuy - Posted on 22 October 2008

Starting from the drier north side of Kilimanjaro at the village of Naremoru near the Kenya border, Rongai is a less traveled route allows trekkers to distance themselves from the busier routes on the lower elevations, a complete traverse of the mountain, a great variety of vistas that most climbers never get to see, and the possibility of observing wildlife at a safe distance. The route passes through lush farmland and pine and cypress forests before ascending into the rainforest. In the higher moorland zone you have views of the Kenyan plains. The final ascent passes the Hans Meyer Cave and reaches the crater rim at Gillman’s Point before following the path along the rim to the summit at Uhuru Peak.

Day 1: First Cave Camp (8,695’)
Drive around the eastern flank of Kilimanjaro through Chagga villages that cling to the mountain slope, up to the border with Kenya before turning in to the Rongai Gate. Begin the climb at about 6,600 feet, walking a few hours through farms and timber plantations before entering the cool and verdant montane forest before reaching the moorland, where the first night’s camp is located.

Day 2: Second Cave Camp (11,350’)
The 3 to 4 hour climb today takes you through open moorland to the second cave camp. You will have spectacular views of both Kibo and Mawenzi peaks as you hike in a southwesterly direction with a dry riverbed on the left. Near the end of the trek pass a small, waterless cave – a false campsite – before continuing for another 20 minutes through lizard country of bare rocks and long grasses to the overnight spot.

Day 3: Third Cave Camp (12,790’)
Today is an easy paced acclimatization day as you gain a mere 1,400 feet in elevation. You encounter huge boulders while the vegetation noticeably thins as low heathers, groundsel, and helichrysum flower dominate.

Day 4: Kibo Camp (15,580’)
A steady hike through an arid and bleak alpine desert to the camp at Kibo hut, where you will first encounter the trekkers using the Marangu route (your descent path). At midnight begin the final ascent to Uhuru Peak.

Day 5: Uhuru Peak/Horombo Camp (12,150’)
The summit ascent that began at midnight is a steep 5 to 6 hour climb to Gillman's Point (18,640 feet) before the route flattens out along the crater rim. A further 1 to 2 hours takes you to Uhuru Peak at 19,340 feet. Descend to Kibo camp before continuing on the Marangu route to the camp site at Horombo, more than 7,000 feet below the summit!

Day 6: Marangu Gate
Descend through the thick montane forest on Kilimanjaro’s southern flank as you hike 4 hours and drop more than 5,000 feet to the trailhead at Marangu Gate, encountering legions of climbers beginning their trek.

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