Climb Kilimanjaro on the Rongai route used to guarantee you a quiet trek away from the masses. This route is marketed as a remote wilderness experience and for much of the year it still is. However in the couple years Rongai has seen a surge in popularity. If you climb Kilimanjaro on the Rongai route during the main season (August to mid October) and if your climb starts on the usual group departure day, you may find yourself in the middle of a pretty big crowd. Rongai is the easiest route up Kilimanjaro, in some respects easier than Marangu. Rongai has excellent success rates. Rongai is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north. You have to descend on the Marangu route on the southern side, so you get to see both sides of the mountain. The northern side of Kilimanjaro is drier. You are unlikely to have to slosh through mud and drizzle on the first two days.
Day1: Rongai Gate to Rongai Cave
We drive from Moshi to Marangu Gate for permits before taking a short transfer to the Rongai Gate trailhead. The path winds through corn and potato fields and then climbs gently through the forest which is home to a variety of wildlife, including the black and white colobus monkey. The trek begins from Nale Moru village and follows a gradual and winding trail that first crosses maize fields before entering the rainforest. The first day hiking is easy going and you will arrive at Rongai First Cave (2,620 meters) around mid-afternoon, where you can freshen up and have dinner.
Elevation: 6,398 ft to 9,300 ft Distance: 8 km/5 miles Hiking Time: 3-4 hours Habitat: Rain Forest
Day 2: Rongai Cave – Kikelewa Cave
We begin this morning with a steady incline up to Second Cave. We continue trekking though moorland, leaving the main trail for a smaller path towards the jagged peaks of Mawenzi. You will stop for lunch at Rongai Second Cave (3,450 meters), 6km from the First Cave Camp, before turning east to Kikelewa Camp (3,600 meters) for your overnight stay. Depending on your tour operator, eight day trekkers might stop at Rongai Second Caves for the night before proceeding to Kikelewa Camp.
Elevation: 9,300 ft to 11,811 ft Distance: 6 km/4 miles Hiking Time: 3-4 hours Habitat: Heath
Day 3: Kikelewa Cave to Mawenzi Tarn
You will arrive at Mawenzi Tarn in time for lunch and then have the whole afternoon to explore the surrounding area and acclimatize. It is important to know that the today hike is short and steep up a grassy slope. Views of the wilderness area are stunning. As we exit the heath zone and emerge into the Alpine Desert zone, the landscape changes dramatically. Our camp is situated beneath the jagged spires of Mawenzi, at Mawenzi Tarn.
Elevation: 11,811 ft to 14,160 ft Distance: 5 km/3 miles Hiking Time: 3-4 hours Habitat: Alpine Desert
Day 4: Mawenzi Tarn – Kibo Hut 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. At Kibo Hut you will get served dinner and will go to bed early as you will be awoken around 23:30 to begin your summit attempt. Trekkers should remember to prepare their gear, including headlamp, camera, insulated water and warm weather clothes before they go to sleep. Once here we rest, enjoy an early dinner to prepare for the summit day.
Elevation (ft): 14,160 ft to 15,430 ft Distance: 8 km/5 miles Hiking Time: 5-6 hours Habitat: Alpine Desert
Day 5: Kibo Hut – Uhuru Peak Horombo Hut Very early in the morning (around midnight), we begin our push to the summit. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The wind and cold at this elevation and time of day can be extreme. We ascend in the darkness for several hours while taking frequent, but short, breaks. At Gilman point (18,600 ft), you will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see coming over Mawenzi Peak. Finally, we arrive at Uhuru Peak- the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. After spending a few moments taking in the plains of Africa and your accomplishment, we descend to Horombo Hut. Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.
Elevation (ft): 15,430 ft to 19,341 ft to 12,250 ft Distance: 6 km/4 miles – 16 km/10 miles Hiking Time: 6-8 hours – Habitat: Arctic
Day 6: Horombo Hut – Marangu Gate
On our final day from Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate (1,870 meters) is a long one, nearly 20km! This long trek mostly downhill will take you through the tropical rainforest. Your knees will be sore from the previous days hike so go slowly and make sure of your footing as you descend, using your trekking poles to limit the impact on your joints. Once at the park headquarters at Marangu gate, we collect our summit certificates. A vehicle will meet us here and drive us back to the hotel in Arusha or Moshi.
Elevation (ft): 12,205 ft to 6,046 ft Distance: 20 km/12 miles Hiking Time: 5-7 hours Habitat: Rain Forest