The Rongai route ascents Kilimanjaro from the north-eastern side of the mountain, along the border between Tanzania and Kenya. This route retains a sense of unspoilt wilderness and offers a different perspective on Kilimanjaro by approaching it from the north. The Rongai route’s premier advantage is that it is one of the quietest routes on the mountain. A disadvantage is the long travel time to the starting point of the route. The route also becomes busier when it connects with the Marangu route just before reaching Kibo hut. The Rongai route descends along the Marangu route as well, however you still sleep in tents, and do not use the A-frame huts of the Marangu route.
Rongai Gate to 1st Caves Camp
- Elevation: (1950m) – (2600m)
- Distance: 8 kms
- Hiking time: 5h
- VegetationZone: Forest (Montane)
Register at the Marangu park gate, after which you transfer (approximately 2 ½ hours) to the Rongai trailhead. Meet your guide and porters before you begin your hike from the Nale Moru village. The small winding path crosses maize fields before entering pine forest, and then climbs gently through a forest. The trail is not at all steep, but is rather a gentle hike through beautiful country. The first night’s camp is at First Cave, at about 2,600 metres. There is a toilet and a wooden table with benches, but no hut. Water can be found just down the trail below First Cave.
1st Cave to Kikelewa Cave
- Elevation: (2600m) – (3600m)
- Hiking time: 6 – 7h
- Vegetation Zone: Moorlands
The trail continues up towards Kibo, passing Second Cave (3450m) en-route, and reaching Kikelwa Cave at about 3600 metres. The views start to open up and you begin to feel you’re on a really big mountain! Water is in the obvious stream below the cave, although you might have to wander downhill a way to find some. Overnight at 3rd Cave camp (Kikelewa Caves).
Kikelewa Cave to Mawenzi Tarn Camp
- Elevation: Cave (3600) – (4330m)
- Hiking time: 3 – 4h
- Vegetation Zonet: Moorlands
A short but steep climb up grassy slopes offers superb views of this wilderness area. The vegetation zone ends shortly before you reach your next camp at Mawenzi Tarn spectacularly situated beneath the towering spires of Mawenzi. Spend the afternoon acclimatizing and exploring the area.
Mawenzi Tarn Camp to Kibo Hut
- Elevation: (4330m) – (4700m)
- Hiking time: 4 – 5h
- Elevation Zone: Alpine desert
Continue ascending on the east side of Kibo crossing the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo taking 4 to 5 hours to reach Kibo Hut. The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent, which begins around midnight. Overnight at Kibo Camp.
(Summit Attempt) Kibo Hut to Uhuru Peak to Horombo Hut
- Elevation: Kibo hut (4700m) – Uhuru Peak (5895m) – Horombo hut (3720m)
- Hiking time: 8h to Uhuru, 6h to Horombo
- Elevation: Stone scree / ice-cap summit
- Distance: Approximately 6 kms ascent, 21 kms descent
You will rise around 23h30, and after some tea and biscuits you shuffle off into the night. This is where the going really gets tough. The first section of the trail consists of a rocky path to the Hans Meyer Cave (5150m), also a good resting spot. The path then zigzags up to Gillman’s point (5 681m), which is located on the crater rim. This section is very steep with a lot of stone scree, requiring a great physical and mental effort. This is probably the most demanding section of the entire route. Do the Kili shuffle and move slowly. From Gillman’s Point you will normally encounter snow all the way up to Uhuru peak (5895m), the highest point in Africa. Total exhilaration and satisfaction – you made it. Weather conditions on the summit will determine how long you can spend, taking photographs, before the 3-hour descent back to Kibo hut. After a short rest you gather all your gear for the ascent and head down to Horombo hut (3 hours) where you will overnight. The return to Horombo hut will seem surprisingly fast compared to the ascent. The total time spent walking on this day is around 14 hours, so be prepared for a very tough day. Later in the evening you enjoy your last dinner (with soft drinks and beer for sale at the camp office) on the mountain and well-earned sleep, filled with memories and stirring emotions.
Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate
- Elevation: (3720m) (1980m)
- Hiking time: 6h
- Distance: Approximately 27 kms
After breakfast you continue your descent (6 hours), passing the Mandara hut, down to the Marangu gate. It is strongly recommended not to pay your porters any tips until you and all your gear have reached the gate safely. View more Mt Kilimanjaro tips. At Marangu gate you sign your name and details in a register. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Gillman’s Point (5685m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895m) receive gold certificates. You now drive back to Arusha for a long overdue hot shower, dinner and celebrations!!