Day 1: Marangu to Mandara Hut
Climbers are taken to Marangu Gate, 6 kilometres from the hotel. The gate is at an altitude of about 1,600 metres, at the entrance to the rain forest. The trail climbs through the lush forest to Mandara Hut, at 2,700 metres. This walk takes around 4 hours at a gentle pace. Mandara Hut is close to the edge of the forest, and within a short walk of Maundi Crater, a small parasitic volcanic cone just above the forest. Climbers often visit Maundi in the afternoon after arriving at Mandara. In clear weather, the views of Mawenzi, the lower of the two main peaks of Kilimanjaro, are breathtaking.
Day 2: Mandara to Horombo Hut
Climbers leave Mandara by about 9 o'clock. The first half hour or so continues through the rain forest after which the trail emerges into alpine moorland for the approximately 7 hour walk to Horombo which is at 3,700 metres. If the day is clear there are splendid views to be had of both Kibo and Mawenzi and also of the plains stretching away below the mountain. The vegetation is also spectacular, with different types of heather, everlasting flowers, redhot pokers, protea, lobelia and giant groundsel.
Day 3: Horombo to Kibo Hut
There are 2 paths from Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut. The “upper route” is the older path, heading quite steeply uphill from Horombo to the foot of Mawenzi, a climb of about 600 metres. This path then descends to the “saddle”, the high altitude desert between Kibo and Mawenzi, and crosses the saddle to Kibo Hut. The saddle slopes gently uphill until about an hour before Kibo Hut where it starts to climb quite steeply to the hut, which is at an altitude of around 4,700 metres. The “lower” route heads more directly towards Kibo Hut from Horombo. It is a little shorter than the upper route, but it is not as physically attractive as the upper route. Climbers often choose the upper route for the ascent, and the lower route for the descent. This day’s trek can take from 6 to 8 hours.
Day 4: Kibo Hut to Summit, then descent to Horombo Hut.
Climbers are woken at about 11pm. After dressing in all their warm clothing, they have a hot drink and then set off at midnight. The first part of the ascent to the Hans Meyer cave is quite indirect, going around large rock outcrops and it is not as steep as the latter part. The surface is loose and can be hard going. After the cave the scree slope becomes extremely steep and you have to climb in a zig-zag fashion. It takes an average of 6 hours to reach Gillman's Point on the crater rim. On a fine morning, the views of the sun rising from behind Mawenzi are spectacular. Gillman's Point is at 5,700 metres. From here, the path goes around the crater rim for a further one and a half to two hours to the summit at Uhuru Peak, 5896 metres. The descent back to Kibo Hut can take a further 3 or 4 hours. After a rest and a meal, the descent continues to Horombo Hut via the lower route, a further trek of around 3 hours.
Day 5: Horombo Hut to the Park Gate.
The descent from Horombo to Mandara Hut takes around 3 hours, and the final part of the descent through the forest to Marangu Gate takes another 2 hours. At the Gate vehicles will be waiting to take you and your crew back to the hotel.
Optional day 6.
Some people choose to spend an extra day at Horombo hut on the ascent. The morning of this day is usually spent walking up the upper route towards the saddle between the peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi. In the afternoon, climbers usually simply relax around the hut. This relaxation day can be helpful both for people who are finding the walk physically challenging and also for people who want a break to admire their surroundings without the pressure of moving on to another location.