For most climbers who visit Tanzania, Mt. Kilimanjaro (5895 metres / 19341 feet) is the top prize. However Mt. Meru, one of Africa’s most beautiful volcanoes, is also a worthwhile alternative. It lacks the high price, the altitude sickness and the crowds that are attracted to Kilimanjaro. At 4565 metres (14,977 feet), Mt. Meru is the second highest mountain in Tanzania and the fifth highest in Africa. A climbing expedition on Mt. Meru requires three days and can be used as an acclimatization exercise leading up to a Kilimanjaro summit attempt or as a stand-alone adventure. Meru, the smaller volcanic sister, is located just 70km (43miles) from Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Mt. Meru is located within Arusha National Park. The Mt. Meru trek offers fabulous views of Mt Kilimanjaro and the Momella Lakes from the summit, and the challenging ascent to the crater passes through some fantastic scenery.
The track to the top of the Socialist Peak is very steep, and presents a challenge for hikers without a good level of fitness however it has advantages over Kilimanjaro as it takes less time to complete, is less costly and is less crowded.
Also the wildlife viewing possibilities on the lower slopes makes the experience rich and varied for those tourists interested in an experience that includes more than a mountain walk.
Mt. Meru, like Mt. Kenya, is a good preparation for a Kilimanjaro climb.
It offers you a taste of what you can expect on Kili;
- You trek in a group with porters, cooks and guides;
- You climb through different vegetation zones over several days;
- You start your summit attempt around midnight and reach the peak around sunrise;
- You then descend an awesome 2000 metres on the same day, similar to your walk out after the Kilimanjaro summit day;
- Most importantly, at a height of 4565 metres (14,977 feet) Mt. Meru requires your body to make changes to adapt to the altitude.
- Unfortunately, many people who visit Tanzania and Kilimanjaro view Mt. Meru only as a warm up trek for Kilimanjaro. But Mt. Meru is a very rewarding trek in its own right!
- Mt. Meru can be climbed throughout the year however you may want to avoid the rainy season between March and June annually. Also, there can be a small amount of rainfall between late October and mid-December each year.
- Wildlife viewing is possible especially at the lower altitudes. In the savannah at the base of the mountain, you regularly see giraffe, buffalo, zebra, warthog and flamingos.
- The forested sections of the trek also offer the chance to see forest mammals such as the black and white colobus monkey or the sykes (blue) monkey. Spectacular forested bird sightings include the African crowned eagle, African hoopoe or one of several trogon species.
At the present time, there is only one route to Socialist Peak at the summit of Mt. Meru in Arusha National Park
DAY 1: You start at Momella Gate (where park registration takes place) and spend the first night at the Miriakamba Hut. During this first day you will move briefly through lowland savannah and then enter the rainforest slopes.
DAY 2: The second day takes you through forest once again and to the Saddle Hut for lunch. An afternoon walk to the summit of Little Meru peak is recommended for the spectacular views and the acclimatization effort.
DAY 3: Very early (around midnight) you will make your summit attempt with the goal of being at Socialist Peak for daybreak. Since you do this part of the trek in the dark, you will see your route for the first time as you head back down! This part of the climb is above the tree line and follows a ridge walk overlooking the volcanic crater; the last pitch to the summit is steep and rocky.
You will down climb back to Saddle Hut for lunch and then continue downwards to the park gate at Momella to end your climb. Alternately, you can walk just to Miriakamba Hut, spend the night, and give your knees a bit of a rest going down.
DAY 4 (optional): After spending the night at Miriakamba Hut, you will continue your decent in the morning to the Momella Gate. Be on the lookout for wildlife as you decent through the forest slopes and out onto the flatland savannah.
- Good practice climb for Kili
- Less crowded than the routes of Kili
- Less costly than a trek up Kili
- Less altitude sickness problems than with higher summits
- Very steep, sustained approach to the summit
- Shared dining huts and sleeping cabins with other trekking parties