Tanzania's second highest mountain is much more than just a "warm up" trek for Kilimanjaro.
Mt. Meru is located in the heart of Arusha National Park and it is 50 miles west of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Mt. Meru is a massive volcano reaching 14,980 feet (4,565 meters). This trek serves as an ideal warm up for Mt. Kilimanjaro due to its altitude acclimatization and hiking distances. This trek is also geared towards hikers that prefer less crowds and a challenging ascent.
Unlike Kilimanjaro, there is only one official route to the summit of Meru – the ‘Momella route’. Although there is a 3 day (8.7 mile) option, we discuss the longer, more popular 4 day (11.8 mile) climb. Generally we recommend climbing between June and February with December to February being the best months for clear views of Kilimanjaro.
Known s ‘Shira Plateau Route’ the normal route (used by some 95% of operations) has been designed to intersect with Machame from east of the Shira Plateau onwards. This causes crowding at Barranco, a camp which serves 4 of the 6 routes, and places a severe ecological burden on the immediate region during the high season, with as many as 300 climbers and 900 support staff abluting themselves within a few hundred square metres.
There is little advantage in spending three consecutive nights at around 4,000m - as occurs on the standard 7 day route - and that a more intelligent use of the additional day is to work harder on day 4 by pushing onto Barafu, and thereby affording a decent night’s sleep at Barafu with the option of a less crowded daytime assault (particularly appreciated by otherwise sleepy children and by those wanting to photograph the assault), or else a pre-assault excursion and rest day prior to summitting.
In our experience Umbwe has always attracted an unusual calibre of climber with the attraction of this route seeming to be the very fact of it being the hardest route by which to summit, and having some of the poorest acclimatisation facility and the highest rates of AMS. The route is so steep that it uses only two days to reach the same point that is reached in three days on Machame.
The traditional route and all variations on this route (used by all other operations except Team Kilimanjaro) either effectively straight-lines the navigation from the start point all the way to the summit, (via 3rd Caves) or simply dog-legs from second caves to Kibo Huts via Mawenzi Tarn. Neither of these options make anything like adequate use of the topography to exploit the essential climb, high sleep low principle of safe and thorough acclimatisation.