Mt Meru

  • Mt Meru - Kili at dawn - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru - Looking back - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru - Down onto the Ash cone - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru - Kili - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru - Meru"s dawn shadow - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Meru -  - © William Mackesy
  • The Ridge at the very last light - © William Mackesy

Key information: Mt Meru

    • Climb this extraordinary horseshoe of cliffs around a chasm created by a cataclysmic explosion of this once vast volcano.
      • Two days of ascent through outstandingly beautiful and interesting forest, then heathery shrub, then alpine plants, onto raw rock and ash.
        • You should meet a lot of interesting animals: buffalo, giraffe, bushbuck, colobus monkeys, maybe an elephant or two.
          • Struggle to the 4,566m peak for a pre-dawn view across a sea of clouds to the vast bulk of Kilimanjaro silhouetted against the eastern sky.
            • This is a very tough walk in high, remote mountains, on which you will have to be self-sufficient and where altitude can cause real problems. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating92
  • Beauty35
  • Natural interest20
  • Human interest3
  • Charisma36
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating92
  • Note: Neg: altitude

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 3-4 days
  • Maximum Altitude: 4,566m
  • Level of Difficulty: Difficult
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Mt Meru - Looking back - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

Mt Meru lies just off that vast cross-continental fissure, the Great Rift Valley, in an area of violent volcanic activity in northern Tanzania. It was once larger than its celebrity neighbour, Kilimanjaro, but was shattered by a cataclysmic explosion 8,000 years ago, similar to the 1980 blow-out at Mt St Helens in north-western USA. What is left is a vast horseshoe of dramatic cliffs around the abyss that was once the centre of the mountain, in which a youthful 1,000m high ash cone is growing.

The views at dawn, straight across the vast crater and a blanket of low cloud to Kilimanjaro silhouetted against the bright early sky some 70km away, are unforgettable.

A special joy of climbing Meru is the change of vegetation, wildlife and scenery as you progress from scrub and grassland to beautiful montane forest, to tree heathers festooned with Spanish moss, to coarse grass and alpine shrubs, to naked and smashed rock. All in 48 demanding hours.

At 4,566m and the 5th highest mountain in Africa, this is a tough walk and you will feel sorry for yourself near the top.

On the first day, as you climb to the Miriakamba Huts, you may encounter a fine array of wildlife giraffe, buffalo, bushbuck and colobus monkeys are all to be found as you pass from scrub to the magnificent forest. There are even elephants about. As you get properly inside the vast cauldron, you will walk through grey giant heathers, surrounded by the vast cliffs that form the crater rim.

The main activity on the second day will be the tough upward path to the Saddle Hut, clambering up steep wooden steps early on. There are compensations: the forest on the outer flank of the crater wall is gorgeous: Hagenia drip with their clusters of red flowers, twisted Augaria support miniature jungles of their own ferns, mosses and other parasites. The birdsong is delightful.

Reaching to the crater rim, you encounter another angle on the Meru abyss. Quite suddenly, you emerge from the trees and climb through thick clumps of giant heather, silver-leaved Phillippia and yellow St John's Wort. The views expand and you will see the fumerole peak of Little Meru above you.

The other half of the day can be spent exploring the crater floor in the morning, or climbing Little Meru in the afternoon.

The four-hour slog to the peak on day three starts early, walking by the light of headtorches across the saddle between the two Merus, then up a steep hillside to Rhino Point on the crater rim. You then labour around the rim between the sheer cliffs of the crater on one side and the steep, broken mountainside on the other. The walk develops into a battle in places; tiring clambers over smashed boulders alternating with miserable slopes of cinders, half a step back for every one taken. The final scramble up jumbled rock to the Socialist Peak is tough.

Descents are usually anticlimactic, but not this one. The different layers of the crater-edge rock tell enthralling tales of the aeons of ash deposit and lava flow before the final cataclysm. The hillsides to the west fall steeply, often in almost unbroken slopes of clinker thousands of feet high. You will be very tired when you get back to the Saddle Hut, some 8 hours after you left it.

The final descent to the Momella Gate takes a couple of delightful hours and is best done early in the morning. The trail winds down through beautiful forest, then follows long tongues of grassland between belts of forest on each side. Old lava flows, apparently. Ahead you may see Kilimanjaro appear through rents in the cloud, or Meru's crater rim high over the forest behind you.

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

This is miserable, but it is almost over. At 4,550m, we are pausing for breath every few steps as we scramble up the final mounds of broken boulders to Mt. Meru’s peak. I am sweating and freezing at the same time.

Then, as I step onto Meru’s Socialist Peak, suffering is in a scintilla replaced by wonder at the glory of existence. Straight across the vast crater, Kilimanjaro is silhouetted against the streaky pre-dawn sky, proud by two or three thousand metres of the rumpled cloud that blankets the east African plains.

We have been walking round the high ridge of this.....

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Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Guidebooks/maps/background reading

Suggest books and maps

Guidebooks


Tanzania and Zanzibar - Cadogan Guides - Annabel Skinner

Tanzania - Lonely Planet Country Guide – Mary Fitzpatrick: good information on Mt Meru trek

Kilimanjaro - The Trekking Guide- Henry Steadman, Trailblazer: a very good 13 page section on Mt Meru

Other books


North of South: An African Journey - Shiva Naipaul

The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War - Aidan Hartley

Filosofa's Republic - Thursday Msigwa

West With The NightBeryl Markham

Maps


Maps can be obtained locally, or on http://www.stanfords.co.uk/

Consider getting locally the delightful illustrated map by Giovanni Tombazzi in co-operation with Hoopoe Adventure Tours Tanzania Ltd.


Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk


Between June and early October. Avoid the rainy season (April and May) and be aware that the weather can be unpredictable late October to March.

Weather


Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights. Take lots of layers and waterproofs for the final ascent.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: http://www.worldweather.org/ or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides


Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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How you get to Tanzania will depend on your origin and plans. The nearest international airport is Kilimanjaro, near Arusha.

You will need a visa to enter Tanzania.

There is no realistic public transport to the start of the Meru trek. A 4WD (usually with a driver) is needed. Those on organised expeditions will be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.

Park fees must be paid. They are payable at the Ngongongare Gate and include park, guide and hut fees, and come to quite a lot. Expedition organisers should arrange these.


Route(s)

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A climb of Meru takes 3-4 days. There are two routes from the Momella Gate to the Miriakamba Hut (at 2,514m). We recommend ascending via the longer route through beautiful mountain forest and across the crater floor, descending via the shorter northern route, with its open grasslands and big views.

From Miriakamba to the Saddle Hut (at 3,570m) takes 2.5 to 3.5 hours. You can ascend Little Meru in the afternoon, or first make a trek into the beautiful crater floor.

The final ascent should be made at night to ensure the superb dawn views across to Kilimanjaro and avoid the daytime heat. Assume 5 – 6 hours to the peak and 3 – 4 hours back down.

You can either stay at Saddle Hut or go down to Miriakamba, thus enabling a short (2 hour) final walk down (at its best early in the morning) and a full day for other activities.

 

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • Altitude: Can affect some; potentially fatal. Acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases.
  • Mountain weather: Rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
  • Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulty with heights.
  • Dangerous or unpleasant animals of all shapes and sizes, including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
  • This is a remote country: You will have to carry all your food and other supplies and help will be hard to get if things go wrong.
  • Health risks: This is a relatively under developed country and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. There are many potential problems, including malaria. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.


Guided or independent?

Independent


You can do this walk independently, but you will need to be self sufficient, so come fully prepared. In any event, it is compulsory to have a guide.

Guided/supported


While it is possible to climb Meru “independently”, most visitors form or join organised/supported expeditions. Organisers can also arrange for permits to be obtained. Expedition organisers include:


Accommodation

In huts, as described above. Book ahead. Camping is possible by the huts, but hut fees are payable anyway.

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Other information and tips

Make sure your guide is experienced and understands that you expect to be taken to the top (altitude permitting).

Tip your guide and porters generously if they look after you well.

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with information on this walk. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.


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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

  • Mts Kilimanjaro and the lesser known Hanang.
  • Empakaai Crater, and Empakaai to Natron trek. The superb and very active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai.
  • A new trail on the rim of the caldera of Ngurdoto Crater.
  • Udzungwa Mountains National Park is tough but beautiful.
  • Walking safaris (within a day or, better still, overnight) are the best way to experience the reality of "nature red in tooth and claw". This can be the only option in some of the southern national parks, but it is not allowed within the northern ones. However, superb treks can be made outside the national parks.

Other activities


  • Boating safaris

  • Riding safaris

  • Driving safaris

  • Ballooning

Shopping, if you must


We are not a shopping website. But, anything bought from local people must be of some help to this desperately poor area. So, wallets out – but try to avoid the more obvious rip-offs and “big” tourist-focussed set-ups.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: Marx Bro
Posted on: 19/02/2009
One of THE best ever. A better experience than Kili.


Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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Mt Meru - Down onto the Ash cone - ©William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Mt Meru - Kili - ©William Mackesy...
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