Mount Meru is an active volcano of 4566 metres about 70 kilometres west of Mount Kilimanjaro and our trek is six days to reach the summit and come back. It is an excellent standalone trip or a prequel to climbing Kilimanjaro itself. Some people say that Meru is actually more challenging, and for sure it is much quieter. Therefore there is a lot more wildlife to be seen and the sense of remoteness and solitude is much stronger than on the more famous peak nearby.
The mountain is the centrepiece of Arusha National Park and its fertile slopes rise above the surrounding savanna and support a forest that hosts diverse wildlife, including nearly 400 species of birds, and also monkeys and leopards. Trekkers have the opportunity to see a lot of wildlife as they approach and climb the mountain.
The ascent is quite steep in places and the route to the summit passes over a number of streams, moving through grasslands, tropical rainforest, alpine meadows, moorlands and desert uplands to snow and ice. The summit is reached by a narrow, barren ridge, which provides stunning views of the Ash Cone lying several hundred feet below in the crater.
Often considered a warm up for Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru by its own right is a stunning mountain to climb.
Standing at 4,566m high, Mount Meru is Tanzania’s second highest mountain. Although standing over a 1000 meters shorter than Kilimanjaro, Meru is an incredible free standing active volcano that offers views and wildlife sightings that is unparalleled in Tanzania.
Situated roughly 70km Southwest of Kilimanjaro and East of the Great Rift Valley, Mount Meru last erupted in 1910 and can therefore still be classed as an active volcano (although dormant). Exploding into life over 500,000 years ago, Meru’s horseshoe rim is very distinctive as the entire eastern flank was blown apart by the explosion. Not only is Meru the fourth highest mountain in Africa, but its rim lined crater extends down 1,500 meters to the crater floor making it one of the tallest cliffs in Africa. Because of the abundance of wildlife on and around Meru, it is compulsory to be accompanied by an armed ranger on your trek at all times.
Although the first accent of Meru is still disputed, it is widely accredited to either Fritz Jaeger in 1904 or Carl Uhlig in 1901.
Why Climb Mount Meru
Even with its incredible views, scenery and wildlife, Meru is often overlooked due to its location. 70km away stands Meru’s big brother – Kilimanjaro. This means that most international visitors will either visit Meru as a secondary destination or warmup whilst some visitors will ignore it altogether. Although to climb Mount Meru as a warmup for Kilimanjaro is by no means a bad idea, Meru is a stunning trek by itself!
Lying within Arusha National Park, the lower reaches of Mount Meru are amazingly rich in wildlife. You are almost certain to see monkeys, warthogs, buffaloes and a wide array of birds and, if you’re lucky, elephants and giraffes! The crater rim walk is a spectacular hike and the 360 degree views from the summit of Meru are not to be missed, especially as you can see Kilimanjaro!
Another bonus of climbing Mount Meru is the lack of crowds that can sometimes plague Kilimanjaro. As its little known brother, Meru is a fantastic way to avoid this and get stuck into a peaceful trek.
Climb Mount Meru to Prepare for Kilimanjaro
With the above said, Meru is of course a great way to prepare for Kilimanjaro as it gives you a little taster as to what to expect on the bigger mountain.
The most important thing Meru prepares you for is altitude acclimatization. Do not underestimate Meru as it is a challenging climb! It is certainly high enough to bring on altitude sickness. At a height of 4,566m, Meru is a tall mountain in its own right and forces your body to make changes to adapt to the altitude.
Not only this, but like Kilimanjaro, you travel in a group with porters carrying your gear and move up through several vegetation zones in 1 day. Similar to Kilimanjaro, you trek the summit at night, reaching the peak just before sunrise. You then descend an amazing 2000m on the same day! All these similarities allows your body (and your mind) to prepare for Kilimanjaro.
Climb Mount Meru – The Route
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.
Day by day Momella route itinerary
Day 1 – Momella Gate to Miriakamba Hut
Elevation – 1500m to 2500m. Time: 3 – 4 hours. Habitat – Montane Forest.
Most tour operators will collect you from your hotel in the morning and take you to Arusha National Park. Once at headquarters your papers, visa and permits will all be checked and made ready for departure. From head office you will be taken by van to the Momella Park Gate from where your trek will begin. The trail starts by winding its way through montane forest where you will see waterfalls, wildlife and some pretty oddly formed trees! Remember, an armed national park ranger will accompany you on your route. The first day of trekking will end when you reach Miriakamba hut. Unlike Kilimanjaro, accommodation on Meru consists of huts dotted up the mountain.
Day 2 – Miriakamba Hut to Sadlle Hut
Elevation – 2500m to 3550m. Time: 3 – 4 hours. Habitat – Moorland
On the second day you will ascend over a 1000m to Saddle Hut at 3,550m. The air will get cooler and you may feel slightly more out of breath as the air gets thinner. Saddle Hut will be reached by early afternoon which will give you time to visit ‘Little Meru’ at 3,820m. Not only will you get great views of Kilimanjaro, but it’s a good way for your body to acclimatize to the altitude.
Day 3 – Saddle Hut to Socialist Peak to Miriakamba Hut
Elevation – 3550m to 4256m to 2500m, Time: 8 – 10 hours. Habitat – Semi Desert, Alpine Desert, Montane Forest.
Your summit ascent begins in the middle of the night at 2am. Following a quick midnight snack you trek to 3,820m where you find Rhino Point. After a quick break you then climb a further 4-5 hours where, towards the top, you will traverse the exhilarating and very narrow crater rim path! This is all rewarded as you hit the summit just before sunrise. The 360 degree views are spectacular, especially the sun rising over Kilimanjaro! Before your descent you can explore Meru’s ash cone within the crater.
Day 4 – Miriakamba Hut to Momella Gate
Elevation – 2500m to 1500m. Time: 2 – 3 hours. Habitat – Montane Forest
The fourth day is an easy going few hours down through the montane forest area where you will once again see wildlife and beautiful habitat. Seeing the forest from above is a completely different experience to seeing it on the way up – look out for birds!