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This is definitely the easiest and probably the most popular route for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It's often called coca cola route because this is the only one where climbers can buy soft drinks and snacks at each stop on the way up. You can do Marangu in 5 or 6 days, and just as with the other routes, people tend to have a much greater rate of success if they choose the longer option. Having that extra day on the mountain to acclimatize can make the summit on that final grueling day. All the routes require camping in a tent except Marangu route where you will sleep in a huts and make for a much different experience.
Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut
We depart after breakfast and drive to the park headquarters. There is the normal hustle and bustle of hiring porters, signing in and beginning the climb. The actual hike begins at the park gate (6,000′) and we hike 5.5 miles up to Mandara hut (8,860′) near the upper edge of the forest line. The hike takes about 4-6 hours, a good time to start using your walking sticks. Our path starts off in a bamboo rainforest (keep your eyes open for blue monkeys) then opens up to hillsides of heather and temperate forests. If time and weather permit, a short walk from Mandara to Maundi Crater is certainly worth it. Lodging here, as well as at Horombo, is in wooden A-frame huts that sleep 4 to 8 people.
Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut
Our destination today is Horombo Hut at 12,340′. It takes a good 5-6 hours to cover the 10mile journey – altitude will slow the group down, and the trail is strenuous but not technical. Be sure you’re drinking lots of water (no less than 2 liters per day). We often get our first views of the Kibo summit today far in the distance as we pass from forest into high moorland. In addition, we pass beneath the impressive, rocky southern face of Mawenzi – one of the three volcanic peaks that make up the summit of Kilimanjaro.
Acclimatization Day – Horombo Hut
Today is an extra day to acclimatize, and it is best spent taking the day hike up towards Mawenzi, gaining elevation so that this evening when you return to Horombo, you’re sleeping at a lower elevation. The day hike is through a beautiful landscape with unique flora such as the odd-shaped, seemingly inside-out giant groundsel. The trail offers inspirational views of both Kibo and Mawenzi. Birdlife is also abundant in the Horombo area. If you’re feeling really fatigued at this point, you can choose to spend the day at Horombo. Afternoon rains are common, so plan your day hike in order to be back inside the lodge with a cup of tea and good book by 4 p.m.
Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut
Today is another long hike, this time up to Kibo Hut at almost 15,520′. Although shorter in distance, this usually takes 7 hours because it is steeper, and the altitude slows everyone down. Keep drinking your water! The route passes directly up onto the Saddle, a wide, flat plateau with the peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi looming overhead. The views here are fantastic! The last part of the trail passes across the plateau before a final ascent to Kibo Hut, a stone hut with rooms that sleep 10-15 people in bunk beds. We have a light dinner, a pre-climb talk with our guides and turn in early for what little sleep is possible.
Kibo Hut to Summit to Horombo Hut
Our guides wake us before midnight for tea and cookies and final dressing (in many layers) for our summit attempt. It can be bitterly cold. The guides like to have the team on the trail between 12-1a.m. in hope of reaching the summit for the sunrise. Starting off, the trail swings back and forth up a steep scree slope while the line of climbers stretches out in the darkness, only visible by their headlamps. Placing one foot in front of the other and focusing on your breathing, the black sky infinitely above you, this climb is one you will never forget. Most climbers arrive at Gillman’s point, elevation 18,685 feet, in time to see the sunrise around 6:30 a.m. The views from the top looking down on the plains of Africa make it all worthwhile. Some climbers decide they have reached their goal and head down from here, a legitimate summit. Others hike an additional 2-3 hours to the true summit, Uhuru Peak at 19,340′. The descent from Gillman’s point is fairly rapid, taking about 2 hours. Most climbers take a short rest at Kibo Hut before descending to Horombo Hut for the night, arriving in the late afternoon.
Horombo Hut to Park gate
Another long hike is in store for us today, but it is essentially all downhill, and our spirits are boosted by the satisfaction of yesterday’s climb. Back at Marangu gate, at the park headquarters, we pick up our certificates to attest to our success and bid farewell to many of our porters and guides. We transfer then to our hotel in Arusha (2 – 2 ½ hours), where it’s a welcome treat to take a hot shower, drink a tall cold one and commemorate the climb with a celebration dinner.