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Mount Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route

The Northern Circuit is the longest and the most remote route. The trekking can be completed in 8 days, however additional time on the mountain means that success rates for Northern Circuit trekkers are relatively high. The longer itinerary means that it has a good acclimatization profile. You can naturally “walk high, sleep low” which helps with acclimatization.
Even though you don’t have to climb the Great Barranco Wall on this route, you will still have a tough summit night approaching via Gilman’s Point. You will be trekking for long periods of time, so a good level of fitness and stamina is recommended.

OUR PROGRAM

Day 1: Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa

We depart Moshi for Londorossi Gate, which takes about 4 hours, where we will complete entry formalities. Then drive to the Lemosho trailhead. Upon arrival at trailhead, we begin hiking through undisturbed forest which winds to the first camp site.

Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa
Elevation: 2,360m/7,742ft to 2,895m/9,498ft
Distance: 6km/4miles
Hiking Time: 3-5 hours
Zone: Rainforest

Day 2: Mti Mkubwa to Shira 1 Camp 

We continue on the trail leading out of the rainforest and into the savannah of tall grasses, heather, and volcanic rock draped with lichen beards. As we ascend through the lush rolling hills and cross several streams, we reach the Shira Ridge before dropping gently down to Shira 1 Camp. Here we catch our first glimpse of Kibo Peak across the plateau.

Mti Mkubwa to Shira 1 Camp 
Elevation: 2,895m/9,498ft to 3,505m/11,500ft
Distance: 8km/5miles
Hiking Time 5-7 hours
Zone: Heath

Day 3: Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp

Today we walk to the summit of Shira Cathedral, a huge buttress of rock surrounded by steep spires and pinnacles. There is a tangible sense of wilderness here, the heath zone displays abundant wildflowers and unique Senecio trees. From our camp near Shira Hut, we appreciate the unforgettable views of Mt Meru.

Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp
Elevation: 3,505m/11,500ft to 3,810m/12,500ft
Distance: 7km/4miles
Hiking Time: 3-5 hours
Zone: Heath

Day 4: Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower to Moir Hut

We continue to the east up a ridge and then head southeast towards the Lava Tower 91m/300ft tall volcanic rock formation. Then we divert from the main trail to Moir Hut, a little used site on the base of Lent Hills. A variety of walks are available on Lent Hills making this an excellent acclimatization opportunity. Shira Plateau is one of the highest plateaus on earth.

Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower
Elevation: 3,810m/12,500ft to 4,630m/15,190ft
Distance: 7km/4miles
Hiking Time: 3-5 hours
Zone: Alpine Desert

Lava Tower to Moir Hut
Elevation: 4,630m/15,190ft to 4,139m/13,580ft
Distance: 7km/4miles
Hiking Time: 2-4 hours
Zone: Alpine Desert

Day 5: Moir Hut to Buffalo Camp

We trek out of Moir Valley with a moderately steep climb, then hike to the summit of Lent Hills before returning to the main trail. The path crosses a rock field and gently undulates before reaching Buffalo Camp. This section of the trail offers great views across the plains that lie north of Kilimanjaro and stretch out to the Kenyan/Tanzanian border.

Moir Hut to Buffalo Camp
Elevation: 4,139m/13,580ft to 4,023m/13,200ft
Distance: 12km/7miles
Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
Zone: Alpine Desert

Day 6: Buffalo Camp to Third Cave

As we head up Buffalo Ridge, the terrain becomes increasingly sparse. This route is rarely travelled, we will enjoy its mountain wilderness feel. We trek through remote valleys on to the northern slopes of Kilimanjaro until we arrive at Third Cave.

Buffalo Camp to Third Cave
Elevation: 4,023m/13,200ft to 3,871m/12,700ft
Distance: 8km/5miles
Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
Zone: Heath

Day 7: Third Cave to School Hut

We climb steadily up and over the Saddle, a lunar landscape between the peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi. From here we continue upwards and reach School Hut. Once here we rest, enjoy an early dinner to prepare for the summit day.

Third Cave to School Hut
Elevation: 3,871m/12,700ft to 4,755m/15,600ft
Distance: 5km/3miles
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
Zone: Alpine Desert

Day 8: School Hut to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Very early in the morning (around midnight), we begin our push to the summit. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The wind and cold at this elevation and time of day can be extreme. We ascend in the darkness for several hours while taking frequent, but short, breaks. At Gilman’s point 5,669m/18,600ft, we will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see coming over Mawenzi Peak.

School Hut to Uhuru Peak
Elevation: 4,755m/15,600ft to 5,895m/19,341ft
Distance: 6km/4miles
Hiking Time: 6-8 hours

Finally, we arrive at Uhuru Peak the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa.
From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. The trail is very rocky and can be quite hard on the knees; trekking poles are helpful. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest, mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.

Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
Elevation: 5,895m/19,341ft to 3,068m/10,065ft
Distance: 12km/7miles
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
Zone: Artic

Day 9: Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate

On our last day, we continue the descent to Mweka Gate and collect the summit certificates. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. From the gate, we continue another hour to Mweka Village. A vehicle will be waiting for us at Mweka Village to drive us back to the hotel in Moshi.

Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
Elevation: 3,068m/10,065ft to 1,640m/5,380ft
Distance: 10km/6miles
Hiking Time: 3-5 hours
Zone: Rainforest

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