GENERALMt.Meru (4565m) is a young volcanic mountain which dominates the town of Arusha in northern Tanzania. Its slopes are steep - the upper ones covered in ash - and it last erupted in 1877. The lower slopes are heavily forested. The summit is the highest point of an elegant steep-sided crater rim, comparable to that of Longonot but breached at its lowest point on the east side. The final sections of the ascent provide airy walking with dramatic views - west down steep, forested slopes to the plains below and east down a 1000m precipice dropping to the crater floor where a smaller volcanic cone lies at the base of a cirque of cliffs - the Ash Cone. Extensive forests cover the gentler east slopes; this area falls within the Arusha National Park which can be divided into the Momela and Ngurdoto sections. Together they are endowed with 48km of fine game-viewing roads set in magnificent scenery. The first recorded ascent of Mt Meru was made by Franz Jaeger in 1904. Renamed "Socialist Peak" by the Tanzanians, it is unfortunate that this beautiful mountain has "Big Brother" so close by. Those with time and money to spare are however strongly advised to pay a visit at least to see the magnificent lakes and game-filled forests. An ascent would provide excellent opportunities for acclimatisation before a visit to Kilimanjaro.
Since the entire mountain: lies in the Arusha National Park, entry is subject to the normal park, rescue and hut fees which for a 3-day trip would add up to about $250 (2003). The park provides a ranger; it is not normal to use porters but these are available if requested at the park gate. It is usual to use both huts on the ascent, though it is possible to descend quickly on the third day. The huts are near water and provide mattresses.
The weather on Mt Meru is drier than that on Mt Kenya and subject to a similar rainfall pattern as encountered on Kilimanjaro. The higher tracks on the mountain could be tackled by high clearance cars in dry conditions; in the wet 4WD is essential. Either way rangers may recommend leaving a vehicle beside the Ranger's house at the park gate. This does add several hours walk, but the terrain is beautiful and game plentiful. Near the park gate the once luxurious Momela Game Lodge is rather run down. Camping is also possible. Petrol and garage facilities are available in Arusha 30km away.
Access: See Kilimanjaro details for reaching Arusha. From Arusha follow the Moshi road for 20km; 1km beyond the Usa river turn left up a signposted dirt road (this point is 50km from Moshi). After 7km pass through a park archway and in a further 3km ignore a turn right to the Ngurdoto Park, 3km away. The left turn leads in a further 15km to the park gate and Momella lodge just beyond (1500m). If you do not have your own transport it is best to hire a vehicle or taxi to reach the park gate.
Route: Not far beyond the gate the track crosses a river (possible campsite) and becomes steeper; 4WD may be necessary. After 11km a small workmen's hut and "car park" are reached (3h on foot from the gate - fine forest scenery). This is Kitoto Camp; from here it is possible to enter and ascend the crater to visit the inner ash cone. The main track deteriorates further and swings right, dropping slightly to the first hut, Miriakamba, located below the north arm of the crater rim at 2500m (lh). There is an alternative path leading from the park gate to Miriakamba; this provides pleasant walking through glades.
From the hut the path ascends steeply through forest with fine views into the crater. At 3150m the forest ends and a giant heather helchrysum zone is reached. Soon the path swings right away from the crater rim and heads for a saddle between Mt Meru and a small parasitic cone called Little Meru (3820m). Just below the saddle is Saddle Hut at 3500m (4h). If time allows, Little Meru gives a pleasant 3h round trip. Next day a pre-dawn start is recommended to avoid another night at Saddle Hut. In an hour the crater rim is regained at Rhino Point; the path follows the narrow airy ridge to a short rocky scramble and the top (4h). In descent allow 2h30 to Saddle Hut, 2h to Miriakamba and another 2h down to the park gate.
Access to Mount Meru
Mount Meru Map
Miriakamba Hut at sunrise
On ridge to Saddle Hut
Ash Cone from Rhino Point