Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Rongai Route

If climbing in peace and quiet no matter what time of year it is sound like the thing for you, then you should consider climbing Mount Kilimanjaro via the Rongai Route. Approaching Kibo from the north, this is the least climbed of all the routes on Mount Kilimanjaro but not because it is in any way inferior, it's just that most folks get excited about the big routes like Machame and Lemosho and Rongai tends to be forgotten about. Climbing the Rongai route lets you see a whole side of the mountain that few do and the best bit is that though you climb from the north, you get to descend via the southern Marangu Route, seeing both sides of the mountain on a single climb.

Rongai Route: Overview

For those who choose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro by the Rongai Route, you’re about to discover the mountain’s best-kept secret. So few people climb this route each year that you are unlikely to see anyone an your entire ascent. Because most of the rain on Mount Kilimanjaro falls on the southwest slopes, there is little rain forest to climb through, rather you will find that the heather and moorland stretches further down the Rongai Route compared to others. In saying that what forest you do walk through is impressive for its animal like, due to the fact that the Rongai Route is so quiet and cover provided by the trees is scarce. You will see monkeys on your first day and it is not too unusual to see some of the bigger African animals such a buffalo and even elephant.

Our Rongai Route itinerary will take you to the little-visited Mawenzi Tarn campsite at the foot of Mawenzi, Kibo’s sister peak, to aid your acclimatization. The views that you get of Both Kibo and Mawenzi are truly breathtaking and without a doubt the best on the entire mountain. Leaving Mawenzi, you cross the Saddle, a wide strip of wind-swept land that connects Kibo and Mawenzi. Seasoned climbers of Mount Kilimanjaro often pick this section as their favourite part of any climb. On the Rongai Route you reach the crater rim from Gillman’s point, slightly east of the summit point for Machame, Shira, Lemosho and Umbwe and arguably slightly easier.

All in all this is an excellent route and if you enjoy some solitude on your adventures and a sense that you truly are the only person for miles around, this is the route for you.


6560ft / 2000m
Finish:First Cave Camp
8695ft / 2650m
Gain:2135ft / 650m
Duration:3 hours

Pickup from hotel at 8.00am. The drive to the gate takes most of the morning and depending on the time you may stop for lunch in one of the villages before the gate so remember to have a few dollars or shillings handy.

Once you reach the Park Gate, Thomas has some paper work to do before you set off. Throughout today’s climb the trail rises with a steady gradient but it is not taxing. For the first hour of the trek you will be walking through corn and cypress plantations before entering the forest. However the forest in thin and soon gives way to heathers and smaller trees. 1 hour 30 minutes after leaving the trees you come to the top of a small rise and get a great view of the town of Rongai in Kenya behind you. Just ahead is your camp for the night. The porters will have climbed ahead with your main bag and you’ll arrive in camp to find it already set up. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, popcorn and warm water to wash with is provided, followed by dinner and bed.


Start:First Cave Camp
8695ft / 2650m
Finish:Kikelewa Caves
11,810ft / 3450m
Gain:3115ft / 800m
Duration:5-6 hours

Wake-up each day at 7.30am. Hot water and a large breakfast is provided, then Thomas will give you a quick medical check before you leave camp.

Today’s climb is quite long but there are some good views of Kibo ahead and the plains of Kenya behind. As you climb you will notice that the heathers get smaller in height and fewer in number, providing little shade from the sun. The first part of your climb involves a gradual climb of about 1 hour, taking you to a small rocky plateau offering some good views of Kenya. From here you continue southwestest for 2 hours to some caves. There is one steep section on this part of the climb but it only lasts for a few minutes. Stopping at the caves, you have a chance to take some shelter from the sun as you eat lunch.

The caves mark a split in the Rongai Route. The southwest path takes you to Third Cave Camp, the destination of those doing a 5-day climb. You however take the southeastern path towards Mawenzi and the Kikelewa Caves, your camp for the night. The trail from the lunch stop to camp is 3.5km long but you only gain 150m over the 2 hour trek; a nice, gentle end to quite a long day. The camp offers great views of both Kibo and Mawenzi as the sun sets.


Start:Kikelewa Caves
11,810ft / 3450m
Finish:Mawenzi Tarn Hut
14,206ft / 4330m
Gain:2396ft / 880m
Duration:4 hours

Today’s climb is short but steep however you are now walking on one of the most impressive trails on the mountain; the views of Mawenzi are breathtaking and so few climbers get to see this part of Mount Kilimanjaro that it’s worth the effort. Leaving camp in the morning. The trail starts off gently but over the next 3 hours it will rise exponentially. There are however plenty of places to stop for breaks along the way and if all goes well you will have reached Mawenzi Tarn Huts by lunchtime.

After lunch you are free to explore the area. There are some really impressive views of the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro from this campsite, never mind the countless rock climbs and walks on offer round Mawenzi itself. You have climbed very high today and it is the norm, not the exception to have a solid headache by the end of today. This is nothing to worry about as long as you take it easy, drink lots of water and don’t present any symptoms of AMS. Thomas will be keeping a close eye on you so you’re in safe hands.


Start:Mawenzi Tarn Hut
14,206ft / 4330m
Finish:School Huts
15,748ft / 4800m
Gain:1542ft / 470m
Duration:4 hours

While today’s climb covers quite a distance, many climbers view it as another of the nicest walks on Mount Kilimanjaro. Crossing the barren saddle that connects Mawenzi with Kibo you get some amazing views of both. While you don’t want o rush this part of the climb, remember that you’re pushing for the summit tonight and the sooner you get to camp the sooner you can get to bed and grab some sleep before you set off around midnight.

Leaving camp you climb a shallow gradient for a few minutes before the trail begins a gentle descent across the saddle for about 2 hours. Take it easy, this is your last real downhill until after you reach the summit! After 2 hours you come to the junction with Kibo Huts. Sometimes you may camp here but usually you take the right-hand path, climbing gradually for approx 2 more hours, finally arriving at School Huts Camp. When you arrive the crew will have hot drinks and a meal waiting for you. . Then its time to get your pack sorted for tonight (your water bottles must be insulated to stop them freezing tonight), after which we really recommend you try and get a good rest.

Rongai Route Day 5 Ascent - SCHOOL HUTS TO SUMMIT

Start:School Huts
15,748ft / 4800m
19,340ft / 5895m
Gain:3592ft / 1095m
Duration:7 hours

You will be woken about 11.30pm by one of the porters and after getting ready, hot drinks and snacks will be served. It’s important that you drink as much as you can, dehydration tonight will end your climb. Leaving camp, you climb up a steep, winding path. After 2 hours you come to William’s point at 16,404ft/5000m; the junction of the main summit route. To the left is Kibo huts Camp and to the right is Gillman’s Point. Hans Meyer Cave, the last signpost before the summit, lies 30 minutes ahead. From here it is an uphill climb, zig-zagging between large rocks for about 3 hours before reaching Gillman’s Point at 18,711ft/5703m. You’ve now only about 500ft/150m to climb!

From Gillman’s Point the path turns southwest and after about 1 hour of steady but shallow incline you approach that iconic sign, marking the summit and the roof of Africa. We’ve seen grown men break down in tears at the top through joy mixed with the relief that it’s finally over – words just can’t describe the emotions that flow through you as you realize what you have achieved. Looking east, you see the sun rising over Africa, Mawenzi silhouetted against it. Congratulations, you made it.

Rongai Route: Day 5 Descent - SUMMIT TO HOROMBO HUTS

19,340ft / 5895m
Finish:Horombo Huts
12,201ft / 3719m
Drop:7139ft / 2176m
Duration:6 hours

The route of descent follows the same path you climbed to reach the summit. Trekking poles come in useful here; going down is always toughest on the knees. Depending on your physical state, the descent to Kibo Huts can take anywhere from 2-4 hours.

Once back at Kibo Huts food will be provided and then it’s into the tents for an hour or 2 of much needed sleep while the porters start packing up and heading on to Horombo Huts. After you wake and grab some food, it’s time to head off again. The route takes a fairly due south course as is descends down the mountain taking about 3-4 hours to complete. Tonight you can really relax, knowing you will never have to go through that again (unless like us you’re a little strange), enjoy a slap-up feed and share stories of your climb. It’s not a bad idea to give tips to Thomas for distribution now, as tomorrow you may not see all the porters.


Start:Horombo Huts
12,201ft / 3719m
Finish:Park Gate
6102ft / 1860m
Drop:6099ft / 1859m
Duration:5-6 hours

Today marks the end of what we hope will have been the experience of a lifetime for you. Having climbed Mount Kilimanjaro from its slightly more barren, northern slopes the forest on this last part of the descent is an impressive sight The path drops at a steady gradient and can be quite sore on the knees so we recommend you keep your trekking poles handy if you have them. Leaving camp you descend for about 2 hours 30 minutes before coming to the Mandara Huts. Depending on the time you have made you may stop here for lunch or keep on going. Leaving the Mandara Huts, you descend for a further 2 hours before reaching the park gate; the end of your journey.

At the park office you are presented with your certificate if you reached Stella Point (green) or better yet, the summit (gold). Then it is back to the hotel for a hot shower and big feed. All that’s left to do now is get a good night's rest before your transfer onwards or to the airport tomorrow.


Climb length:7 days
Trip length:9 days
Extra night:£90/$180

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro by the Rongai Route in 2008 and 2009

We have no climbs organised for the Rongai route in 2009. Why not check out our climbs of the Machame Route or the Shira Route instead? You can also organise your own climb of the Rongai Route.

How to Book

To organise your own climb of Mount Kilimanjaro by the Rongai route, either call our office on +44 (0)28 9073 6050 (UK telephone number) or fill in your details online by clicking the link below

7-day Rongai Route Itinerary

1Arrive in Kilimanjaro International Airport, transfer to hotel in Moshi (approx 1 hour) for night. Receive climb briefing
2Loitokitok - First Cave Camp
3First Cave Camp - Kikelewa Caves
4Kikelewa Caves - Mawenzi Tarn Hut
5Rest day to explore Mawenzi
6Mawenzi Tarn Hut - School Huts
7School Huts - Summit - Horombo Huts
8Horombo Huts - park gate. Overnight in hotel
9Transfer to Kilimanjaro International Airport for onward flight or departure

What's included

  • 1 night in hotel before climb and 1 after (B&B)
  • All transfers to and from Moshi and to and from Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Park fees, guide fees and mountain rescue fees
  • 4 porters per person
  • Food and water while on the mountain
  • tents (individual if requested for no additional cost), sleeping pads and all eating utensils
  • There is NO local payment on any of our climbs!

What's not included

  • International flights
  • Tanzania visa (approx $50)
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips for porters (we recommed $80-120 per climber)