12 Day Northern Crater Route
he Northern Crater Route is a variation of the Northern Circuit Route that adds an additional night of camping at Crater Camp. Crater Camp is located near Furtwangler Glacier – part of the ice cap that once crowned the entire summit of Kilimanjaro. From there, if you are feeling up to it, you can take the short hike over to the Reusch Crater and Ash Pit. This is a site that is rarely seen by most climbers.
The Northern Crater route is for the thrill seeker who wants a unique experience on Kilimanjaro. It takes an already difficult task – climbing Kilimanjaro and amplifies it by sleeping at extreme elevation.
The route starts from the west and travels north around Mount Kilimanjaro. It traverses nearly the entire mountain before you summit. This is the most scenic route on the mountain and has almost no foot traffic on its northern face. The total time on the mountain is 10 days.
Our trips begin and end at our lodge in Moshi, Tanzania.
Try to arrive at your lodge in Moshi before 3 PM the day before your climb. With prior arrangement, an airport pick-up to your lodge is available from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), or simply make your own way by taxi. We will gather in the afternoon for a pre-climb briefing and an equipment check. We will also confirm you have the appropriate mandatory medical coverage and travel insurance.
Drive: 45 minutes
After completing the necessary registration formalities at Londorossi National Park gate, we drive through varied farmland with open views over the plains to reach the Lemosho road head. We often have our lunch in the glades before starting to walk. It is an easy day of walking up a small path through a beautiful and lush forest. This area has a variety of game, including buffalo. We camp at Lemosho Forest camp (8,600 ft).
2-3 hours · 2.9 miles elevation: +1,700 ft.
We soon leave the forest behind and enter the moorland zone of giant heather. The trail climbs steadily with wide views to reach the rim of the Shira Plateau. There is a tangible sense of wilderness, especially if afternoon mists come in! We camp in the center of the plateau at Shira One (11,600 ft).
6-7 hours · 4.9 miles · elevation: +3,000 ft.
Today we explore the grassy moorland and volcanic rock formations of the plateau. We walk to the summit of Shira Cathedral (12,800 ft), a huge buttress of rock surrounded by steep spires and pinnacles. There is a tangible sense of wilderness here, especially when the afternoon mists roll in. From our camp near Shira Hut (12,600 ft), we take in the unforgettable views of Mt. Meru as she floats among the clouds.
4-5 hours · 9.9 miles · elevation: +1,000 ft.
In the morning we follow the main trail up to Lava Tower(15,150 ft), and for those feeling strong, there is a possibility to climb up to the ruined hut at Arrow Glacier (15,700 ft). We then continue from Lava Tower to reach our campsite at Moir Hut (13,800 ft).
5-7 hours · 7.2 miles · elevation: +1,000 ft.
We climb out of the Moir Valley and take a short detour to reach the summit of Lent Hills (15,400 ft). After admiring the views we return to the trail and head eastwards around the northern circuit trail. Here the trail passes through a field of rock slabs that clink as they are walked on. The final section of today’s walk undulates until reaching the location of Buffalo Camp (13,600 ft). At the camp, there is a huge feeling of space as the Kenyan plains stretch out far below to the north.
4-7 hours · 4.4 miles · elevation: +1,800 ft. gain · -1800 ft. loss
From Buffalo Camp, we climb to the top of ‘Buffalo Ridge’ and cross numerous ridges and gullies. The trail continues eastwards through a landscape that has increasingly sparse vegetation to eventually reach Third Cave Camp (12,800 ft).
5-7 hours · 5.1 miles · elevation: -800 ft.
There is a steady ascent to reach the saddle, a lunar landscape between the peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi. From here we continue upwards and reach School Hut (15,500 ft) in the early afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon is spent resting and preparing for the summit day.
4-5 hours · 3.0 miles · elevation: +2,700 ft.
We start the final and most demanding part of the climb by headlamp around 1 a.m. First, we will plod very slowly in the darkness on a switchback trail through loose volcanic scree to reach the crater rim at Gilman’s Point (18,600 ft). Here we will rest for a short time to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who are still feeling strong can make the three-hour round trip to Uhuru Peak (19,345 ft), passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area.
We leave the summit heading northwest, down steep switchbacks for a short distance to Crater Camp (18,900 ft). There the rest of the crew will join us to set up camp. There is an option to hike Reusch Crater and the Ash Pit (19,140 ft). You may also choose to stay in the area and explore Furtwangler Glacier. Sleeping at this high altitude can be dangerous. Serious AMS can develop if adequate altitude acclimatization has not been achieved, The guides will monitor you very closely.
7-10 hours · 4.6 miles · elevation: +3,845 ft. gain · -445 ft. loss
We descend from Crater Camp (18,900 ft) stopping at Barafu Camp (14,800 ft) for lunch and continuing our descent. This goes surprisingly fast as we pass through the Alpine Desert to the Heather/Moorland Region and arrive at Millenium Camp (12,500 ft).
4-6 hours · 7.3 miles · elevation: -6,400 ft. gain
A sustained descent on a well-constructed path takes us through a lovely tropical forest alive with birdsong and boasting lush undergrowth with considerable botanical interest. Our route winds down to the Kilimanjaro National Park gate at Mweka (5,400 ft); and on through coffee and banana farms to Mweka village, where we are transferred to your lodge in Moshi.
4-6 hours · 7.6 miles · elevation: -7,100 ft. gain
After breakfast, we can arrange for a private transfer or taxi to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
Drive: 45 minutes