Okay, let me put this in very simple terms: Mount Meru is no joke.
That’s not to say I underestimated it, but it was nothing like what I was expecting.
The first two days were okay, with reasonable hikes uphill and enough work to qualify a mountain… but the third day, oh my! There was no way to prepare mentally or physically for what was to come!
The first day was a gentle uphill climb, there are two routes, one takes about 3 or 4 hours and one takes six. Our park official wanted us to see the waterfall, so we took the 6 hour route. Apart from some intensely vertical stairs it was mostly easy walking. We were rewarded with popcorn and a nice dinner and into bed by 9pm for the morning hike at 8am.
The second day started around 7am wakeup, 730am breakfast and 8am hiking. It was a bit of a harder day as it was straight uphill and up stairs for a solid 4 hours. But we got to climb above the clouds and it was stunning. We got to the camp for lunch, had a good lunch, a quick nap and then climbed Little Meru up to 3500 metres.
Our guide was strategic and picked our timing for Little Meru when the sun would be lower and we climbed it alone as every other group went up earlier in the day. There were a few groups that totaled around 20 people with the park officer.
We made the Little Meru peak with a little frustration on my part from just waking up from the nap, but we made it none-the-less and got quite a view of the peak for Big Meru the next day. On the way back down I even got a phone call and the reception was still pretty good!
The third day started at 12:30am wakeup call, 1am we left for the peak. The climb up was a solid 6 hours, up and down and up and down as there are continuous peaks to summit on the way. It would be a walk up through the sand-ish ground, then a rock climb around an area and onto a solid uphill through the sand again, over and over…. All done in the DARK!
When we made the peak, after many hours of my counting “1… 2, 1… 2” just motivating my legs not thinking of anything else, we made it. Dad had a bit of altitude sickness, and I could feel a bit of a shortness of breath but that’s pretty standard. Our guide August was a bit worried about Dad so our time at the top was short and sweet and we left in a bit of a hurry back down.
Going down I will flat out admit scared the hell out of me. Going up was way easier than going back down. Now, I have a bit of a fear of heights and going up was in the dark but coming down I could see everything and all the options for falling down the mountain to who knows where…
My guide August was phenomenal and guided me step by step back down the mountain.
We got down after about 3 hours, and had a quick nap, breakfast/lunch and began the hike down to camp 2. With shakey legs we made it down after about 2.5 hours and waited for the emergency vehicle to take us down to the first camp to meet our jeep back to Moshi.
All in all, I don’t regret climbing the mountain at all, but it is definitely something that I was not entirely prepared for. I loved it in hindsight but at the time I did struggle. The view was incredible and watching the sunrise over Kilimanjaro while watching the moon go down was pretty darn amazing. I recommend Gladys Adventures in Moshi, they are the most organized and safe guides out of the bunch- August even took care of the Park officer who was having trouble breathing for some time! And his handy altitude kit and blood-oxygen tester was awesome.