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Ascent of Mount Meru on 2016-01-15

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Greg Slayden -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Duane Gilliland
Pete Ellis
Date:Friday, January 15, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Meru
    Location:Tanzania
    Elevation:4564 m / 14977 ft

Ascent Trip Report

We climbed this peak in 3 days 2 nights having already climbed several high peaks including Kilimanjaro. If not already acclimatised it is recommended to take 4 days 3 nights as the peak is quite high and involves 3000m of ascent, and some scrambling. We summitted in the afternoon as this suited our schedule and it was good to climb in daylight. However this cannot be reliably planned for, afternoons tend to be wetter and the normal/recommended start time is 1-2 am to summit at sunrise.

After our Loolmalasin ascent and Ngorongoro crater visit we return to Arusha, stopping to buy butane gas and a few supplies as we are to be self sufficient for Meru; ie just the mandatory guide. We spend the night at Ilboru Lodge which has been our occasional home between peaks during our three week trip. We have a briefing with Joseph of Trekili our trip organiser and Ayumwi who is our guide for Meru as he was for Kilimanjaro two weeks ago.

Thu 14 Jan: To Miriakamba hut
We're collected soon after 0900 by our driver and guide; also Geoff who was our cook for the last week or so, but is now engaged as porter for Greg and Duane who aren't feeling 100%

The drive east from Arusha is slow as the road is being widened. There are no contractors logos on the equipment: presumably it's all engaged directly by the government.

We make a brief shopping stop: sights and sounds of African market. Then turn N towards Arusha NP. We stop for the guide to complete paperwork then drive in again to the Momella Gate. Here's quite a fleet of Landcruisers, but only a few folk are heading for Meru.

It's necessary for hikers to be accompanied by an armed ranger in case of encounters with wildlife. Buffalo are the most common and warning shots are sometimes required, according to Frederick who has been allotted to us.

About an hour passes while we complete indemnity forms and sit around waiting. Monkeys stealing another group's food passes a few minutes.

At last at midday we start hiking, following a dirt road, feeling the heat as the elevation is quite low, 1500m. We have been grouped with a single German plus a group of seven Germans and Austrians. It soon becomes apparent that the larger group is hiking extremely slowly and several long rests ensue while they catch up. A lunch break is taken at a large fig tree which forms an arch over the road. Another rest is taken on a meadow beneath a beautiful waterfall.

After this we and the lone German hike on with the ranger and our guide, following the road up through nice woodland. We wonder about the others who have no armed ranger but apparently the main danger is early and late in the day. Steeper stretches of road have been concreted and we pass one stretch which is being concreted: formwork rock-filled then concrete is barrowed in from a wheezy old mixer. Sadly this means the 4x4 transport we've engaged for Saturday to get us down and back to the airport in time, won't be able to drive as high as we'd hoped.

Late pm it rains a little, initiating a discussion about umbrella vs cape vs raincoat in a tropical context... At last the road tops out and levels off, in the lower crater with moody misty views upwards, trees wearing tassels of lichen, all very atmospheric. Finally the road descends 50m to the hut, and Frederick tells us to go ahead while he returns to protect the remaining group, as there's more danger of encountering buffalo towards dusk.

We arrive at Miriakamba hut just as it starts to rain heavily. It's a nice place with tidy 4-person bunk rooms (Greg and Duane are in Warthog and Pete and I are Dik Dik!). We fire up our butane stoves in the kitchen and soon have tea brewed and a little later our dehydrated meals. There's a nice dining area, with a large Hungarian group who have already had a very long summit day and are preparing to hike down in the dark. Oddly they then have four days safari before tackling Kilimanjaro, to some extent spoiling the acclimatisation effect of Meru.

Ayumwi tells us of his plans for tomorrow which might involve us summitting at sunset and descending to Saddle Hut in the dark. This would give us plenty of time for descent but we'll see how things work out.

Fri 15 Jan: To Saddle hut and Meru summit
We're up about 0700: the summit ridge towering 2000m above us is in cloud. We leave at 0830 with the armed ranger; none of the other hikers seem to be following us - the assumption seems to be that the first party on the trail will clear away any buffalo; we see none, although plenty of dung.

Walking a short way back along the road we fork right following a sign Saddle Hut 4hr. After a short level stretch the obvious trail zigzags steeply up the ridge through nice forest. We climb at a steady pace, resting a couple of times. The higher slopes are blackened by a recent fire which has taken all the Little Meru slopes plus some way up Meru itself. Floristic diversity is high, perhaps due to the lack of shrubby competition. In time the hut comes into view in the Little Meru saddle and we arrive at 1130, 3hrs from Miriakamba. S3.21825° E36.77338°, 3564m.

The Saddle Hut also consists of small 2-bunk rooms. We occupy one, pack our bags and the two Englishmen have a couple of cups of tea to prepare for the afternoon ascent.

We leave Saddle Hut at 1230 with guide Ayumwi and also Geoff who when not being a porter or cook, also makes a very capable guide - and is an all round good bloke. The trail climbs in easy zigzags to Rhino Point, 3800m on the signboard but our GPSs make it 3883 (S3.22317° E36.76479°); on the return my GPS indicates a prominence of 62m (col at S3.22396° E36.76113°). The descent involves some slabby scrambly sections which have recently had new chain protection installed: care is needed especially when damp.

Beyond the saddle we climb steadily along the crater rim, sometimes on loose volcanic sand, sometimes on rocky ground. At Ayumwi's pole-pole pace it never feels hard, although it's a pretty long ascent. A few spots give us fine views into the crater, actually a half crater as an eruption a quarter million years ago blew out the whole of the east side, a little reminiscent of the USA's Mount St Helens, although on this case not a stunning blue crater lake, just a big ash cone taking up much of the floor space.

The weather is intermittently drizzly and we climb into the cloud. The last 300m ascent is in heavy rain. We pass a small comms mast then a long slabby scrambly slope (YDS 2+) leads at last to the rocky summit with its Tanzania flag, and a couple of rocks on an outcrop marking the highest point (S3.24339° E36.74978°, 4582m). This is 16m higher than the official 4566m, seeming to suggest a geoid model error.

We're up in 5hrs. Pete breaks out some Christmas cake (a significant-summit tradition of his) on the cold wet summit. In 15 mins we head down, the rain stops, the clouds start to clear and we're treated to a very nice evening descent with some lovely views. We just get past the chained slabs before dark: we descend from Rhino Point by head torch, arriving back at Saddle Hut in 2h30, just before 8pm. A quick dehydrated meal, some tea and a pre-breakfast plan for Little Meru tomorrow, then bed.

Sat 16 Jan: Little Meru, Descent and Homeward
I'm the only taker for Little Meru: Pete climbed it 18 years ago. Ayumwi and I start up at 0610. Plenty of fresh buffalo dung. I ask what happens if we meet one: the answer is non committal. .. Fine view of Meru from the summit ((S3.21259° E36.77410°, 3814m). Kilimanjaro is hazily visible as a huge cloud-topped amorphous whaleback. We're up pole-pole in 45 mins and down in 25. Breakfast, then at 0830 we head down with Frederick the ranger.

We trundle down at quite a relaxed pace in 1h35 although we hear most folks take much longer. We laze at Miriakamba hut for an hour or so, watching the antics of the white necked ravens, then hike down towards the Momella Gate.

We've arranged for a 4x4 to meet us, as in the standard morning ascent schedule we'd have been short of time for our evening flight. As it turns out, with out afternoon ascent we have plenty of time. However we're caught in a big thunder storm and hike down in heavy rain for an hour. At last our vehicle arrives. We call at Momella Gate, check out and pick up our summit certificates (two for me - Little and Big Meru!) then we're driven to JRO airport.

We have 3 hours in hand which we spend in a day room at Kia Lodge hotel complex, within the airport perimeter, $100 between the four of us. We spread out our wet gear in the sunshine, shower, use the wifi and finally pack and take the Lodge shuttle to the airport. Except that Pete hears his flight to Nairobi has been cancelled and scrambles to get an earlier flight (and ends up flying next day).

The JRO airport experience is very unpleasant with long queues and no air conditioning. I'm feeling faint and am relieved to at last get through to the departure gate. Then our flight is delayed an hour. That apart, it's been an excellent trip.

Mt Meru photo album 1: approach
Mt Meru photo album 2: to Saddle Hut
Mt Meru photo album 3: summit bid
Mt Meru photo album 4: Little Meru and descent

Species encountered around Meru:
Zebra
Reticulated giraffe
Black and White Colobus monkey
Baboon
Grey parrot
Whitenecked raven
Tropical boubou
Bushbuck
Waterbuck
Dik-dik
Buffalo
Summary Total Data
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Guide, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cool, some rain
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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