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9 Day Kilimanjaro Trekking , Northern Circuit

9 Day Kilimanjaro Trekking , Northern Circuit

Northern Circuit Route Kilimanjaro

The Northern Circuit Route is the longest route on Kilimanjaro. It’s a 9-day trip that initially goes up the Lemosho route on the western side of Kilimanjaro to the Shira Plateau, then heads north and circles the main summit in a clockwise direction.

It then joins the Rongai route to climb the summit from the eastern side and descend straight down the southern Mweka route.

The Northern Circuit route is the newest route up Mount Kilimanjaro and arguably the best. That’s because the combination of all of the best elements of the other routes rolled into one fantastic hike. If you’re looking for beautiful scenery, plenty of solitude, a healthy challenge, and the potential to spot wildlife, this is the route for you.

The Northern Circuit route follows the same route as the Lemosho route for the first few days, but rather than sticking to the south side of Kibo, it turns to the little-used northern trails instead. This path is virtually devoid of other trekkers and as a result, the campsites are quiet, peaceful, and practically deserted.

Northern Circuit Detailed Itinerary

8 nights / 9 Days

Day 1: Registration at the Londolosi Gate

After completing the necessary registration formalities at the Londorossi National Park gate, we drive through varied farmland with open views over the plains to reach the Lemosho roadhead. The last section of the road is of poor quality and difficult to drive after rain, sometimes we start walking a kilometer or two below the road head. We often have our lunch at the roadhead before starting to walk. It is an easy day to walk up a small path through a beautiful and lush forest. We camp at Lemosho Big Tree Camp (2,650 m); [2-3 hours walking]

Day 2:  Traversing Through Shira Plateau (3,550 m). [6-7 hours walking]

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” (3,550 m). [6-7 hours walking]

Day 3: Trekking to the Summit of Shira Cathedral and Shira Hut (3,840 m) [5-7 hours walking]

We walk to the summit of Shira Cathedral before reaching the next camp at Shira Hut (3,840 m). This campsite has stunning views, close to the glaciated dome of Kibo and the jagged rim of the Shira Plateau. The views from here of Mt. Meru floating on the clouds are simply unforgettable. [5-7 hours walking]

Day 4: Trekking to Lava Tower and Moir Hut (4,200m). [5-7 hours walking]

In the morning we follow the main trail up to Lava Tower, and for those feeling strong, there is a possibility to climb up to the ruined hut at Arrow Glacier around 4,800m. We then continue from Lava Tower to reach our campsite at Moir Hut (4,200m). [5-7 hours walking]

Day 5:  Trekking to the summit of Little Lent Hill at 4,375, Buffalo Camp (4,150m) [4-7 hours walking]

We climb out of the Moir Valley and take a short detour to reach the summit of Little Lent Hill at 4,375 meters. 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 is to walk undulates until reaching the location of Buffalo Camp (4,150m). At the camp, there is a huge feeling of space as the Kenyan plains stretch out far below to the north.[4-7 hours walking]

Day 6: Traverse to Third Cave Camp (3,900m). [5-7 hours walking]

From Buffalo Camp we climb up to the top of ‘Buffalo Ridge’ and drop down the other side to reach  Pofu, nearby the is a small spring and some vegetation. The trail continues eastwards through a landscape that has increasingly sparse vegetation to eventually reach Third Cave Camp (3,900m). [5-7 hours walking]

Day 7:  Trek to School Hut Campsite (4,700m) and Rest [4-5 hours walking]

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 the School Hut Campsite (4,700m) in the early afternoon. The remain of the afternoon is spent resting and preparing for the summit day.[4-5 hours walking]

Day 8: Trekking to the Summit of Uhuru Peak (5,896 m) and descending to Millennium Camp (3,800 m). [11-15 hours walking]

We will start our ascent by torchlight at about midnight so that we can be up on the Crater rim by sunrise. The steep climb over loose volcanic scree has some well-graded zig-zags and a slow but steady pace will take us to Gilmans Point (5,685 m) in about five or six hours. We will rest there for a short time to enjoy the sunrise over Mawenzi. The trail leads west along the crater rim to Uhuru Peak (5,896 m), passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area. We retrace our steps along the crater rim to Stella Point and then descend through Barafu Camp to reach Millennium Camp (3,800 m). [11-15 hours walking]

Day 9:  Continue Descending to Mweka Gate (1,650 m) (4-6 hours walking)

We make the final descent to the trailhead today, about 3-5 hours of hiking. Here we will have lunch and say goodbye to our mountain crew before leaving Mount Kilimanjaro and heading back to town. Arrive at your lodge usually between 3-5 PM.

Hiking: 3-5 hours.

Northern Circuit Route frequently asked questions

The questions and answers below are specific to the Northern Circuit Route

 How difficult is the Northern Circuit Route?

The Northern Circuit has the lowest difficulty level on all the Kilimanjaro Routes. Although it is the longest route, the longer itinerary means that it has the best acclimatization profile which makes the trek less difficult.

The physical trek over nine days is excellent for altitude acclimatization and is generally easy underfoot.  A good level of fitness is highly recommended.

What is the distance of the Northern Circuit Route and how many days does it take?

The exact trekking distance for the Northern Circuit Route is 88km or 53 miles. The shortest number of days required for the Northern Circuit Route is 8 days, shorter ascents are possible but mean some strenuous trekking days.

By the time you have added on arrival and departure days, it is 10 or 12. However, as it’s considered one of the longest routes on the mountain it is best done over 9 days of trekking to increase your chances of success.

What is the Northern Circuit Route Summit Success Rate?

The Northern Circuit is the longest route up Kilimanjaro which gives the best chance for acclimatization. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average summit success rate across all operators is 90%.

However, we have a summit success rate of over 98% for the Northern Circuit Route!

What is the Scenery like on the Northern Circuit Route?

The main approach will take you through the rich Lemosho forest and across the Shira Plateau. Then as the climber traverses around to the remote and rarely-visited north side of Kilimanjaro, the scenery becomes more arid and austere. It is so remote here that the shy eland are often seen as well as the occasional buffalo that come to lick minerals from the natural caves on the high slopes of Kilimanjaro.

When is the best time to Trek the Northern Circuit Route?

July-September is the best time to trek the Northern Circuit Route, as the weather is most stable during this period, and encountering rain is less likely. That said, since it is close to the equator it is possible to climb the mountain at any time of the year. April and May are the rainy season so this period is best avoided.

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