There are seven established routes up Kilimanjaro (Rongai, Machame, Marangu, Lemosho, Umbwe – and the two I can actually pronounce – Northern Circuit and Western Breach) all of which present their own individual challenges, suiting climbers of different ilk.
Marangu is seen as the natural route of choice for inexperienced climbers as it’s perceived the easiest with relatively high summit success rates. Nicknamed the ‘Coca Cola Route’ as Coke used to be sold by the locals along the way in tea huts, Marangu offers trekkers the opportunity to ‘climb high, sleep low’ – the ideal for high ascents which allows your body to acclimatise. With this being the obvious choice for the guys to summit, of course they chose another route – rightly or ‘rongly’, they’re embarking on the significantly more difficult, Rongai Route!
The Rongai Route ascends from the North side of the mountain, along the border between Tanzania and Kenya – the only route to do so. It is usually the least popular/busy route – make of that what you will…
Out of all the routes, Rongai offers the most natural encounters with an array of mountainside wildlife, as it maintains a sense of unspoilt wilderness. Rambo Richard will be in his element, at one with the wild – while, albeit a trimmed down Jason, could be seen as special of the day.
It takes the trekker through farmlands, forest and alpine moorlands as they approach the beautiful summit cone. This is just before the arduous final day ascent, which takes place in darkness, starting in the early hours of the morning. This is perhaps a painful experience in itself, but the incomparable dawn vista sweeping over the East African plains will make it worth it… so I’ve heard anyway!
A closer look at the route:
4.3miles: Immerse themselves in Tanzanian wildlife in the ascent through Rongai Forest – an ‘easy going’ walk to start…seemingly. There are many members of the Chagga Tribe that live around the base area – they won’t miss them that’s for sure. They’ll also need to keep an eye out for the deceptive honey badgers – even lions give them a wide berth!
9.5miles: Climb to Kikelewa Moorland, where the vegetation will change to shrubs and grasses.. Smaller animals like to roam these areas – namely Four Striped Grass Mouse (watch your step) or a White-Necked-Raven – they love visiting campsites so guarding your food is important (take note Jason).
5.2miles: A lactic acid-inducing steady ascent beneath Mawenzi volcano. They’ll have the afternoon to explore and acclimatise – or collapse in a heap and give their legs/feet a rest!
6.3miles: A jaunt across the famous ‘Saddle’ which is formed between the peaks of the Kibo and Mawenzi volcanoes to the bottom of summit zone for a very early night. … I’m tired just writing this! Buffalos patrol this area, so the guys will have to be careful they don’t encroach the big fella’s turf…there’ll only be one winner.
5.9miles: Early hours (I mean really early) start to reach Gillman’s Point in time for the stunningly unforgettable sunrise over the crater rim: onto Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa… then they’ve made it! Hopefully the adrenaline will go up a notch and mask the pain in their legs. Again, hopefully it’s at this point the guys will feel the months of sacrifice and preparation have been worth it. Hopefully
13.6miles: The longest walk to finish so they will need to fuel their bodies wisely. The mammoth descent to Mandara & Marangu shouldn’t feel as painful after the euphoria of having just lived a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They’ll have to keep an eye out for any wildlife they may have disgruntled on the way up!
The Rongai trek averages out at approximately 7.5 miles per day. To put this into perspective, this is almost the equivalent of climbing AND descending Snowdon – every day for 6 days! After recently summiting Snowdon successfully on their second attempt, Rich & Jason should have a good idea if they’re the right guys for Rongai!
Every last penny of the donations for Richard & Jason’s challenge goes towards The British Heart Foundation. We’re over 30% of the way to achieving our donation target – we’re very grateful for everyone who’s shown support. Summer is fast approaching so it’s getting increasingly real – let’s keep the momentum going!
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