Summit day starts at latest 02:00 AM. You may start earlier, depending on how you feel. The aim is to reach the top for the sunrise at around 06:00, and most people need at least 4 hours to make it to the summit in the dark. Your now unarmed ranger (no elephants up here!) will follow you to the summit.
Leaving Saddle Hut, you will first cross a relatively flat area, before hiking up a seemingly endless number of switchbacks until you reach Rhino Point (3800m), a flat area marked with some rhino bones.
From here, the path to the summit is marked by green arrows and blotches painted on rocks. The path continues over a rocky segment that drops quite steeply after Rhino Point. After this part is passed, the rest of the hike is pretty much a 3 hour steady, but steep climb. You will walk along the crater rim, or below the crater rim on the outside of the crater. The ground will either be volcanic rock or loose sand and gravel.
Descending Mount Meru from the Summit
From the summit, there is only one way to go: down. The rest of your Mt. Meru hike is retracing your steps down to Miriakamba Hut, and then walking either the northern or southern route back to Momella Gate.
It is about 2-3 hours down from the summit to the Saddle Hut, another 2 hours down to Miriakamba Hut, and 1.5-3 hours down to Momella Gate depending on the route taken from Miriakamba.
Expect your ranger to be eager to get down. For you, on the other hand, going down is a good chance to enjoy all those things you couldn’t enjoy while going up. Take your time.
If you are doing a 3-day hike, you will have the pleasure of spending the rest of the day hiking down to Momella Gate.
If you are doing a 4-day hike, the ranger will probably wish to go down to Miriakamba Hut for the night, after a short stop at Saddle Hut. If you are continuing to Mt. Kilimanjaro and not suffering too much altitude sickness, you can try to convince your ranger to stay another night at Saddle Hut, in order to improve your acclimatization. If he agrees, you will start around sunrise the next morning and descend to Momella Gate via Miriakamba and the northern route. You also get the chance to climb Little Meru again! (still, only get one diploma though…)
When down at Momella Gate, you should get two nice diplomas one for Mt. Meru and one for Little Meru.
If you would like to tip your ranger for his services as a guide you may. It is appreciated, but not demanded. His salary is paid by TANAPA.
You will most likely experience some symptoms of altitude sickness on your way to the summit. Remember to ascend slowly and descend if necessary.
The last part up to the summit is quite rocky and requires some scrambling. If you make it up in time for the sunrise, and the weather is clear, you can look forward to some amazing views. When on the top, put on some warm clothes, sign the guestbook, take pictures and enjoy! You have truly earned your diploma…