Home > Kilimanjaro Routes > Grand Traverse > 7-day Grand Traverse With Crater Camp & Lava Tower

7-day Grand Traverse With Crater Camp & Lava Tower

ALTITUDE PROFILE (HIKE HIGH, SLEEP LOW)Very good
DIFFICULTY (GRADIENT, DAILY DISTANCE)Extreme
SCENERYVery good
WILDERNESSExcellent
360° VIEWSExcellent
ACCESSIBILITYGood
AFFORDABILITYExpensive

This 7-day Grand Traverse With Crater Cramp itinerary is an extremely challenging climb with very long hiking days. It includes a detour to Lava Tower for better acclimatization to the high altitude in preparation for staying overnight at Crater Camp. This detour, however, also makes this itinerary physically more challenging than its 7-day Grand Traverse With Crater Camp alternative without the acclimatization hike to Lava Tower.

Both itineraries have been designed to be combined with a pre-acclimatization climb of Mount Meru. They should not be attempted by climbers who have not pre-acclimatized to the high altitude.

To make this itinerary at least a little less strenuous, please consider the 8-day Grand Traverse With Crater Camp & Lava Tower extension.

For climbers less confident of their physical abilities to endure long climbing days, we strongly recommend 10-day Northern Circuit With Crater Camp as a more manageable itinerary.

Day 1
2h   
  • Transfer to the Kilimanjaro National Park gate
  • Moshi (831m)  →  Londorosi Gate (2,250m)
  • 1,419m
  • 82km

The start of your exciting Mount Kilimanjaro journey begins from your hotel pick-up in Moshi (or Arusha). You will depart early to arrive by Londorosi Gate on the western side of the Kilimanjaro National Park by mid-day.

During the drive, enjoy the green scenery of coffee and banana plantations. Nearer to Londorosi Gate, you’ll find yourself surrounded by pine plantations – sad evidence of the past destruction of the indigenous rainforest which used to engulf the gate until few decades ago.

At the gate, you will be registering with the Kilimanjaro National Park authorities. Expect to linger around for approximately an hour to two while all equipment and supplies get distributed amongst your porters and weighed to ensure fair porter treatment practices.

Once formalities are taken care of, it’s time to head back into the car to drive to the start of your exciting journey at Lemosho Gate.

1h   
  • Transfer through the forest to the edge of the tree-line
  • Londorosi Gate (2,250m)  →  Morum Barrier Gate (3,410m)
  • 1,160m
  • 20km

After formalities and registration are taken care of at Londorosi Gate, you are driven up through a dense rainforest to an altitude of 3,400 meters (11,000 feet) where Morum Barrier Gate awaits you.

While climbers on other routes spend two days hiking up to the Shira Plateau, your exciting adventure on the Grand Traverse starts at the edge of the tree-line. The views of the wilderness will be breathtaking and you’ll begin to feel immersed into the Kilimanjaro mountainside as soon as you begin your once-in-a-lifetime excursion.

4-6h   
  • Panoramic Kibo views
  • Morum Barrier Gate (3,410m)  →  Shira 2 Camp (3,850m)
  • 440m
  • 14km

Your first day of hiking will take you up and across the Shira Plateau. The rainforest you drove through begins to become sparse as you enter into the heather and moorland vegetation zone. Not long into your hike, breathtaking views of Kibo open in the distance.

The path maintains a very manageable incline as you cross the the vast Shira Plateau, steadily narrowing the distance between you and the free-standing mountain glistening in the afternoon sun.

After you’ve crossed the Shira Plateau, watch out for a few specimen of the curious Dendrosenecio trees, also known as Giant Groundsels.

As you approach camp, it’s time to rest after your exciting first day and enjoy the panoramic views before the sun sets. Be aware that the Shira Plateau can be below freezing at night, so make sure you have your hats, gloves and flashlights ready.

Day 2
4h   
  • Acclimatizing to the thin air at Lava Tower
  • Shira 2 Camp (3,850m)  →  Lava Tower (4,600m)
  • 750m
  • 7km

The morning climb brings you to the majestic Lava Tower, an ancient plug that was left by the active-volcanic days. Although the walk is not too steep, it is nonetheless a long and strenuous one due to the high altitude. Your body will begin to notice the decrease in oxygen.

On this part of the journey, the landscape becomes more barren and even the heather disappears, only to be replaced by rocks and lava ridges. At the peak of your journey, you will have climbed 4,600 metres to the Lava Tower, also known as the Shark’s tooth. This covers an altitude distance of approximately 750 metres from Shira 2 Camp.

Your new surroundings at Lava Tower will consist of a high altitude desert, with no vegetation and pools of rocks, scree and dust as far as the eye can see.  You’ll need a few warm layers on this part of the journey as it can be prone to cold winds, ice and mist.

Symptoms of altitude sickness are common here, but don’t worry because this is one of the reasons why you have come here: to allow for proper altitude acclimatization.

2-3h   
  • A euphoric descent after your big morning climb
  • Lava Tower (4,600m)  →  Moir Hut Camp (4,200m)
  • -400m
  • 7km

After spending time at the stunning Lava Tower, you will descend today into the Moir Hut Camp. Hiking high and sleeping low is an important tactic in acclimating your body to the higher altitudes. While it seems backwards to descend after working so hard to climb up, you are preparing your body to succeed when you finally summit.

You’ll surely feel your legs today by the time you reach Moira Hut. The camp is situated at the base of Lent Hills – a scenic and quiet camp that is only used for the Shira and Northern routes.

If you’ve skipped Lava Tower and made your way to Moir Hut Camp directly, and still have some energy left, you may want to take a short walk around the camp in the afternoon. This acclimatization opportunity is a quaint getaway from the other busier camps, and should be taken full advantage of!

Day 3
9-11h   
  • Off into authentic wilderness on the northern slopes
  • Moir Hut Camp (4,200m)  →  Third Cave (3,800m)
  • -400m
  • 16km

Today you will head north onto the Northern Circuit, away from all other routes that approach the summit on the southern slopes.

The day will begin with a fairly steep climb, as you hike to the summit of Lent Hills. You will be rewarded with breathtaking scenery of the vast moon-like terrain and the snow-covered mountains. After you’ve accomplished the most challenging part of the day, and admired the views, it’s time to head east across the rock fields and back onto a trodden trail.

For the remainder of your hiking day, the path gently undulates and you cross a series of inclines and declines through the slopes of Kibo. As you approach Buffalo Camp, and weather permitting, you are met with a scenery of plains that stretch out all the way to the Kenyan/Tanzanian border.

The day will leave you with some time to rest, and an opportunity to explore the surrounding area. The infinite amount of plains and the snow-capped Kibo will be a welcoming place to relax.

Buffalo Camp has no cabins or built structures, not even toilet latrines, completely immersing yourself into the Kilimanjaro wilderness. There is good chance that you get to enjoy the campsite to yourself, a real treat on the busy mountain!

Day 4
5h   
  • Into thin air and alpine desert
  • Third Cave (3,800m)  →  School Hut (4,800m)
  • 1,000m
  • 10km

Today you will be climbing from Third Cave to School Hut, your base camp for the final summit push. You may start to be feeling butterflies in anticipation of your big summit night. Within less than 24 hours, you’ll be standing on the top of Africa!

The hike will be shorter today, but significant altitude height will be gained to acclimate you for the summit. Soon after leaving Third Cave, the landscape will become barren, and you may feel like you’re on another planet with the clouds sitting below you.

You’ll notice that the altitude can be difficult. While the trek doesn’t seem very steep, the lack of oxygen will make it feel otherwise. Do not be discouraged, and take as much time as you need! The views of the towering  will motivate you as you take each step. Weather and cloud cover permitting, you have Kibo in your view the entire time.

It’s still fairly early as you approach the campsite, so that you can get as much rest as possible before the exciting night ahead. Even though you may not be feeling hungry due to the altitude, try to eat as much as possible to gain strength for your summit push. After an early dinner, it’s time to get your gear ready for your early wake up, and to catch as much sleep as you can.

Day 5
6-7h   
  • All the way the top (almost)
  • Barafu Camp (4,673m)  →  Stella Point (5,756m)
  • 1,083m
  • 3km

Today is an early start for the moment you’ve been waiting for – your final push to the top of Kibo. One of the benefits of staying overnight at Crater Camp is that you can conquer the top of Kilimanjaro in daylight rather than overnight. However, it will still be an early start just after sunrise, to leave enough time to explore the crater in the afternoon.

Even though summiting in daylight will feel a lot less frigid than overnight, be sure to pack thick gloves and extra warm gear as the wind will still feel icy even during the day. And make sure to apply extra thick sunscreen and bring your sunglasses as the sun is getting ever more intense the higher you climb. Snacks are encouraged as well to maintain energy throughout the long day.

After a relatively moderate start, the trail becomes steep and challenging as it joins with the Marangu Route. The air will become so thin that you may need to pause for a second or more after each step, and altitude sickness may begin to hit you. Your final push to the top may seem endless and will test all your patience as climbers on the Marangu Route who summited overnight are making their way down while you're slowly making your way up. Knowing that you'll be able to enjoy the roof of Africa without the crowds will be your reward for all the hard work.

After approximately an hour and a half slowly making your way up via a series of switchbacks that make the steep scree slopes easier to tackle, you will hit rockier terrain. As you scramble over up to hip-high boulders, be mindful of your steps as these so-called Jamaican Rocks can be slippery at times. After a while, the rocks become more moderate and easier to manage – a sign that the end is near.

What satisfaction as you reach Gilman's Point at the top of Kibo and a vast open crater expands in front of your eyes! From here, the path becomes very manageable as you continue along the crater rim to Stella Point – your highest point today before you'll descend to Crater Camp.

Congratulations! You’ve already conquered an impressive feat and will receive your climbing certificate for making to the top of Kibo. Even though Gilman's and Stella Point are not yet the summit, and the excitement of Uhuru Peak is still waiting for you the next morning, you can already be proud that you’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!

1h   
  • Lunar landscape, glacier and ash pit
  • Stella Point (5,756m)  →  Crater Camp (5,739m)
  • -17m
  • 2km

After the euphoric moments at Stella Point, the fun continues as you get to walk to Crater Camp. The morning was hard on your body, and luckily Crater Camp isn't far, situated only 150 meters (510 feet) of descent away. Set in soft sands, the camp is located near the impressive ice walls of the Furtwangler Glacier. The campsite is the highest on Kilimanjaro, located at 5,740 meters (18,800 ft). After replenishing your energy levels over a well-deserved break in the mess tent, the lunar landscape is yours to explore with the Reusch Crater and ash pit located only an hour away. After your accomplished day, what a treat to be able to experience the majestic offerings on the top of Kilimanjaro that so few climbers ever get to see!

Day 6
1-2h   
  • Sunrise at the summit
  • Crater Camp (5,739m)  →  Uhuru Peak (5,895m)
  • 156m
  • 1km

If climbing all the way to Stella Point wasn’t enough, it's time to scale the very top of Mount Kilimanjaro – Uhuru Peak. You will rise early to reach the summit by sunrise. However, while your body may be aching from the day before, it will be nowhere as challenging because the peak is only 150 meters (510 feet) of ascent away, and won't take more than one or two hours at most.

Dawn is approaching as you push yourself to the highest point of Mt. Kilimanjaro and of Africa – Uhuru Peak. The opportunity to see the new day’s climbers and the sunrise from the summit is a privilege that you won’t soon forget. Take some pictures, pat yourself on the back, hug your companions and enjoy the glistening pink and orange sunrise hues overlooking the ice fields and glaciers. The rolling clouds splash against the noble beauty of Kibo – it’s a sight you won’t soon forget.

5-7h   
  • Half way down into thicker air
  • Uhuru Peak (5,895m)  →  Mweka Camp (3,100m)
  • -2,795m
  • 13km

Make sure to take lots of photos and soak in the views as you won’t be staying up long at Uhuru Peak. Your guide will make sure to bring you back down to thicker air soon after you’ve reached the peak of your journey. While climbing thus far may have seemed to be the hardest part, you’re day has only just begun.

After making it all the way up to the summit of Uhuru Peak, you will still feel that lingering sense of euphoria that comes with such a magnificent achievement. Now the challenge is to make your way down to Mweka Camp, which sits at 3,100 metres – an an altitude drop of almost 2,800 metres. As you make your way down, you will find that the descent is tough on your knees, which will by now be feeling the impact of your climb up this formidable mountain. To ease the strain on your knees, make good use of your walking poles.

For the initial part of your journey down from Stella Point, you will encounter fields of sand and scree, which can be particularly challenging to navigate your way through. Gaiters are once again essential here, to prevent some of the glacial scree making its way into your boots! There are different ways you can tackle the scree. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can simply slide or ski down the scree slopes, which is a fun and quick way of conquering it! If you’re not comfortable with that, simply walk slowly down the scree, although this will add additional time onto your journey.

Your slope then turns into rocks before you reach Barafu Camp. Rest and eat to regain some energy. However, don’t rest too long. You still have over 3 hours to go. As you descend, you’ll notice that some of the plants and greenery starts to reappear and the surroundings are not as barren as it has been in recent days. You’ll pass by Millennium Camp which is located just above the tree line. Sometimes, you may camp here if the descent further down is just too challenging to handle – discuss this with your guide beforehand to see if it’s possible.

But Mweka Camp is only two hours further, located in the upper part of the rainforest zone, which brings with it a very welcome increase in oxygen and moisture in the air. You will be feeling tired and worn from the journey by the time you reach your camp for the night, but this is normal. Conquering Kilimanjaro is far from easy and you can take solace from the fact that you have completed a challenge that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Finally, you’ll be able to get some well earned rest and relaxation, and celebrate the completion of this important milestone of your journey.

Day 7
3-4h   
  • All the way back down through the forest
  • Mweka Camp (3,100m)  →  Mweka Gate (1,640m)
  • -1,460m
  • 10km

The euphoria from yesterday’s achievement will linger today and give you a high that will last for some time to come. Conquering Mount Kilimanjaro is not easy and the challenge associated with climbing it is legendary. Today’s walk is a pleasant one and it will take you through the beautiful greenery of the rainforest as you steadily continue your downward descent. The atmosphere will resemble prehistoric times as you make your way through the 20 foot fern trees in the rainforest. You will venture through the moorlands and the montane rainforest, which bears similarities to the first stop on Kilimanjaro and you will once again greet the different bird species and monkeys that you encountered on your way up. At this point tiredness and bruised knees may drain your enthusiasm little, but you will still feel the pride in your accomplishments. The temperature will be a little warmer and more humid by this point, in contrast to the ice caps and the glaciers experienced over the last few days.

Soon even the jungle will gradually start to fade in favour of dirt tracks and the return of civilisation, which signals your arrival at Mweka Gate – the exit of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. Once you have reached this point, your journey across Kilimanjaro will have concluded and you will be satisfied in the knowledge that you have reached the summit and finally conquered this tough but beautiful mountain.

Once you arrive at Mweka Gate and you have completed your walk, it will be time to bid farewell to your crew. It is customary to tip your guides, cook and porters for their assistance during your trip before you are transported back to your hotel. Please check the tipping procedure and tipping ranges recommended by your tour company before the start of your climb.

1h   
  • Transfer to your hotel
  • Mweka Gate (1,640m)  →  Moshi (831m)
  • -809m
  • 17km

After your exciting conclusion at Mweka Gate, you surely can’t wait to get back to your hotel for a well-deserved shower. The scenic drive back to Moshi (or Arusha) takes you through coffee and banana plantations, and is serene as you reflect on your adventure.

Arriving at your hotel, you’ve finished the magical journey, and it’s time to sift through photos, brag to your friends, and reminisce fondly on those life-long memories that you’ve just made.

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