Travel memories, (and ideas for the next holidays): Ermanno Busetti tells us about the 4 days spent climbing Mount Meru, in Tanzania.
The Mount Meru is the fifth highest "isolated" mountain in Africa; its elevation is lower only than that of the three 5000 mountain of Africa (that is Kilimanjaro, Kenia, and Ruwenzori) and of the Ras Dashan, the highest peak in Ethiopia.
Little known in Italy, as confirmed by my guides, it's known mainly overseas, and often it is climbed as preparation for the ascent of the Kilimanjaro, 50 Kilometers as the crow flies, and well visible during the climbing.
The climb is 4 days round-trip, with three overnight stays on two huts along the only (probably) known route to the top.
The Mount Meru, seen from South, looks like a classic cone-shaped volcano; but on its Northern face there is an enormous collapse, happened during an ancient eruptive phase, that generated a vertical wall of black pozzolan, height several hundred od meters, ending with an elegant and long ridge. As this mountain is included in the Arusha, you can't climb it in autonomy. Each group of trekkers, indeed, has to be conducted by local guides with bearers and an unfailing "chef". Our chef did his best, even when he made spaghetti. Spaghetti is a dish that we may want to avoid outside Italy, but that I ate heartily on the Mount Meru, whereas my partner Elisena remained a bit more diffident.
The first stage is from the 1500 meters of the Momela Gate to the 2500 meters of Miriakamba hut, crossing clearings and woods. The hut is in the middle of a forest populated both by harmless baboons and by potentially most dangerous buffalos and elephants. These latter animals, if isolated, out of the herd, could be aggressive.
The next day there are 1000 meters of height difference, and the forest gives way to scrub, that somewhere shows the signs of a recent fire.
Once at the Saddle hut, at 3500 meters above the sea level, we were invited to a short climb on the top of the Small Meru. This peak, 3820 meters in height, offer us the view of the whole mountain crest that we are going in a few hours because the start time for the third stage is 1:00 AM.
As always I couldn't sleep, and at midnight we are getting ready. At one in the morning we are in line along the path with 24 Spanish and their guides, and slowly move forward up to the Rhino Point at almost 3800 meters; once there, we pass the group and start walking along the up and down of the ridge.
ar. Ermanno Busetti
It's late at night, and moonless. So we advance by headlight, seeing only a few meters around us. At this point, up as the exhaustion and the high altitude sap my strength, I started to see in the dark a series of imaginary peaks, that soon turned out to be insignificant piles of rocks.
In the end, at first light, the peak appeared, with Tanzania's flag, at 4565 meters above the sea level.
I was beat, whereas Elisena is much better than me, as always happens when we go beyond the altitude of the Mount Gran Sasso. Anyway, we enjoyed the sun rising behind the Kilimanjaro, inflaming the clouds below.
After a long climb down, (2000 meters!) we came back to the cozy Miriakamba hut, where we had a good dinner and a nice, long sleep.