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The Northern Circuit Route is the longest route on Kilimanjaro, a nine day trip initially ascending Lemosho route on the western side of the mountain up onto the Shira Plateau before reaching the Lava Tower, then heading north and circumnavigating the main summit massif in a clockwise direction and joining up with the Rongai route. The summit is then climbed from the eastern side of the mountain and the descent is straight down via the southern Mweka route.

Understandably this is also known as the Grand Traverse or the 360 Route and offers the complete Kilimanjaro experience in terms of all the habitats and the views of the mountain from all sides. The longer journey has excellent acclimatisation and stunning scenery with views across the southern flanks, western forests, the northern plains to the Kenyan border and the arid eastern slopes. The paths are comparatively quiet and less used.

Also the altitude gain each day is less than on other routes, with a gentle gradient until reaching Kikelewa or Third Caves camp, therefore over nine days the likelihood of altitude sickness is significantly less. Yet the overall length of the route is 96 kilometres, not much more than the other routes. An alternate route which summits directly up the northern slopes from School Hut is about 79 kilometres.

Being more expensive, the Northern Circuit is the least visited but in many respects it’s the best option for climbing Kilimanjaro without the crowds.

Climb Kilimanjaro without the Crowds.jpg

NORTHERN CIRCUIT ROUTE MAP ON KILIMANJARO

Kilimanjaro Route Options
The route in the map above starts at Londorossi Gate and ascends the normal Lemosho Route for the first two days. It then goes round the north side of the mountain via Moir Hut and Buffalo Camp and then joins up with the Rongai Route at Kikilewa Caves to ascend the summit massif and descend down the Marangu route.

Kilimanjaro Northern Circuit Route map.jpg
The map above shows a variation of the Northern Circuit route which ascends the summit directly from School Hut instead of joining the Rongai Route. This route involves ascending the northern icefields and is best done with an acclimatisation day. It’s possible depending on good weather and ground conditions.

CAMPS AND ELEVATIONS ON THE NORTHERN CIRCUIT ROUTE OF KILIMANJARO

Northern Circuit Kilimanjaro Camps and Altitudes.JPG

NORTHERN CIRCUIT ROUTE ITINERARY OVERVIEW:

 

Day 1: Arrive

Day 2: Morum Barrier Gate (3,768 m.) Shira Camp I (3,720m)

Day 3: Shira Camp I (3,720m) – Moir Camp (4,205m)

Day 4: Moir Camp (4,205m) – Buffalo Camp (4,150m)

Day 5: Buffalo Camp (4,150m) – Kikelewa Caves (3600m)

Day 6: Kikelewa Cave (3600m) – Mawenzi Tarn camp (4330m)

Day 7: Mawenzi Tarn camp (4330m) – Outward Bound Camp (4,750m)

Day 8: Outward Bound Camp (4,750m) – Uhuru Peak (5,895m) – Mweka Camp (3,100m)

Day 9: Mweka camp (3100m)- Mweka Gate (1980m)

Day 10: Depart

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How long is the Northern Circuit Route on Kilimanjaro?

It is a total of 96 kilometres over nine days, hiking from the western side of the mountain and around the northern slopes to the north eastern slopes and descending down the south east side.

Is the Northern Circuit route busy?

No, it’s the least crowded of all the routes, mainly because it’s a longer trip and therefore costs more. But as an experience of the mountain without any crowds, it’s hard to beat.

What clothing do I need for climbing the Northern Circuit route?

Being a nine day trip you will need to bring more base layers and underwear than we mention on our Kilimanjaro packing list. Otherwise, the conditions will be very similar, so make sure you can deal with heat and cold, rain and sun. Being an equatorial high altitude mountain means that you will likely experience a wide range of weather conditions.

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