Climbing this 5,895 metre high volcano feels a little like a tour of the world’s climatic zones. As you enter the park, lush montane forests, inhabited by elephants, primates, buffalo and more lead to tropical forest (1,850 – 2,800 metres), where clouds cling for their lives to the trees, making a wet and misty atmosphere. As we climb higher, reaching around 3,200 metres, we reach a moorland zone, a strange primate atmosphere filled with giant heather and studded with giant lobalias. Above 4,000 metres we see yet another dramatic change, a surreal alpine desert that struggles to support any life at all, with intense weather conditions and loose sand. This is the final push before we reach the winter wonderland that encompasses the summit. A land of ice and snow, completely different to the tropical forests you left behind all those days ago.
There are six usual trekking routes, with more challenging mountaineering routes for committed and experienced climbers. Of the six, we prefer Rongai, a scenic and peaceful route and the only one starting from the north side. We also do the ‘Grand Traverse’, far away from the crowds; this is the most diverse and remote of all the trails with simply unbelievable views along the northern circuit, as well as opportunities to see animals such as elephant, buffalo and eland.