The aim of this classic expedition is to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain via the far less populated Northern Circuit Route.
Instead of simply crossing Kilimanjaro from the bucket list with a direct ascent, we have developed a route which wraps around the northern side of the mountain. Taking in Shira plateau, Shira ridge and finally Uhuru peak before descending by the Mweka route, the team are rewarded with far more than simply reaching the summit.
- Summit the highest peak in Africa, one of the Seven Summits.
- Avoid the crowds found on the more frequented trails.
- Witness Kilimanjaro’s rapidly retreating glacial ice fields.
- Cross the UNESCO listed Shira plateau.
- Trek through a variety of volcanic landscapes.
A classic with a twist
One of the longest, most beautiful and least trekked routes up Kilimanjaro, the Northern Circuit Route passes through lush rainforest, moorland and scree slopes across the UNESCO listed Shira plateau. A longer, quieter route means more acclimatisation time, increasing chances of both summit success and large animal sightings.
Kilimanjaro rises 5,100m from its base, making it the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Its highest point, the 5,895m Uhuru Peak, offers stunning views over the surrounding landscape. Translated as freedom, Uhuru is situated on Kibo, the highest of Kilimanjaro’s volcanic cones. The last major eruption from Kibo occurred 360,000 years ago and the last volcanic activity 200 years ago, forming the ash pit visible from Uhuru.
Kilimanjaro National Park
Encompassing a hugely varied area of Tanzania, the UNESCO protected Kilimanjaro National Park is home to elusive antelope, buffalo and occasionally elephants – by choosing a quieter route for the Secret Compass ascent, we hope to maximise our chances of spotting wildlife. As well as its iconic, eponymous volcano, the park is known for its volcanic Lake Chala, coffee farms, pure spring waters and the local Chagga people who make their lives around the mountain.
Secret Compass runs expeditions with framework itineraries, rather than guided tours with set daily plans. Read more about Our Approach. The following is the outline plan for this Kilimanjaro expedition. A fuller itinerary is provided in the Kilimanjaro Expedition Handbook which is available on request or upon application to join the team.
All teammates fly into Tanzania and meet at the team hotel in Arusha for an expedition briefing and welcome meal. Entering the National Park at the Londorossi Gate, the trek starts from the Lemosho Glades, inhabited by buffalo, elephant and other wildlife.
Gently ascend over the next five days to maximise acclimatisation time and increase the chance of successfully reaching the summit. Trek through lush rainforest, moorland and scree slopes across the UNESCO listed Shira plateau before reaching Uhuru Peak at 5,895m.
The descent is much faster, taking less than two days via the Mweka route to descend to Mweka Gate. Sign the summit register before a transfer back to the hotel in Arusha for showers and a celebratory meal. The expedition officially ends after breakfast the next day with team members free to depart or extend their stay.
Secret Compass expeditions are achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness. Team members should have an adventurous and robust spirit and be willing to work as part of a team to achieve the goal of the expedition.
At a basic level, you should be comfortable jogging for at least 45 minutes and walking for eight hours in the hills, carrying 15kg for three consecutive days. The biggest challenge on this expedition will be altitude gain as Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free-standing peak.
Teammates must be comfortable with the following.
- Trek: up to 20km
- Carry: up to 6kg (personal daysack)
- Terrain: through varied terrain with the possibility of ice
- Climate: temperatures ranging from 25C to -20C (summit morning)
- Altitude: reaching 5,895m on the summit.
- Age: 21+
Applicants will receive a Handbook with further expedition information. View Secret Compass’s suggested Training Plan and get in touch with any fitness, health, training or kit questions that remain. Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go!
- Secret Compass expedition leader
- Local guides, porters and drivers.
- All meals.
- All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
- All specialist and safety equipment.
- All accommodation.
- All local permits.
- International flights.
- Transfers from airport to hotel and return.
- Local airport taxes and international visas.
- Tips to local guides (discretionary but appreciated).
- Beverages and any costs of a personal nature.
- Personal equipment (your Handbook will contain a kit list).
On application, potential teammates will receive a detailed Expedition Handbook. Here are some expedition-specific questions and our general FAQ will answer many other questions. Get in touch if your question remains unanswered.
I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?
Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying.
Can I arrive a day late?
As The Plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to the trailhead at Londorossi Gate and back to Arusha at the end of the expedition and so start and end dates are not flexible. Please consider a custom expedition if the team dates don’t work for you.
Can I charge all my electricals?
This will be very challenging with no access to power once the trekking section begins. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.
What’s the route?
The route that your team will take on this expedition is called the Northern Circuit Route. It is quieter than many other options. It takes in Lemosho, Shira Plateau, Gilman’s Point and the Mweka descent.
How can I find out more?
Get in touch to request the Expedition a Handbook for more detail or click here to apply to join this team. The Application page explains the joining process. Secret Compass is then on hand to answer any questions or to firm up your place on the team.