Summit Kilimanjaro MTB!

On October 4-8, 2019 SMI founder Kurt Wedberg led a group of intrepid mountain bikers to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Summit Kilimanjaro MTB was a spectacular trip of a lifetime!  Five intrepid mountain bikers joined SMI founder Kurt Wedberg to climb and descend the highest mountain in Africa by bike.

Arrival in Tanzania

The team flew to Moshi, Tanzania.  After 26 hours of travel time and a 10-hour difference from the Pacific Time zone the team took a day to adjust and stretch our legs.  Exploring the Tanzanian scenery on our bikes proved to be the perfect way to accomplish this! Riding through the town of Moshi and into the countryside past sugar cane plantations and rice fields the team soaked in the landscape and got acquainted with the people of Tanzania.

The team poses in front of a relief map of Kilimanjaro on a bike tour in Moshi, Tanzania
Meeting the beautiful people of Tanzania on our bikes.
Tanzanian Bike Shop
Bike shop in Moshi, Tanzania.
Riding past sugar cane and rice fields outside of Moshi, Tanzania.

Summit Kilimanjaro MTB – The Climb

Kilimanjaro is the only place in the world where it is possible to pass through five climate zones in as many days; starting in a jungle and ending in an alpine environment.  Each zone is distinct and reveals new magnificent scenery of this exotic landscape.

Kilimanjaro massif
Kilimanjaro from the town of Moshi, Tanzania

Summit Kilimanjaro MTB – Day 1:  Ride to Camp 1

The team began at the jungle trailhead at 4570’/1393m.  All of our equipment was sent by porters allowing us to go light.  Team member’s carried water, snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a couple clothing items.  The route is a dirt road used as an emergency access path for park service vehicles.  The grade goes from mild to steep as it winds its way through the jungle slowly gaining elevation.  After about three hours the route breaks out of the jungle canopy at 10000’/3048m revealing views of this vast and beautiful landscape.  Six hours of riding brought us to our arrival at Horombo Camp 12200’/3719m.

The team starting the beautiful ride through the jungle.
Kilimanjaro MTB 2019 team arriving at Horombo Camp, 12200’/3719m.

Summit Kilimanjaro MTB – Day 2:  Ride & Explore Kilimanjaro

Today was an acclimatization day.  Drawing from our over 30 years of guiding high altitude peaks worldwide including 3 summits of Mt Everest and 33 climbs of Kilimanjaro we have learned that the safest and most effective way to acclimatize to high altitude is to “climb high and sleep low”. This helps the body begin to produce red blood cells that will in turn aid in successfully acclimating to the newer elevation.

Starting from the Horombo Hut today’s ride was a loop that ascends one trail, then going cross country it connects to another trail.  It offers the opportunity to ascend to over 14000’.  Dressed in rain gear for the intermittent rain the team would experience all day the team ascended through the Moorland.  Passing Zebra Rocks (13225’/4031m) the team veered cross country tp connect to the Marangu Route, which would be the trail leading to high camp and summit day.  At this elevation the path resembles a dirt road in width and the gradual grade makes for excellent riding.  Reaching 14000’/4267’ the team took a good break in the midst of a wide open stunning landscape while replacing calories and rehydrating.  Then it was back to Horombo Camp to recharge for the next day’s move to high camp; Kibo Hut at 15485’/4720m.

Zebra Rocks (13225'/4031m)
Zebra Rocks (13225’/4031m) during an acclimatization ride on Kilimanjaro.
Hike-a-bike through the Moorland
Melanie on a hike-a-bike over a ridge to get to the next section of riding.
Breaking storm in the Moorland
Taking a break as the storm started to break en route to our next trail a short distance below.
MTB at 14000'/4267m on Kilimanjaro
The psych is high as the team reaches 14000’/4267m on Kilimanjaro!

Summit Kilimanjaro MTB – Day 3: Ride to Kibo Camp

Weather cleared for the move to Kibo Hut (15485’/4720m).  With a dark blue sky above and the Kilimanjaro massif in front of us our route was mostly on a wide gradual path.  Moving into the Sub-Alpine climate zone the vegetation thins out opening spectacular vistas across a moonscape decorated by volcanic rock.  After 5 hours of riding we arrived at Kibo Hut with plenty of time to relax, hydrate, and prepare for summit day.

Horombo Camp
Kilimanjaro MTB team mounting bikes for the ride to high camp.
Terrain through the Moorland
Riding the trail through the Moorland. The route gets wider here with mixed rock and dirt.
MTB riding in the sub-alpine zone
Riding through the open 15000′ sub-alpine zone on solid dirt decorated with volcanic rocks.
Kilimanjaro's Marangu Route leading to the crater rim.
Feeling strong in the thin air at 15000’/4572m! The Marangu Route to the summit is visible below the cloud cap covering Kilimanjaro’s crater rim.

Summit Kilimanjaro MTB – Day 4:  Summit Day!

Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro requires an “alpine start” at midnight.  Much of the terrain indicates “hike-a bike” because it is much steeper than previous days.  After several hours of ascending the route approaches the crater rim at a landmark called Gilman’s Point (18652’/5685m).  The next part of the route was to traverse the oval shaped crater rim. We were able to ride our bikes once again because the terrain dramatically flattens out on the crater. At the next landmark, Stella Point (18885’/5756m), we got our first glimpse of the breathtaking sunrise. The growing pre-dawn light revealed spectacular views of the African plains, the crater, and the origins of the glaciers that still decorate the flanks of Kilimanjaro. We also got our first glimpse of the summit of Kilimanjaro, which is called Uhuru Peak.

Stella Point at sunrise
Arriving at Stella Point (18885’/5756m) in the predawn light. Kilimanjaro’s summit called Uhuru Peak is the highest point on the skyline behind.
Sunrise from Stella Point
Stunning sunrise over the African plains from Stella Point (18885’/5756m).
Kilimanjaro MTB Summit Sign
A well earned photo at the summit sign on the Roof of Africa!

Kilimanjaro MTB Day 4: The Glorious Descent!

Celebration ensued upon reaching the summit!  A magnificent sunrise and stunning views from the Roof of Africa were followed by many pictures.  It was then time to prepare for the amazing descent.  The descent was in 3-parts:  the ride around the crater rim, descending to the Kibo Hut, and the return to Horombo Camp.  Riding around the crater rim in the rarified air above the clouds was exhilarating.  Dropping off the rim the route is steep and rocky.  Carrying bikes through this section the trail below is sandy and steep.  Arriving at the Kibo Hut in the warmer air team members changed clothing layers, rehydrated, ate some snacks and inspected their bikes.  Then it was time to mount up for the thrilling descent down to Horombo.  A distance that takes several hours by foot was covered in about 90 minutes!

Team Kilimanjaro MTB ecstatic on the summit of Kilimanjaro
Team Kilimanjaro MTB ecstatic on the summit and ready to start the epic descent!
Riding from Uhuru Peak, the Roof of Africa
Starting the epic descent from Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro!
MTB high above the clouds
MTB riding on Kilimanjaro’s crater rim high above the clouds and the African plains!
MTB navigating the flanks of Kilimanjaro
Negotiating the steep descent at 17000’/5000m on the flanks of Kilimanjaro.
MTB Kilimanjaro descent
MTB Kilimanjaro descent with the satellite peak Mawenzi in the distance.
Riding into the Kibo Huts 15420'/4700m
Riding into the Kibo Huts at 15420’/4700m.

Kilimanjaro MTB – Day 5:  The Return to the Trailhead

After an epic ride from the Roof of Africa the team celebrated with a hearty meal and a Kilimanjaro beer!  Sleeping at 12200’ felt low after our time at high altitude.  Having slept soundly and well rested the team was psyched for one final downhill ride.  Passing in to the jungle zone and the trailhead the team decided to continue riding through villages as children waved.

MTB at Horombo Hut
Back at Horombo Hut and ready for the final descent through the jungle.
Kilimanjaro MTB team photo at Horombo Hut
Team photo with the beautiful Tanzanian staff that supports SMI’s Kilimanjaro climbs.

An 8 minute video recap of the epic MTB descent of Kilimanjaro!

View a complete photo gallery here.

Are you ready to experience Kilimanjaro MTB?

Contact our office to learn more!

The Climb

Kilimanjaro MTB was an idea conceived by longtime friends of SMI Tristan Gonzalez and Anthony Morasco.  During several successful climbs on California’s 14ers they talked with SMI founder Kurt Wedberg about the idea of bringing mountain bikes to the top of Africa’s highest mountain.  Kurt began leading expeditions to Kilimanjaro in 1996 and has successfully summited it by 7 routes.  In the process he’s not only learned this mountain like nobody else but has cultivated many close friendships in Tanzania making securing permits for this amazing journey possible.

Kurt Wedberg & the staff on Kilimanjaro
SMI founder Kurt Wedberg with the beautiful staff on Kilimanjaro.

Preparation and training

Kilimanjaro MTB requires preparation and training just like any mountain climb.  SMI’s home base in Bishop, CA has an abundance of excellent mountain biking terrain for all ability levels available throughout the year.  Here are a few favorites:

Wintertime highlights

6 Great Winter Mountain Bike Rides around Bishop
Volcanic Tablelands Loop
Buttermilk OHV Road

Summer highlights

White Mountain Peak Trail
Owens Gorge Loop
Lower Rock Creek Trail


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