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“Difficult climb, but amazing views!”
Review of Ol Doinyo Lengai

Ranked #11 of 62 things to do in Arusha
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The only volcano in the world to emit "cool" (950 degrees Fahrenheit) fluid lava.
Karatu, Tanzania
Level 5 Contributor
82 reviews
32 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“Difficult climb, but amazing views!”
Reviewed 9 March 2014

This 12 hour hike takes you to the peak of the only active volcano left in Tanzania (also the sacred home of the Maasai god) where- if the sky is clear- you get a perfect view of the tanzanian portion of the great rift valley. This is a difficult hike though. You start at midnight (because its too hot to do the whole hike during the day). The incline is steep the entire way- we spent most of the climb up scrambling on our hands and knees because of the incline and the surface- you're climbing on relatively fresh volcanic ash that crumbles beneath you. It's cold at the top so bring layers. Once you get to the peak around 6am you spend about 30 minutes there at the most then head down. The hike down is grueling on your knees and toes- wear good hiking boots! A walking stick is helpful for the hike down, but definitely expect to slip your way down the mountain. But the combination of the challenge, the view, and the prospect of climbing this lesser known mountain make it completely worth it!

Visited January 2014
Thank twendesasa90
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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108 reviews from our community

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Torquay, United Kingdom
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“O M G”
Reviewed 14 February 2014

Whilst climbing Kilimanjaro in 2008 we saw Ol Doinyo Lengai erupting and had great views of Meru at the same time, so decided to return and climb the two in the same trip.Have done many mountain treks before including Kili,Meru,Everest Base Camp, Kinabalu,Toubkal,Austria, Switzerland etc. Non of the above can prepare you for Ol Doinyo Lengai (mountain of the gods or the "mad" ??) We had just walked from Bulati for 3 days across the Crater highlands and could see ODL for most of the trek and had many conversations about which was the way up ? so until you are at the base at midnight you hav'nt a clue where you are heading exactly. Although had read other peoples reveiws and stored all the knowledge that you think you possibly can its not until you are 3 hours into the climb that it hits you that this is going to be Hard !! My wife had hurt her back whilst trekking from Bulati so sat this out wanting to do meru after, I had to leave my 3 day guide Maca meru at the natron campsite as you have to use a local Masai guide for the climb, my guide was called Sheero and seemed ok ? we drove for about 30 min to the start of the climb but unfortunatly broke down about 1km from the start ! After about 3 hrs of climbing Sheero informed me that at the speed i was going at it will take about 9 hrs to get to the summit then about another 4 hrs to get back down !!!! meanwhile a group of 5 were well ahead of me and I nearly turned around, however i said to Sheero that his job was to get me to the top , He went quiet started playing music on his ipod, after about 4 1/2 hours we reached the group of 5 shivering in a hole, waiting to summit, when i asked them how much longer to summit they told me 45 mins and all the guides were asleep, needless to say my guide had started to curl up to sleep as well, I told him that i will be carrying on slowly to summit at sun up then the other group came with me as they had been there for about 45 mins an were cold. We all summited just as the sun came up. I climbed slowly and still had plenty of time, so if the same happens to you as long as you are moving you will make summit on time !!Forgetting all that it is a climb not a hill walk, i am nervous at heights and all the way up i was wondering what will be facing me on the way down, the last part before summit is over a crack venting steam and for about 50m very smooth and steep, i was on all 4s to get to the crater, and on the return down was on my backside for that 50m, but after that was slow but managable. After all that WOW it was well worth it the views were AMAZING. I finished the climb up and down in 9 1/2 hrs ( 13 hrs my eye) ??

Visited December 2013
2 Thank nigs69
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Peterborough, United Kingdom
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“A step up from Kilimanjaro”
Reviewed 12 November 2013

I probably should have researched this climb more carefully because if I did, then I would have realised it's not just an easy days trek! Having summited Mount Kilimanjaro the week before I believed that this climb would be far less challenging and require far less motivation. It became clear to me that it was already not as simple as first thought when our Maasai guide instructed us to be up and ready to leave the tented camp at midnight so we could begin the accent in the dark. The accent was incredibly demanding, requiring me to often use hands and feet and be bent over crawling up the volcano rather than walking. I definitely recommend hiking poles for this climb. However the view of the stars as I climbed was quite spectacular, and made it worth while. After what seemed like days of clambering, we finally reached the rather rim. After sleeping for an hour to wait and see sunrise (take warm clothes for this wait!!) we begun our decent. I personally am not great with heights, and it seemed inevitable that I would need to face my fear on the way down after thinking of how steep it was on the way up. It was not as scary as I thought, apart from dodging falling rocks from people behind.. This section was by far the hardest as it puts much strain on the knees along with having very low morale because of being tired and in slight pain. It is extremely dusty on the way down, if you war contact lenses (like I do) I recommend you wear good sunglasses overtop as I had to take my contacts out on the way down because they became too dusty. After finally reaching the jeep, I realised what a feat this climb actually was, accenting and descending a 10,000 foot ACTIVE volcano all in the space of 10 hours is quite an achievement. I definitely recommend you do this if feeling physically up to it, it makes for a good story!

Visited July 2013
1 Thank travel_xpert874
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, Canada
Level 1 Contributor
4 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Please read before climbing!! (advice from a new climber)”
Reviewed 1 October 2013

I'm going to recommend a few things that you pretty much must do to complete this climb if you're a new climber like me. First off, you absolutely need to pack at least 3 huge bottles of water. That's the weight that I found tolerable in my backpack, but honestly 4 would have been better. Next, pack a ton of energy bars. Every time we stopped, which was nearly ever half hour or so, I ate at least one. I only packed 10 and the climb is 6 hours up and 4 hours down and since it's a straight up hike/climb - the most intense physical exertion I've experienced - I needed way more. So energy bars are a must. I'd recommend packing something closer to 20 bars or so, no word of a lie you will thank yourself.

Next, for equipment, a climbing stick is a must. So are gloves with the tips cut off, I used gardening gloves which were perfect. use a lightweight backpack, and try to find shoes that aren't too heavy but have excellent grip, that is completely essential to stay safe. You might want to make sure they don't touch your toes, because on the way down when you're on a steep angle it may bother you. Also, absolutely invest in gators, those covers for your boots. I didn't and on the way down when you're 'skiing' through sandy ash it gets in your boots. Bring your own headlamp, I recommend the ones that are super bright, don't cheap out. The climb starts at 11pm so you're in pitch black. (the stars will amaze you)
Because of the sweating that the hill section especially, start out with a lightweight T-shirt, and lightweight pants (I'd recommend elastic bottom track pants, just to keep the brush in the hill section from bugging your legs). Pack extra layers - a hooded sweatshirt is great, plus a medium weight jacket for near the summit because it gets a bit chilly with the wind. I brought a Maasai blanket as well which was great when we stopped for the hour break near the top and our group used it to snuggle under together.

A couple of comments on the climb - don't do anything else that day!! we made the mistake of hiking to a waterfall nearby and visitng lake natron, and then I didn't sleep for the 3 hour nap we had, yikes! Do yourself a favor and rest all day. Also, do leg stretches like crazy before and AFTER your climb. I really hurt my knees from the descent, and stretches could have really helped.
People said this mountain isn't good for those who are afraid of heights - not sure I agree. I'm afraid of heights, but I think unless someone already struggles with vertigo you won't suddenly get it on this, and it isn't a 'straight down' drop, it's angled. And in the morning when you descend, you'll be able to see everything in front of you and you never feel like you're falling headfirst, especially if you go down on your bum and hands for the first steepest part of the descent. But, to be fair, there are some iffy moments. I did have to scale up across this 45* 'wall' of lava with hardened bits rock in it... It was dark at the time, but I glanced down sideways with my headlamp and the wall disappeared into the darkness. There was definitely a risk of slipping down it, but I find that following in the footsteps of the guides gives a sense of peace.

Pace yourself especially in the beginning don't go all out, and I recommend if you have a big group bring two guides with you so the slow people can go at their own pace. I was the slow one of our group and I wouldn't have been able to keep up without my guide. I'd fall behind hand catch up at each 'official' rest stop. The mountain has 3 kinds of 'sections'... the foothills (where the most intense cardio and sweating happens), steep ash gullies that you can still hike up (where the worst leg burn happens because you still have to rely on your legs and walking stick only and for every one step up you slide back a bit in the ash: don't give up in this section, it will be very tempting!), and the steepest section that you have to 'scramble' up with your hands and feet (where your upper body will be happy to help out your legs, and you can kind of zigzag slightly up the bigger rocks to give your legs mini breaks).

I personally had to break frequently to let myself recharge. Don't be ashamed about having to take longer or more frequent breaks. I completely recommend doing a lot of cycling or other hamstring exercised before attempting this climb. I never work out those muscles and I paid for it dearly with severe led legs that made me almost quit.

Just before the scrambling section, your guides should give you an hour break on this big ledge which is the last and only ledge you can actually lie down on before the top (in the previous breaks you just kind of sit on little ledges). Just before reaching this ledge was the most intense part of the climb for me personally because of the hours without a decent long rest. I almost didn't make it to that ledge. I highly recommend you keep that ledge in your mind as your goal, because one you make it to that, the scrambling won't feel as difficult as all the other leg and cardio work you've been doing.

There is a major signpost for when you're getting close to the top during the scramble - you'll pass between two vertical walls of rock, and it will look like you're at the summit but not quite, you'll have to veer right and head up a section you can't zigzag up you have to straight up (50*) scramble, so it will be psychologically difficult if you're not aware of it. Now you know :) You'll also start to smell sulfur.

Hope all that advice helps. Making the summit makes all the pain worth it. Just don't be too hard on yourself if you need to stop entirely when it isn't scheduled, and always listen to your guides. Make sure your heart and legs are prepped for this. And when you get to the crater rim, don't forget to go up to the higher ridge that seems slightly detached from the crater off to the right - my friend did it and got some great shots of the rest of us slackers. Hearing the lava flowing around in the crater and watching the sun rise, oh baby you're in for a treat!

Visited July 2013
6 Thank mashashasha
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Peterborough, United Kingdom
Level 4 Contributor
27 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“Once was enough!!!”
Reviewed 18 September 2013

Having successfully summitted Kili the week before we thought little of climbing ODL with a Maasai guide. Well ....
DO expect a tough ascent, DO take warm clothes for when you reach the top and wait for sunrise, DO be prepared for a steep, hard, dusty descent. DO NOT, repeat NOT ever expect to see me up top again.
Would I consider doing Kili again? Yes.
Would I ever do ODL again? No thanks.
However, I am really, really pleased I've done it once. Challenging, interesting and fantastic views.

Visited July 2013
1 Thank AndyPlovesSwimming
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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