“As wide as all the world, great, high and unbelievably white in the sun was the square top of Mount Kilimanjaro”, wrote Ernest Hemingway of this highest mountain in Africa, which rises 5,895 metres above sea level. Situated near the town of Moshi in northern Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro rises from the dry plains, through a wide belt of forest and high alpine heath to an almost bare desert and finally the snow capped summit, Uhuru Peak, just 3 degrees south of the Equator. One of the world’s highest free-standing mountains, Mt. Kilimanjaro is composed of three extinct volcanoes: Kibo 5,895 m (19,340 ft.), Mawenzi 5,149 m (16,896 ft.), and Shira 3,962 m (13,000 ft.).
The ascent of Kilimanjaro can be done using six routes: Mweka, Umbwe, Shira, Rongai, Machame and the Marangu Route, the latter two being the easiest and the most popular. Depending on which route one wants to use, the climb of Kilimanjaro can take between four to six nights on the mountain. On the Marangu Route, accommodation is in alpine huts while on Machame Route it is camping throughout. While expert guides and porters will accompany you on your climb, unlike Mount Everest, no technical equipment is required.
Routes to take for hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro
This is the traditional and most straightforward route on the mountain. It is also the busiest and best equipped. If you accept that there will be other people around, this route has the advantage of good huts, good views of Mawenzi and, of course, others to walk with. If you are travelling by yourself, this is the only route on which you can easily join a group.
An extra day is highly recommended for improved acclimatisation.
The Machame route is known as the wilderness route. It combines spectacular views and scenery with good acclimatisation time and is quieter than the Marangu (tourist) route. For these reasons it is perhaps the best of the standard routes on the mountain, and the one recommended for those wanting an uncomplicated but rewarding trek on Kilimanjaro.
There are several other wilderness routes on Kilimanjaro – Mweka, Umbwe, Shira, Lemosho, Chambers and Londorossi – which are all variations of the Machame. They all converge in the Shira / Baranco area but can offer quieter and more interesting starts.
This route is fast gaining in popularity and is considered to be one of the easiest routes up the mountain. It is the only route starting from the north side of the mountain at Rongai, a small village close to the Kenya border. The climbing conditions are drier on the northern side of the mountain and there are spectacular sweeping views over the broad, flat Maasai lands. Overnights are spent camping in tents. The summit is reached via the east side of Kibo and the descent is via the Marangu route.
Sometimes referred to as the Smart Route, the fourth day on the Machame/ Mweka Route involves the task of scaling the daunting Barranco Wall. The climb of over 300 metres appears much tougher than it actually is, and the majority of climbers succeed in conquering the wall without too much difficulty. After the wall, the trail evens out for a while before descending sharply into the Karanga Valley. Following the Karanga Valley, the path heads upwards once again towards the fourth campsite known as Barafu Camp. Barafu is situated on a rocky outcrop close to the edge of the mountain, so it is vital that climbers become accustomed to the layout of the campsite before nightfall. This will ensure that they are able to avoid becoming disorientated and injuring themselves on the sharp ridges in the dark.
This route is the hardest but the most spectacular and direct way to reach Uhuru Peak. It follows a forested ridge up to the moorlands, then traverses below the southern ice fields to reach the Barafu Route which is then followed to the summit. An early start is made on the summit day to reach Stella Point, on the Crater Rim at dawn. Uhuru Peak lies a further 40 minutes along the rim. Accommodation on the mountain is in tents which the porters will pitch for you; you will need a sleeping bag, warm clothes and walking poles. This is a steep, tough and in places slightly exposed trek but well within the capability of a fit individual used to walking in mountain areas. An extra day can be added to our itinerary to explore or relax along the route (best taken at the Barranco Hut).
Approaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro by the remote Shira Route is an exhilarating option for walkers keen to explore less trodden trails and who are comfortable in variable mountain conditions. From the forest and moorland to the caldera of the Shira volcano, you explore the fascinating rock formations on the Shira plateau before traversing beneath the southern ice fields of Kibo. Enjoying stunning early morning views of Kibo and spending the day in the rarely visited Lent Hills will be a highlight of the trip before you then join the main route to the summit of Uhuru Peak (5,895m) on the crater rim. The eight day itinerary gives maximum possible acclimatisation and flexibility to enjoy the magnificent mountain scenery that extends from the volcanic summit to the vast African plains.
Trekkers who are less than absolutely confident about their fitness, or who are pressed for time should start with the Rongai route. Those absolutely confident in their fitness and willing to spend longer on the mountain to increase the chances of summit success should start by taking a look at the Shira route. People not too worried about costs but who simply want the ultimate trek should look at the North route, which is a combination of Rongai and Shira. For more information please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Walk slowly: It is vital to place as little strain as possible on the body whilst it is trying to adapt to a reducing oxygen supply. Unless there is a very steep uphill section, your breathing rate whilst walking should be as if you are walking down the street at home.
Walk high Sleep low: This means taking every opportunity to take afternoon excursions to a higher level before descending again to sleep. This is not a good idea however if you already have some symptoms of altitude sickness.