IN A NUTSHELL
As the popularity of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro continues to increase, potential climbers are often uncertain as to which route to take. Each route has its own advantages and disadvantages. When selecting the route, make sure it is the appropriate route for your desires, physical ability, aptitude and comfort level.
Machame: Most popular route, approaches from south, very scenic route with southern traverse, difficult route but very good for acclimatization, camping.
There is no “best” Kilimanjaro route! It all depends on you.
Direct arrival at Moshi / optional airport transfer. Dinner, pre-climb briefing and overnight Mountain Inn.
1st Cave Camp
Breakfast. Drive to Marangu gate for necessary registration formalities and then transfer to Rongai gate for the first section of the climb through the Mountain Forest till first cave camp at 2.600m with picnic lunch. Dinner and overnight 1st Cave Camp.
Breakfast. A steady walk up to Second cave (3.450m). Leave the main trail and trek across the moorland till Kikelewa caves at 3.600m. Picnic lunch en-route. Dinner and overnight Kikelewa Caves.
Mwenzi Tarn Camp (optional acclimatisation day)
Breakfast. Trek from the moorland into the highland desert towards Mawenzi. The rest of the day is for rest or acclimatisation. Picnic lunch en-route. Dinner and overnight Mwenzi Tarn Camp (Optional acclimatisation day)
Mawenzi Tarn Camp (Optional acclimatisation day)
Breakfast. Todays day is designed for further acclimatisation, from the camp you can go for short walks to higher altitudes and return. Lunch, dinner and overnight Mawenzi Tarn Camp (Optional acclimatisation day)
Breakfast. Journey across the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo. On arrival at Kibo have an early dinner and sleep before the summit attempt at Midnight. Dinner and overnight Kibo Camp.
An early start for the summit (00:00am) Uhuru Peak, highest point in Africa at 5.895m. Descend via Kibo campsite for lunch and a short rest until Horombo at 3.700m. Dinner and overnight Horombo Camp.
Arrival at Mountain Inn
Time (average): N/A
Altitude gained: N/A
Transportation: Opt-ional airport transfers
Accommodation: Mountain Inn
Summary: your arrival day before your climb
Direct arrival at our base hotel Mountain Inn in Moshi or request an optional transfer or extra day at leisure to recover from jet lag. Take room keys and settle in until dinner and your pre-climb briefing.
Naremoru Gate to First Cave (Simba) Camp.
Time (average): 2.5- 4 hours
Altitude gained: 700 m
Terrain: mostly easy, with slightly steeper moorland section, overall a good path with no difficulties
Summary: a delightful first day, with great views over the plains of Kenya to the north and towards Kibo
From Moshi, you will be driven anti-clockwise around the base of Kilimanjaro’s massif for about four hours, mainly on a rough dirt-filled road, passing through scattered Chagga villages. You will have plenty of chances to observe the fertile output of the mountain's zone of cultivation. The journey will probably be extended by an hour or more to deal with Park formalities at Kilimanjaro National Park Gate in Marangu which is en-route. Reaching the village of Tarekea, the road approaches the Kenyan border closely and briefly running alongside it. Lastly, 10 km beyond Tarekea, you will arrive at the shanty village of Naremoru (at 1.950 m) and will be able to begin your hike here.
To begin with you will walk up through lush plantations of maize and potatoes, interspersed with pine and cypress saplings; additionally timber is processed in a saw-mill which you pass by. The timber shacks are temporary buildings used by the tenant families whose precarious living depend on farming of these fields. Higher up, the path ascends into a band of rain forest, rich in various exotic bird life such as the malachite sunbird and green-and-scarlet turaco. In addition you might hear or see troupes of colobus monkeys. As you continue your trek you will reach an official rest stop with picnic table and toilet.
Before long, the trees thin out, and give way to open moorland, studded with wild flowers. Due to the lower rainfall on the northern side of Kilimanjaro, the band of rainforest is much smaller than what you would meet on a Marangu descent. The path then threads its way more steeply among the giant heathers, with wide open views over the plains of Kenya left behind you. Soon you come to reach Simba Camp (2650 metres), with its secluded pitches and fine views of peaceful Kibo to your right and jagged Mawenzi to your left. There is fresh water from the Nare Moru river nearby
First (Simba) Cave to Third Cave Camp
Time (average): 5-7 hours
Altitude gained: 1.250 m
Terrain: mostly easy, with some moderately steep sections, overall a good path with no technical difficulties
Summary: a sustained hike, with subtle changes in the vegetation and glimpses of Mawenzi and Kibo from different angles.
From the 1st Cave Camp the majority of the climb is gentle on a narrow path through the moorland, with some fine open views over Kenya to the north. As you continue climbing, the trees become sparser and later disappear; and the heathers start to shrink at higher altitudes. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of interesting wild flowers: the unique Protea Kilimandscharica, the elegant scarlet Gladiolus Watsonioides, and the prickly thistle Carduus Keniensis. You may additionally see signs of animal life, notably buffalo dung. Eland, the largest of the antelopes visit, venturing higher up to the saddle area; you might see their spoor however would be lucky to see these shy animals. Bird life includes the white-necked raven, the very tame alpine chat and the streaky seed-eater. It is a high probability that you would see the four-striped grass mouse around your campsite. Within three hours the path passes the First Cave. Following a further 20 minutes of rocky path and tussock grasses you will reach the Second Cave (at 3.450 m). You will have gained 800 metres of altitude since Simba Camp, which is a good stop for lunch. Indeed groups with six days to spend may camp there, postponing the further 450 metres of the climb to the next day. Alternatively to save the effort of making and breaking camp, you may continue and spend two nights at the Third Cave. The path to Third Cave leaves from behind and above the Second Cave. It is rocky at first, but not too steep, followed by softer ground and then large boulders, with brilliant views of Kibo and Mawenzi. The vegetation is thinning out remarkably, dominated by low heathers, groundsel and helichrysum. The ground is visibly arid, with river beds that are dry for majority of the year. It takes only a couple of hours to reach the Third Cave (at 3.900 m) from the Second. This is the final water point and therefore the last chance to collect water, so stock up with all you need, and expect to carry some spare water up to Kibo Camp for communal purposes.
Third Cave to Kibo Camp
Time (average): 3.5 - 5 hours
Altitude gained: 800 m
Terrain: Good path with no technical difficulties and some moderate or slightly steep sections
Summary: Another day of steady ascent across the bleakly lunar Saddle region
Have an early start on this day so that your body has a chance to rest and recover before your midnight departure for the summit. The route makes a steady ascent across the increasingly dry and bleak montane desert, its greys and browns relieved by the odd hardly lichen and lonely, brave clumps of helichrysum clinging to the shelter of big boulders. approximately half-way through the hike at an altitude of 4.300 m, the path divides. The main route, which you will take, continues to Kibo Camp.
Continue following the trail gradually upward through the rocks and scree. Abruptly, you'll view Kibo's large hut, perhaps with tents already pitched around it. You may meet a large number of trekkers here, most trekking up the Marangu Route; you might want to compare notes.
Kibo Hut to Gilman's Point / Uhuru Peak
Time (average): 6-10 hours
Altitude gained: 985/1.195 m to Gilman’s Point/ Uhuru.
Terrain: A steep, rough ascent on lose scree and rocks to the crater rim; gentler gradients thereafter
Summary: By far the most strenuous stage of the route, normally attempted between midnight and dawn.
You will be woken up around midnight to walk through the night to the summit. This is mainly because you need the time to try to reach the summit and still be able to descend in daylight. To reach your next night’s accommodation via Uhuru, you need not only to gain 1.195 m of vertical height, on a slope averaging some 27%, but also to lose 2.195 m. Also, in some ways walking down at night is easier as the scree is firmer when cold or frozen and the snow less slush in the early morning.
As you wake up, slip into as many layers of clothing as you have: you will be cold, perhaps very cold, to start with, but may need to shed layers after you have been climbing for a while. Alternatively, if a high wind gets up, you may become colder than ever, especially your hands, feet and ears.
Eat and drink whatever is on offer before you head off. Check that your drinking water and snacks are handy and that the water will not freeze. Take care not to dazzle others climbers by looking directly at them when your head-torch is switched on. If there is moonlight, you may not need the head-torch at all.
The first half of this ascent is on a steep, winding rocky path. Try and maintain a very slow, steady pace: this may be less tiring than constantly stopping for shorter breaks. Make your stride smaller if need be, and don’t be afraid to hang back if the pace is too quick for you. Many people get into a trance-like rhythm, trudging up rhythmically through the starlight. The halfway point is Hans Meyer Cave (5.150 m) where you may have a slightly longer rest.
After Hans Meyer Cave, the path becomes steeper as it zigzags up towards Gilman’s Point. This is by far the most difficult part of the route: just plod on, don’t be discouraged by the way that Gilman’s Point mysteriously seems to recede. If you have the determination, and escape altitude sickness, you will get there in the end! If your feet slip back on the scree, try pushing harder on your walking poles and edge with your boots.
As you come close to or reach the crater rim, the sun will raise your body temperature. Pause to enjoy what is generally considered the finest sunrise on earth.
From Gilman’s Point, it takes approximately another 1.5 to 2 hours to Uhuru Peak, although the gradients are much gentler and the terrain easier. There is no point in making a huge effort to reach the summit unless you are also still capable of getting yourself back down. You may find that the achievement of reaching the summit gives you a rush of energy that sees you through this, making it perhaps the longest day of your life.
Uhuru Peak or Gilman's Point to Horombo Camp.
Time (average): 4-8 hours including rest/lunch stop.
Altitude lost: 2.195 m
Terrain: Gradual descent around crater rim, then steep, lose scree followed by a rough path.
Summary: Many people find the descent hard on the knees and feet: don’t underestimate this stage.
This is the second part of the summit day which began at midnight with the climb towards the crater rim in the dark. Coming down sounds simple and easier, and most people underestimate it. Your chances of falling are always greater on the way down a mountain, and on the steep scree of Kilimanjaro, they are higher than usual. Walkers will realise that a descent can be harder than an ascent, with potential damage to knees and toes.
The figures are impressive: from Uhuru peak, you need to lose 2.195 m of altitude to reach Horombo Hut. Even from the crater rim, you have to lose 1.985 m. These are serious descents, probably further than you could ever attempt on a daily walk.
Your body has to perform this task immediately after a night of unprecedented exertion at high altitude with no sleep! Following there’s the terrain: although the crater rim walk is fairly straightforward, the steep scree is another matter.
You may be especially glad of using two walking poles at this point. Observe the guides; they have a nifty technique of half-running and half-sliding down the scree: some people imitate this easily, others fall over a lot. If you fall, try to relax on your way down and watch out for the rocks. Don’t let yourself be forced into descending faster than you want to. The dust could create a serious problem for your eyes, nose and throat therefore protect your face or hang back (or both). The problem is much worse when you follow another walker closely.
On your way down Kilimanjaro, your knees, calves and toes may find it quite hard going. Before you begin, make sure your boots are tightly laced over the instep: the goal is to prevent your toes from hitting against the end of the boot, which can cause lasting numbness, especially the big toes, and may lead to later loss of a toenail or two.
Once you are safely down to Horombo, you will find beer on sale at the Hut. By all means enjoy one or two, but be aware that you are still at high altitude (3.700 m) and therefore alcohol will have around double its sea-level effect. It is additionally a diuretic, and may reduce your chances of an unbroken night’s sleep.
Horombo Camp to Moshi
Time (average): 3-5 hours
Altitude lost: 2.600 m
Terrain: Possibly muddy path.
Transportation: On foot
Accommodation: Kilimanjaro Mountain Hut - Horombo Hut (3.700m)
Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch box, dinner
Summary: Reverse of your first two days on the mountain.
Your descent here reverses the first two days of the Marangu route climb, with a lunch stop at Mandara Huts. At the Kilimanjaro National Park gate, before you depart, there is usually the customary tipping ceremony (if well-earned), and if lucky the supporting team will sing the 'Kilimanjaro Song'.
Leave our base hotel Mountain Inn in Moshi or request an optional transfer or extra day at leisure to recover from the mountain climb. Safari and Zanzibar extension tours are also possible if you have a few extra days in Tanzania.
MAP OF ROUTE
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- This is a proposal only and subject to availability. If components of this itinerary are not available at the time of booking, we shall endeavour to offer suitable alternatives.
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