KILIMANJARO CLIMBING ROUTES
When you plan for the best Kilimanjaro climbing experience you will probably ask which is the best route on Kilimanjaro. There are seven established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Northern Circuit and Umbwe. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe route all approach from the south of the mountain (Mweka is used only for descent). The Lemosho, Shira, and Northern Circuit routes approach from the west. The Rongai route approaches from the north. The illustrations below depict a three-dimensional view of Kilimanjaro’s climbing routes and a close up of the approaches to the summit.
SELECTING KILIMANJARO CLIMBING ROUTES
Selecting a Kilimanjaro Climbing route is a tough choice for most. To find the best Kilimanjaro climbing route for you, considerations should be taken for the route’s scenery, difficulty, route traffic, and altitude acclimatization characteristics, as depicted in the table below. Real Life Adventure Travel has assigned overall ratings to each route
WHICH IS THE BEST ROUTE TO CLIMB KILIMANJARO?
There are six established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Northern Circuit and Umbwe. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain (Mweka is used only for descent).
The Rongai route is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, close to the Kenyan border. Though gaining popularity amongst climbers, this route still experiences low crowds. Rongai has a more gradual slope than the mountain’s other routes. It is the preferred route for those looking for an alternative to the popular Marangu route, for those who would like a more remote hike, and for those who are climbing during the rainy season (the north side receives less precipitation). Rongai is a moderately difficult route, and is highly recommended, especially for those with less backpacking experience.
Although the scenery is not as varied as the western routes, Rongai makes up for this by passing through true wilderness areas for nearly the entire way. Descent is made via the Marangu route.
The Machame route, also known as the “Whiskey” route, is the most popular route on Kilimanjaro. Machame’s draw is in its scenic beauty. However, the trail is considered difficult, steep and challenging, particularly due to its shorter itinerary. Therefore this route is better suited for more adventurous folks or those with some high altitude, hiking or backpacking experience.
The route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the south, beginning with a short drive from Moshi to Machame Gate. The path leads hikers through the rain forest to Shira Plateau. Here, many of Kilimanjaro’s routes converge. Then the route turns east and traverses underneath Kilimanjaro’s Southern Ice Field on a path known as the Southern Circuit before summiting from Barafu. Descent is made via the Mweka route.
The Marangu route, also known as the “Coca-Cola” route, is the oldest, most well established route on Kilimanjaro. This is the only route which offers sleeping huts in dormitory style accommodations in lieu of camping. There are 60 bunk beds each at Mandara and Kibo Huts, and 120 bunk beds at Horombo Hut. Guests are supplied with mattresses and pillows, but sleeping bags are still required. The huts have communal dining halls and basic washrooms, ranging from flushing toilets and running water at the lower huts to long drop toilets and buckets of water at Kibo Hut.
Many favor Marangu because it is considered to be the easiest path on the mountain, given its gradual slope and direct path. However, the short time frame of the route makes altitude acclimatization fairly difficult. The route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the southeast. Marangu is unfortunately less scenic than the other routes because the ascent and descent are along the same path. It is also the most crowded route for that reason.
The Lemosho route is one of the newer routes on Mount Kilimanjaro. The route begins in the west and rather than simply intersecting Shira Plateau (like Machame), Lemosho crosses it from Shira Ridge to Shira Camp. Climbers encounter low traffic until the route joins the Machame route. Afterward, Lemosho follows the same route through Lava Tower, Barranco, and Barafu, known as the southern circuit. The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although eight days is ideal.
Lemosho is considered the most beautiful route on Kilimanjaro and grants panoramic vistas on various sides of the mountain. It is our favorite route because it offers a great balance of low traffic, scenic views, and a high summit success rate. Thus, Lemosho comes highly recommended. Most of our clients use Lemosho.
The Umbwe route is a short, steep and direct route. It is considered to be very difficult and is the most challenging way up Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to the quick ascent, Umbwe does not provide the necessary stages for altitude acclimatization. Although the traffic on this route is very low, the chances of success are also low. The route is offered at a minimum of six days, though seven days is recommended when attempting this route. The Umbwe route should only be attempted by those who are very strong hikers and are confident in their ability to acclimatize. However, overall, the Umbwe route is not recommended and we discourage its usage for our clients.
Northern Circuit Route
The Northern Circuit route is the newest, most exciting route on Kilimanjaro. The trek follows the Lemosho trail in the beginning, approaching Kilimanjaro from the west. However, instead of following the southern traverse like all the other west approaching routes, the Northern Circuit traverses the mountain around the quiet, rarely visited northern slopes. The days spent at around 13,000 feet are great for acclimatization, resulting in the highest success rates for all routes on Mount Kilimanjaro. With a high success rate, incredibly varied scenery, and a very low number of visitors, the Northern Circuit route is certainly one of the best routes on Kilimanjaro.
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