Route Choice Kilimanjaro
On Mt. Kilimanjaro there are seven approach routes (each starting from a different park gate), and three routes to the summit. There are ultimately over 50 different route combinations. We recommend taking as long as possible in order to properly acclimatize to the altitude. There are only three routes to the top – the least traveled (and most difficult, and beautiful) is the Western Breach. The other two routes to the top, Marangu and Mweka, lead up the more gently sloping east face, trudging through scree (volcanic ‘gravel’) on thousands of switchbacks. These latter two receive a higher percentage of the foot traffic vs. the Western Breach.
Description of the seven approach routes:
- Umbwe Route- the most challenging route, both in terms of terrain and grade. Usually done via the Western Breach.
- Machame Route- is the most popular camping route(and busiest route overall), usually takes 6 days to the top via the east facing Mweka (Barafu Camp) route to the crater rim. It’s also quite pretty and rugged.Best done in 7 days.
- Lemosho Glades- starting from the west side, and begins very gently then ascends onto the great expanse of the Shira plateau, from 3,500m to 4,000 m. This route can ascend up either the Western Breach or the Mweka Route to the crater rim (which averages about 19,000 feet. The high point along the crater rim is Uhuru Peak, at 19,340 feet (5895 Mt.). Treks from the Lemosho trailhead or Umbwe Gate must pay an extra fee to account for a forest department tax. The road to get to the Lemosho trailhead is so atrocious that often vehicles cannot reach the trailhead and climbers begin the trek on a very muddy 4×4 track. It’s usually done in 8 or 9 days, with our without Crater Camp.
- Rongai Route - An approach from the dry northeast (Kenya side), then into the Saddle, and up via the Marangu Route to the top. Best done in 7 days or 8 days (with Crater Camp), to be able to experience the great saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi volcanoes.
- Mweka Route - Used primarily as a descent route. Very direct (only three camps en route to the summit!). Not recommended for ascent.
- Shira Route - This route starts high (over 12,000′ / 3,500m) but on longer climbs offers the chance of easy/gentle hiking from the start of the climb, as well as avoiding other tourists (especially when choosing the remote northern circuit route).
- Marangu Route - the original hut route, starting at the southeast and passing through thick forest, heather and moorland before crossing the great saddle of alpine desert between Mawenzi and Kibo, then up to Gillman’s point before skirting around the south crater rim to Uhuru Peak. Pre-booking and deposits are required on this route (to reserve the huts).
Succes rates based on number of days:
Once you decide on the route, you need to plan on the number of days to climb. The single most important factor on whether you reach the summit or not depends on the number of days you take. You’ll likely only climb Kilimanjaro once, so you may as well do it right! The best way to do it right is choosing a climb which gives you enough acclimatization time to reach the summit safely. The park minimum is 5-days – that’s 3.5 days to the summit. Only about 50% of those on 5-day climbs reach the summit. Of the roughly 1000 climbers we take up the mountain each year, the average number of days for our treks is 8. Our most popular climb is 9-days, giving lots of acclimatization time and the experience of camping next to the glacier at Crater Camp. Also we do 7 and 6 days treks, as many people simply don’t want to take so many days out of their busy schedules. The results are dramatic when comparing the summit success rates vs. the number of days on the mountain. For Nature Discovery, these are the average summit rates:
6 days: 75%
7 days: just over 80%
8 days: 90%
9 days+: over 98%. It makes a huge difference to take extra days.