Choosing a Route to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
The Marangu Route is the oldest and traditionally the most popular trail and the one that comes closest to the trail Hans Meyer took in making his successful attempt on the summit. The 5-day option, which is available on this route, makes it the least expensive route on the mountain. A 6-day option with an extra day of acclimatisation is however also available. This is the only route, which provides comfortable sleeping huts, equipped with beds and mattresses at every campsite. Mineral water, soft drinks, beer and chocolates are also sold at every camp. All the camps on this route have radio contact with the Park Headquarters. From the Kibo Huts trekkers climb up to the summit via Gilmans Point 5681m.
Marangu is said to be the softer “coca cola” trail, in comparison to the Machame Route wich is nicknamed the “Whiskey Route”. Some trekkers are misled into thinking this five/six day is simply a walk in the park. A great proportion of people fail on this route more than any other routes. This might have something to do with Marangu’s reputation for being “easy” attracts the more inexperienced, out-of condition trekkers who do not realize that they are embarking on a 36 kilometer uphill walk, followed immediately by a 36 kilometer knee-jarring descent.
But it should not take much to realize that Marangu Route is not much easier than any other trail, with the Machame Route for example, you start at 1800m and aim for the summit at 5895m, while on Marangu Route you start just a little higher at 1860m and have the same goal. So simple logic can tell you that it can not be that much easier.
The Machame Route now vies with the Marangu Route as the most popular route. It is also regarded by many guides as the most enjoyable.
This is probably the most scenic and most beautiful route to the summit. It is not difficult to see why the Machame Route is so popular with everyone. Beginning on the south-western side of the moutain, it’s finest features include the cloud forest of Kilimanjaro’s southern slopes, the dry and dusty Shira Plateau and the delightful senecio-clad Barranco Campsite. The scenic traverse of the Western Breach offers some stunning views! Unlike the Marangu Route, on the Machame Route you do not use the same path to descend as you took to climb up the mountain. Instead you come down via the Mweka Route, a steep but very pretty descent encompassing in hospitably dry mountain desert and lush downland forest in a matter of few hours.
The 6-day route is however physically more challenging than the Marangu route. The day walks are longer and steeper, however the summit night is one hour shorter.Only tented accommodation available, which can be less comfortable and will require a good sleeping bag and hiking mattress.
The Lemosho Route is the new route across the Shira Plateau which has quickly gained in popularity, to a point where it is now the third most popular route on the mountain. The Lemosho Route is the new trail that improves on the Shira Ridge, thus providing trekkers with both a walk in the pristine forest of West Kilimanjaro at the start of the trek and more time to acclimatize.
It is a remote, unspoiled and very beautiful route to the Roof of Africa. The forest around the Lemosho Glades is rich in big game animals such as elephant and buffalo, which may sometimes require a game ranger to accompany climbers on the first day. This route is however a long route which requires 7-days for a comfortable completion, which also makes it more expensive.
The Umbwe Route
This route is one of the shorter but also one of the more difficult routes to reach Uhuru peak — but quiet spectacular. Umbwe is known for its caves. The first night you actually sleep at the Umbwe Cave Camp with two more caves that can be visited on route the following day. The Umbwe route is widely regarded as the hardest trail, a tough vertical climb through the jungle, in some places using the tree roots as make-shift rungs on a ladder. Despite its reputation as the toughest trek, Umbwe route is still a non-technical climb. Taxing, but not technical. All you need are an iron will, strong legs and good stamina.
Besides the strong muscles, heart and lungs you’ll have after this vigorous climb, your eyes, too, will thankful as they feast upon the scenery. The views on either side of the trail here are among the most dramatic the mountain has to offer, save for those on the summit itself. Its also sometimes used as a descending route.
This is the only trail to approach Kibo from the north. You can start this route from both the Tanzanian side of the border or from Rongai in Kenya, but all park fees and arrangements must be made at the Marangu gate. The route may only be used for ascent and the Marangu route must be used for descent. There are several big caves along the route, which are used by the porters to overnight for the first two nights. For the final push to the summit, trekkers on this trail join with Marangu Route at Kibo Huts or just a little bit over 5000m mark just below Hans Meyer Cave. The trek can be competed in five days and four nights, though trekkers usually take a detour to the campsite beneath Mawenzi Peak adding an extra day.
Rongai is the easiest of the quality routes. At first glance, this route seems unattractive, but because this side of the mountain sees fewer tourists the chances of seeing local wildlife here are greater than on any other route. Troops of colobus monkeys, buffaloes and elephants can be seen, as well as lion roars can be heard around.The flora is beautiful here too, with its juniper and olive trees, lobelias and giant senecios. A deviation to Mawenzi Tarn not only allows you to savour the views across to Kibo, as well as a grove of splendid senecios on this northern side, but also gives you the chance to walk across the saddle, many peoples’s favorite part of the mountain.
The Shira Plateau is one of the most scenic and most fascinating areas on Kilimanjaro. Depending on the weather conditions you can drive by 4 wheel drive vehicles, to within a 1/2 hours walk of Shira Hut (4000m). Even this drive is very spectacular indeed and offers some magnificent views of Mt Meru and the Great Rift Valley in general. Game is often sighted and the road features some striking vegetation changes ranging from forest, grassland, heath to moorland. The fast ascend by vehicle to about 4000m will require additional acclimatisation, after which it will be possible to ascend Uhuru Peak either via the Western Breach or via the Barafu hut.
This route can only be use as a descending route for all the western routes.
Western Breach / Arrow Glacier
An alternative final ascent route which can be taken from all of the western routes, sleeping at magnificent Arrow Glacier on your summit night. The western Breach poses a very difficult walk up steep scree with some rock scrambling occasionally required. Snow cover makes scree easier but an ice axe is then required. It is also possible to sleep an extra night inside the Kibo Crater!
No technical climbs or adventure activities such as paragliding, cycling or skiing are allowed on Mt. Kilimanjaro.