Everything You Need To Know To Climate Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro one of the seven highest mountains on each continent, some people asked me for more information about the adventure. Because it is not a technical climb, theoretically anyone in good physical shape can face the mountain as long as they do good research and prepare for the challenge to climb Kilimanjaro. To help future travelers, I compiled the information we searched for when we decided to venture to the peak at 5,895 meters above sea level as part of our round-the-world trip.
Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes Comparison
There are six climbing trails, the difference between them is the number of days needed to get to the top, the difficulty of the terrain and the type of infrastructure available (makeshift camping vs. rustic sleeping cottages, toilets, dining tables etc.)
1- Route Marangu:
One of the most popular routes, Marangu is the one that offers the easiest terrain, being chosen by almost 40% of all hikers (maybe its nickname, “coca-cola route”). There are the most comfortable shelters (such rustic, dorm-style chalets, camping is forbidden) with lighting provided by solar panels and community dining rooms.
If you are an inexperienced hiker, consider Marangu with affection, since it is classified as a moderate gradual slope walk, at least until the last encampment. But do not be carried away by your fame, the route is far from easy. Only 25% of visitors are able to reach the summit, far fewer than other routes. Why such a low rate? First of all by the lack of preparation of the majority of the tourists that confuse “easier route” with “is very easy”, second by the short time of acclimatization in the last stretch of ascension, certainly the most challenging. After covering a difference of 1,000 meters of altitude on the last day of hiking, it is only allowed to rest a few hours in the last camp (it is forbidden to sleep there) before leaving again at midnight to climb another 1,200 m altitude. Not good.
The advantage is that although it gets a little crowded at certain times of the year, the scenery is beautiful, going through different climatic zones that make the climb more interesting. From Gillman (considered to be the first peak at 5,685 meters).
2- Machame Route
The route has become preferred among experienced climbers – 50% choose Machame – for the wide variety of habitats that provide wonderful views.
The Machame is also known as “whiskey route”, given its reputation as a hard climb, the opposite of Marangu. In contrast to the gradual slope and the chalets of the “coca-cola route”, the climbers at Machame travel steep trails for long distances and sleep in tents.
Actually, climbing in this route is more difficult in some ways. Even so, the success rate is higher compared to Marangu, as there is the possibility to opt for an itinerary with an extra day, with plenty of time to recover and acclimate before leaving for the summit. (More than 60 percent of climbers arrive at Gillman, and more than three-quarters reach the edge of the crater.)
The Rongai is the only route that uses the north face, near the border with Kenya, to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. The descent is made by Marangu, making it possible to appreciate both sides of the mountain. Although it is becoming more popular among hikers for its rugged terrain, Rongai still has a low visitor traffic.
This is the preferred route for those seeking an alternative to Marangu, or that go up during the rainy season (the north side receives little precipitation). Although the scenery is not so scenic, the Rongai is one of the best routes to see wildlife.
In it there are also rustic chalets and, on the last day before leaving for the summit, one only has to ascend a few hundred meters, leaving plenty of time to rest and acclimatize.
With a good guide, the chances of reaching Gillman are 80-90% and to complete the path to Uhuru peak, 70-80%. (If you have experience, the success rate for the eternal snow peak jumps to 90 %.)
Shira begins west of Kilimanjaro to then join the Machame. Thus, all considerations on this last route also apply to Shira. The difference is that the first stretch of the trail is driven by car to the Shira Gate, located 3,500 meters, where the trek begins. This is a huge altitude gain for someone who slept in Moshi the night before, which can lead to complications from lack of acclimatization.
The course takes at least six days, although seven are more recommended. Due to the extra cost of transportation to cover the great distance between the starting point and Moshi, this is one of the most expensive trails. Even so, Shira is a beautiful and low-traffic route until you find the Machame route, being ideal for those confident in their ability to get accustomed quickly to altitude, as well as walking on steep paths for extended periods.
5- Lemosho Route:
Not long ago, there were only two main routes used to climb Kilimanjaro: the Marangu route (Coca Cola route) and the Machame route (Whiskey route). However, with the growth of the tourism industry in Tanzania, the local government decided to create more access to the highest peak on the African continent, including the Lemosho route.
This is the darling trail of renowned operators due to its beauty, low traffic, and high success rate. As in Shira, the route begins to the west, finding Machame later. With eight days (seven nights) on the mountain, the chances of reaching the “ceiling of Africa” are very high, around 90%. However, it is worth mentioning that the course is designed only for physically fit people with some mountaineering / hiking experience.
6- Mweka Route:
The shortest route to the top of the mountain is now only used for descent.
7- Umbwe Route
Umbwe is considered the most exhausting and challenging route of Kilimanjaro. Therefore, it is only chosen by strong and experienced hikers, confident in their ability to become accustomed to altitude, since the ascent is made quickly, not providing the necessary steps for acclimatization. Although the traffic during the trip is very low, the chances of success are also low.