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Mount Kilimanjaro

In 2005 Gilbert had the pleasure of taking Peter Hillary with four of his friends to the top of Kilimanjaro. Peter Hillary (right) is the son of the late Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest,

Your Climb to the Peak of Kilimanjaro Begins Here

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It is one of the seven highest and most sought-after peaks in the world, and is as high as you can go without having technical mountaineering skills and without oxygen tanks. You will trek through three distinct ecological zones: lush rainforest, heather/ open moorland and alpine desert.

Kilimanjaro has 6 non-technical routes for climbers:
Marangu (5 days)
Machame (7 days)
Shira & Lemosho (7 to 9 days)
Rongai (5 to 7 days)
Umbwe (6 to 7 days)

Kilimanjaro has 5 camping routes (Machame, Shira, Rongai, Umbwe & Lemosho) and one route (Marangu) where accommodation is in mountain huts and tents.

Each of these six ascents eventually meet with a path circling the foot of a Kibo cone, a path known as either the northern circuit or southern circuit, depending on which side of the mountain you are. Three trails then lead up from this circular path to Kibo’s crater rim; the Western Breach Route (also known as Arrow Glacier Route and which is now closed) the Barafu Route and the Marangu Route. Each of those will take you to the summit depending on which of the six paths you took to get this far. The Shira, the Lemosho, the Machame and the Umbwe now use the Barafu route only, being that Western Breach is closed. The Rongai Route joins famous Marangu Route at Kibo Hut or at a little over 5000m mark to form one route to the summit.

In an attempt to control the number of people walking on each trail, and thus limit the amount of soil erosion on some of the more popular routes, the authorities introduced regulation regarding the descent routes and which one you are allowed to take. Those ascending Kilimanjaro from the south or southwest (the Umbwe, the Machame, the Lemosho and the Shira Route) must take as their descent route the Mweka Route, whereas if you have climbed the mountain from the southeast or north (the Marangu and the Rongai) you must descend by the Marangu Route.


Kilimanjaro Routes

THE MARANGU ROUTE

is most convenient in terms of access, most comfortable in terms of facilities and allegedly the easiest of the available routes. It is also the most popular, with an the majority climbers using this route.

The advantages of this trail are that it is cheaper, easier to arrange and has a longer approach and slighter inclines, thus making it attractive to inexperienced climbers.

THE MACHAME ROUTE

is the second most accessible trailhead and one of the most scenic routes, with sweeping views across the Masai Steppe to Mount Meru and over the impressive Barranco Valley. It is infinitely quieter than the Marangu Route.

The advantages of the Machame route are its accessibility (the trailhead is on the western side of the mountain and close to a good tarmac road), the descent by a different trail (Mweka) which allows climbers to see more of the mountain and avoid upcoming trekkers, and the option to take the Western Breach route from Shira camp onwards.

THE SHIRA ROUTE

differs from others in that there are several variations both in the starting days of the climb and in the final days of the summit. Shira is one of the 3 peaks of Kilimanjaro (the others are Kibo & Mawenzi) and the Plateau allows for acclimatization walks and even technical climbs of the Shira Needles before continuing the ascent. The positive aspect here are exclusivity and maximum opportunities for acclimatization. As well, the last camp is the highest of all camps on the mountain and a short two hours from the summit, so that with a slow approach, climbers who have reached this camp will almost certainly summit successfully and without sickness.

THE RONGAI ROUTE

with its position in the rain shadow of Kilimanjaro, has a completely different landscape from other routes and, being drier and more open, it allows for spectacular views over Tsavo and Amboseli parks. The only drawbacks are that the trailhead is near the Kenyan border on the northern side of the mountain which loses time and pushes up costs; and the descent via Marangu Route detracts somewhat from the wilderness feel of the ascent. The advantages of this route are its very gentle ascent with daily long walks on moderate gradients, unique scenery and its being the last remaining ‘Wilderness Route’ (the remote trailhead with its increase in prices effectively excludes all budget travelers and operators).

THE UMBWE ROUTE

is generally considered too steep for most climbers, making it very much a little-used route. However, this is a perfect trail for already-acclimatized and very fit trekkers; possibly those who have already climbed Mt. Meru or Mt. Kenya. Umbwe-Western breach is an exclusive but very tough way to tackle Kilimanjaro. The secret of this route is easy access (very close to Moshi town and the main road) and the fact that this route is unexploited, little-used and therefore an attraction to seasoned climbers who are not fazed by the sheer steepness of days one and two with their resultant severe altitude gain.

Read more about the different routes