Umbwe

Considered one of the toughest of the trekking routes on Kilimanjaro due to its ascent profile, Umbwe offers a rapid two day approach to Barranco Camp at 12,900ft/3,940m and then on to Barafu Ridge and the summit. Clearly this is a dangerous height gain over the first two days, and we therefore recommend climbing Mount Meru before taking on the Umbwe route.

The Umbwe route approaches Kilimanjaro through shambas, tree plantations, and rain forest from the south, and continues up the Great Barranco Valley to enter the main Kilimanjaro “arena” just below Barranco Camp. Thereafter this fast ascent route follows the Barafu Ridge route to the summit. Reaching the rim at Stella Point relatively near to Uhuru is a bonus, allowing for a shorter summit night climb than on Marangu and Rongai routes.

Descent is down the well-maintained Mweka Route. Like Umbwe, Mweka is a southern route meaning you will experience very similar trails, flora and scenery on the ascent and descent.

What is the scenery like on Umbwe route?
The first two days of the Umbwe Route trek are through tree plantations and then beautiful and rich rain forest, before continuing into the Barranco Valley – one of the great rain-eroded fissures that give character to the southern flank of the Kilimanjaro massif. Above the forest the trail opens abruptly onto a zone of giant heather and Alpine heath. Then on to Barranco Camp, situated in rocky terrain below the awe-inspiring Western Breach. The scene as you look up to Kibo from Barranco Camp is magnificent.

You ascend to the summit via Barafu Ridge, the same summit route used on Shira, Lemosho and Machame routes. As you contour round the Crater rim from Stella Point to Uhuru Point the sight of the inner crater and the views back across the southern approaches of Kilimanjaro are breath-taking.

How long is Umbwe route?
Umbwe itineraries are usually 6 days long. If taking Umbwe6, you should consider an altitude acclimatising trek or safari before you embark on Kilimanjaro, as a six day Kilimanjaro climb to Uhuru Point is too rushed.

How tough is Umbwe route?
Umbwe Route is mostly used as a rescue and fast descent route for trekkers in trouble on either Machame or Shira/Lemosho routes. Umbwe really comes into its own as a combination with a four days Mount Meru trek.

Day one of Umbwe Route is easy walking but on day two there is some scrambling over rock slabs as the trail approaches Barranco Camp at 3,950ms.  The scene as you look up to Kibo from Barranco Camp is magnificent, although the Barranco Wall looms fearsome above the camp, giving many a trekker a sleepless night. Despite appearances, the actual trail up the Barranco Wall is an easy enough scramble. From thereon, it’s a straight-forward trail to Barafu Camp before the summit approach to Stella Point.

In comparison to Rongai and Marangu Routes the final push to the summit is easier on Umbwe (as on Shira/Lemosho and Machame routes). This is because the trail to the Crater meets the rim at Stella Point – closer to Uhuru Point than Gilman’s Point on the busier routes. An hour less walking at an altitude of nearly 6000ms make a big difference on summit night!

Umbwe has acquired a reputation as a tough climb, so it’s important to note that the trail itself is not tough or in anyway technical. In fact, Umbwe seems to be written up in guide books by authors who have not climbed the route. Under foot it is relatively easy as long as the trekker is prepared to do some scrambling on the second day as the approach to Barranco takes place (this is no worse than on Shira/Lemosho).

The challenge with Umbwe is the rapid ascent, which is why we only recommend Umbwe route in combination with Mount Meru or Mount Kenya. Otherwise the ascent to Barranco Camp in two days is too fast for most trekkers and the risk of AMS too high.

When is the best time to climb?
See our Kilimanjaro seasons page for advice on the best times of year to climb, applicable to all routes.

What is the accommodation like?
On Umbwe Route you sleep in tents, not huts. The camp on the first night will almost certainly be “your own”, as very few climbers use climb Umbwe. Once Barranco Camp is reached, the camps then and thereafter are the same as and shared with other climbers on Lemosho-Shira and Machame Routes.

Who should choose Umbwe route?
Umbwe route is ideal for those climbers with a sense of adventure who are prepared to acclimatise on Meru or Mt Kenya beforehand.

Note that Umbwe is an ascent-only route (except for rescue parties); so you will descend via Mweka Route, passing Millennium Camp and the Mweka sector of beautiful southern rainforest before reaching Mweka Gate.