Western Breach

The Western Breach is a unique ascent path through Kilimanjaro’s crater. Its steepness makes it one of the most difficult climbs to the summit on Kibo Peak. After a recent tragedy, in which porters and tourists were killed by a rock fall, the route is only open to climbers with technical experience and being led by a qualified technical guide. The group must obtain special permits and carry ropes, ice axes and wear safety helmets.

The Western Breach route is a variation on the standard summit approach taken by Shira, Lemosho and Machame routes. After reaching the base of Kibo on one of these approach routes, you follow a different line to the summit, going up the western breach via Arrow Glacier instead of up Barafu Ridge. The route takes the trekker into the crater at a point where the rim is substantially breached. It then continues across the crater floor and up the inner rim just below Uhuru Point.

Descent is down Barafu Ridge from Stella Point and then down the well-maintained Mweka Route.

NB. Western Breach can only be attempted with permission from the KINAPA authority and must be led by a technically qualified guide. All climbers must wear safety helmets.

What is the scenery like on Western Breach route?
The initial approach scenery is either that of Shira/Lemosho or Machame. Then above Lava Tower the awe-inspiring Western Breach towers above the climbers as they approach Arrow Glacier. The actual push to the summit up the breach is done at night and head torches and moonlight will show rocky ridges, rock slabs and patches of loose scree. On entering the crater as dawn comes up the massive crater floor is like a desert before the climber with the remnants of the Furtwangler Glacier still visible. To the south east is the steep scree trail up the inner crater rim to Uhuru Point. Most notable is the lack of other climbers – very few people attempt this summit route!

From the summit the scene is much the same as the other routes – snowfields interrupted by rock and scree and the rim trail heading gently down to Stella Point and the vast scree slopes that come up Barafu.

How long is Western Breach route?
Normally this route is nine days long with an optional night spent camping in the Crater.

How tough is Western Breach route?
Western Breach route, like Shira/Lemosho and Machame, is easy to begin with. Then, from Lava Tower the climb becomes a more serious venture with a higher risk of rock fall than on any other route. (In January 2006 a serious rock fall killed climbers and support staff. For a few years the route was closed; then reopened but more regulated). Today it is possible to climb the route but you must be aware of the real risk of rock fall.

Potential rock fall isn’t this route’s only challenge. A steep night climb up to and through the western breach is required. There is relatively easy scrambling involved but serious rock climbing skills are not required. Rescue during the summit push and from within the crater is far more complicated than from the other routes.

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?
All tented. The main approach is on Shira/Lemosho and Machame routes up to Lava Tower. Then a possible camp at Arrow Glacier and again in the Crater (this is optional). During the descent, you will stay at the standard camps on Mweka Route (Barafu and Millennium Camps).

Who should choose Western Breach route?
Western Breach is only for the adventurous climber who is prepared to bear the higher risk of rock fall and the longer rescue journey from the Crater.

Do you offer open groups on Western Breach route?

We’ve had some wonderful climbs using this route, cutting through the breach and onto the floor of the crater itself. However, the 2006 tragedy means few operators now offer this route. The 2006 incident wasn’t a freak accident. The consensus is that warming of the climate causing Kilimanjaro’s glaciers to retreat has led to an increased danger from rock fall adjacent to Arrow Glacier.