Which route is best for you

So, you want to climb Kilimanjaro?

The first step is to choose a route.

The Kilimanjaro massif is composed of three volcanic cones more or less horizontally aligned on an east-west axis. The length of this axis, from Marangu Gate in the east to Londorossi Gate in the west, is over 40 kilometres as the crow flies. To the south of Kilimanjaro is Tanzania and to the north is Kenya. Kilimanjaro is entirely within the borders of Tanzania so the five main approach routes commence in Tanzania and mainly from the south, south east and south west aspects of the mountain.

Approach Routes

There are six primary approach routes that take you to the base of Kibo, Kilimanjaro’s central and highest volcanic peak. These are Rongai, Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, and the rarely used Umbwe route.

If you have limited trekking experience and want to ease into the process by taking on one of the less challenging approach routes, you are likely to be recommended one of Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Machame or Marangu. Do note that the latter two routes become very crowded during the peak climbing seasons (it’s estimated that as much as 80% of climbers opt for Machame or Marangu).

Most of the approach routes, but especially the western wilderness routes (Lemosho and Shira), offer beautiful scenery, as well as unique fauna and flora.

Summit Routes

The five main routes will take you to the base of Kibo but not to Kilimanjaro’s summit. From Kibo base there are various trails to the summit which are more or less demanding and may even require some previous climbing experience.

Marangu, Rongai and Northern Circuit routes approach the summit via Kibo Hut and Gilman’s Point. This is a trekking approach involving no climbing but demanding considerable endurance on summit day because the walk around the rim of the Crater is longer than for the south and south-west approach routes. Machame, Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe approach the summit via Barafu Ridge and Stella Point so that they reach the rim about an hour’s walk closer to Uhuru Point than Marangu and Rongai routes. Again no climbing skills are required, but plenty of determination!

For those who like a more demanding mountain climb, there is the option of the remote North Face or Umbwe routes. North Face is best combined with a western approach route – Shira or Lemosho – then the trail contours round to the northern circuit and a completely new ascent up the crater side on the north of the Kilimanjaro massif. Umbwe route is only recommended if booked together with Mt Meru or another peak because it involves a very fast ascent up Great Barranco to connect with the main routes that follow Barafu ridge to the summit – without pre-acclimatisation the ascent is simply too rapid to be considered safe.

A tragic rockfall killing several people has meant that the Western Breach is now rated as severe and dangerous. This route is only for those with technical climbing experience, and should ideally be climbed roped up, wearing a safety harness and a helmet. Even talented climbers are not allowed to climb this route without a qualified technical guide and the right equipment.

The Northern Circuit Climb is the longest route up Kilimanjaro, and among the least travelled. Starting on one of the western approach routes (Lemosho or Shira), it offers the intrepid trekker the chance to see the entire northern flank as well as the southern, south-western and eastern faces of the mountain. The northern sector does introduce an element of risk by taking you to the more remote parts of the mountain, from where rescue can take longer. So plan this expedition well and only go with an experienced support team.

Finally and most importantly, you must allow yourself sufficient time to acclimatise to the altitude. See our acclimatisation notes for guidance.

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