Mount Kilimanjaro with its picturesque summits and volcanic cones (Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira) stands at 5,893 metres or 19,334 ft above sea level and its the highest mountain in Africa. A mountain climbing adventure of such proportion is such an exhilarating experience, reaching the peak (the Uhuru Peak / Kibo Peak) simply means you standing on the roof of Africa, on top of the world.
Indeed, Mount Kilimanjaro is the 4th largest mountain in the world. Succeeding the ascent to the roof, namely, Kibo 5,893 m (19,334 ft); Mawenzi 5,149 m (16,893 ft); and Shira 3,962 m (13,000 ft) is the dream of many world adventurers. Greatly esteemed as one of the 7 world summits, a mount Kilimanjaro expendition is a must for a complete mountaineering challenge. Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo's crater rim. Scores of young adults including African students, seniors, professionals have made to the top. Why not you?
There are several routes by which to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, namely: Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame. Of all the routes, Machame is by far the most scenic albeit steeper route up the mountain, which can be done in 6 or 7 days. The Rongai is the easiest camping route and the Marangu is also relatively easy, but accommodation is in huts. As a result, this route tends to be very busy, and ascent and descent routes are the same.
Marangu Route:- Marangu is by far the most popular route to the summit of Kilimanjaro. This could partly be as a result of the fact that the Marangu is the least expensive route, but more so, perhaps the fact that it is possible to do the Marangu route in 6 days, thereby getting to the summit one day earlier than on the Machame route.
Machame Route:- Sometimes called the Whisky Route. This is a popular route up steep paths through magnificent forests to gain a ridge leading through the moorland zones to the Shira Plateau. It then traverses beneath the glaciated precipices of the Southern Ice fields to join the Barafu Route to the summit.
Umbwe Route:- The Umbwe route is one of the shortest routes to the Southern Glaciers and the Western Breach. It is probably the most scenic, non-technical route on Kilimanjaro. It is quite taxing, primarily due to the relatively fast ascent to higher altitude, but the rewards are plentiful. Very steep route best suited to experienced trekkers
Lemosho Route:- This is the longest and most remote route to Kilimanjaro. After beautiful forests and moorlands it crosses the Shira Plateau to meet up with the Machame Route. Groups may be accompanied on the first day by an armed ranger as the forests around the Lemosho Glades are rich in buffalo, elephant and other game.
Rongai Route:- This remote and less frequently used route is the second easiest route to Kilimanjaro. The approach to the mountain is from the less-forested north side and the descent is by the Marangu Route. There are several variations, the one described is a longer route taking in Mawenzi Tarn.
Shira Route:- The Shira route, approaches Kilimanjaro’s summit from the west and crosses the caldera of Shira Volcano before heading beneath the southern ice fields of Kibo. The route is seldom used by other trekkers and so your initial two days on the mountain are less crowded than on most other routes.
As said, Mount Kilimanjaro as Africa's highest mountain is real most awesome sight. Your photos of snowcapped mountain and bushlands rolling around the mountain are real assets to grace your memoirs. It is surrounded by rain forest and is home to many animals such as Elephants, Buffaloes, Rhinos, Leopards, and Monkeys. Monkeys and Elands are the only animals that can be seen at the summits of Mawenzi and Kibo Peaks.
The snow-capped peak, the dream of scaling the summit, watching dawn break and gazing out over the vast African wildlife, plains and bushland is an experience not to be missed. Kilimanjaro can be trekked at any time of the year, however, there is usually a lot of rain during April, May and November which makes trekking even more challenge.
The main trekking seasons on Kilimanjaro correspond with the mountain’s two dry seasons (an imprecise term, the weather being occasionally inclement during these periods too) namely January to mid-March and June to October.The January to March season tends to be colder and there is a much greater chance of snow on the path at this time. The days, however, are often clearer, with only the occasional brief shower. It is usually an exceptionally beautiful time to climb and is often a little quieter than the other peak season of September to October, which coincides with the main academic holidays in Europe and the West. In this latter season the clouds tend to hang around the tree-line following the heavy rains of March to May. Once above this altitude, however, the skies are blue and brilliant and the chance of precipitation minimal (though still present).
Although the June to October season tends to be busier, this is not necessarily a disadvantage. For example, if you are travelling independently to Tanzania but wish, for the sake of companionship or simply to cut down on costs, to join up with other travellers for your Kilimanjaro trek, then the high visitor numbers in the June-October peak season will give you the best chance of doing this.
Of course one can trek up Kilimanjaro in the rainy season but not only is there a much higher chance of trekking in the rain, the summits of Kibo and Mawenzi are likely to be wreathed in thick cloud too. Indeed, several agencies even suspend their operations in November and December, deciding that any trek up Kilimanjaro is foolhardy at this time and the rewards for the trekkers considerably less. Curiously, however, Christmas and New Year, when the weather is far from perfect, have been the most popular times for climbing Kilimanjaro.
Characteristics of Marangu Route
Day 1: Nairobi-Moshi-
Pick up from Kilimanajaro airport and transfer to your hotel in Moshi.
Day 2: Begin your memorable climbing adventure: Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut.
Hiking time: 5 hours Distance: About 12 km's Habitat: Montane forest
The drive from Moshi to the Kilimanjaro National Park gate, takes about 50 minutes. The journey passes through the village of Marangu, which is located on the lower slopes of the mountain. Once you reach the park gate, all hikers are requested to sign in at the Park office and make their final preparations for the climb.
After registration, we leave the Park gate and ascend on a cleared ridge trail through the rain forest. The forest, suffused with mist and dripping with beards of moss, is also where most of Kilimanjaro's animals are found. (An alternative and more scenic parallel forest trail, branches off the to the left a few minutes after the gate. This trail follows the edge of a stream through the undergrowth and offers you the option to rejoin the main trail either, after 1,5 hours hiking, or 1 hour before Mandara hut.)
Your first night stop, Mandara hut, is a group of wooden huts in a forest clearing. Each hut features 6-8 sleeping bunks with solar generated lighting. The total capacity of the camp is 60 climbers. Water is piped into the camp from springs above and there are flush toilets behind the main hut. Dinner and overnight stay here.
Day 3: Scale the Heights: Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut.
Hiking time: 6 hours Distance: About 15 km's Habitat: Moorland
From Mandara hut the trail passes through a short stretch of forest, then skirts the base of the Maundi Crater and then emerges into the transition from rain forest to moorland. It is well worth a short detour to scramble up the rim of the Maundi Crater for your first really impressive view of the Kibo Crater. On a clear day, Kibo will glimmer in the distance, showing off her majestic glaciers in the morning sun. Once you are in the open moorland you will get the chance to see some of Kilimanjaro's most spectacular plants - the endemic giant lobelia which grows up to 3 m in height and the giant groundsel (Senecia Kilimanjari), which can reach heights of 5m! After about 6 hours from here you reach the Horombo hut, where you will have hot washing water, rest; an evening meal and overnight.
Day 4: Horombo hut (3720m) - Acclimatisation day
Horombo hut is a village of huts perched on a small plateau, with buildings similar to Mandara, but with a total capacity of 120 climbers! Normally bustling with hikers, guides, porters and with an atmosphere of adventure and excitement. You will meet both ascending and descending hikers here. This extra day and night at Horombo is for additional acclimatisation. A hike towards the Mawenzi hut, passing the Zebra Rocks on the way (about 3 hours up and 1,5 hours down), is strongly recommended. Remember to drink enough water and move slowly! All meals for the day are provided at the hut. Retire to bed early and get a last good night's rest.
Day 5: Aim for the Peak: Horombo hut (3720m) - Kibo hut (4700m)
Hiking time: 6 hours Distance: About 15 km's Habitat: Alpine desert
After breakfast you now continue your ascent into the Alpine desert habitat. From Horombo there are two trails to the "Saddle" (which refers to the area located between the peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo). There is an upper route (right hand fork) and lower route (left hand fork) to choose from. The upper route (right hand fork) will be very familiar, as you will have climbed most of it the previous day towards Mawenzi hut. It is very stony and eroded. The recommended lower route (left hand fork) is much easier and nearly an hour, and it also passes the last watering point at 4130m.
You will have to fill your water bottles with all the water you will need until your return to Horombo hut in two night's time (unless you are willing to buy Mineral water at Kibo hut). Once again remember to slow down and drink enough water!! Situated in the barren Alpine desert is Horombo hut, a stone build block house which has bunk beds for 60 climbers, but no streams with water nearby. It is however possible to buy mineral water and soft drinks at the camp office.
There are platform toilets behind the hut. The summit is now a further 1195m up and you will make yourSleeping hikers at Kibo hut. final ascent the same night. Prepare your equipment, ski-stick and thermal clothing for your summit bid. This should include the replacement of your headlamp and camera batteries and make sure you have a spare set available as well. To prevent freezing it will be wise to carry your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed at round about 19h00 and try to get as much rest and sleep as possible.
Day 6: SUMMIT ATTEMPT & the Glorious Sunrise
Kibo hut (4700m) - Uhuru Peak (5895m) - Horombo hut (3720m)
Hiking time: 8 hours to Uhuru - 6 hours to descend to Horombo Distance: 6 km's ascent - 21 km's descent
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit
You will rise around 23h30, and after some tea and biscuits you shuffle off into the night, and this is where the going really gets tough. The first section of the On the Summit. trail consists of a rocky path to the Hans Meyer Cave (5150m), also a good resting spot. The path then zigzags up to Gillman's point (5 681m), which is located on the crater rim. This section is very steep with a lot of stone scree, requiring a great physical and mental effort. Probably the most demanding section of the entire route. Do the Kili shuffle and move slowly.
Group at Gilmans Point. From Gillmans Point you will normally encounter snow all the way up to Uhuru peak (5895m), the highest point in Africa. Total exhilaration and satisfaction - you made it. Weather conditions on the summit will determine how long you will be able to spend, taking photographs, before the 3 hour descent back to Kibo hut. After a short rest you gather all your gear you left behind for the ascent and head down to Horombo hut (3 hours) for your overnight.
The return to Horombo hut will seem surprisingly fast compared to the ascent. The total time spent walking on this day is around 14 hours, so be prepared for a very tough day. Later in the evening you enjoy your last dinner (with soft drinks and beer for sale at the camp office) on the mountain and a well-earned sleep, filled with memories and stirring emotions.
Day 7: Descent: Horombo hut (3720m) - Marangu Gate (1980m)
Hiking time: 6 hours Distance: About 27 km's
After breakfast you continue your descent (6 hours), passing the Mandara hut, down to the Marangu gate. It is strongly recommended not to pay your porters any tips until you and all your gear have reached the gate safely. Click here for more info on tips. At Marangu gate you sign your name and details in a register. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Gillman's Point (5685m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895m), receive gold certificates. Enjoy that long over due hot shower, dinner and celebrations!! Overnight at Nakara Hotel.
Day 8: Departure
Transfer to Kilimanjaro Airport for your flight back home or continue with your safari schedule.
Mount Kilimanjaro Checklist