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Mt Kilimanjaro


Mountain Climbing and Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro



Above the gently rolling hills and plateau of northern Tanzania rise the snowy peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro; its slopes and glaciers shimmering above the rising clouds. Kilimanjaro lies within the 756-square-kilometer Kilimanjaro National Park near Moshi. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the few places on earth that encompasses every ecological life zone including tropical jungle, savannah, and desert to montane forests, subalpine plants, and the alpine zone above timberline. On the lowland slopes, much of the mountain is farmland, with coffee, banana, cassava, and maize crops grown for subsistence and cash sale. A few larger coffee farms still exist on the lower slopes, but much of the area outside the national park has been subdivided into small plots. Once inside the park, thick lowland forest covers the lower altitudes and breaks into alpine meadows once the air begins to thin. Near the peak, the landscape is harsh and barren, with rocks and ice being the predominant features above a breathtaking African view.

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is one the highlights of many visitors’ experience in Tanzania. Few mountains can claim the grandeur and the views – of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the Rift Valley, and the Maasai Steppe – that belong to Kilimanjaro. Hiking on the ‘rooftop of Africa’ is the adventure of a lifetime, and anyone from a seasoned trekker to a reasonably fit first time enthusiast can scale the snowy peak depending on the route they pick. The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is around the months of September to early November during the dry season, and when the sky is usually clear from clouds. Avoid the rainy season which starts March and ends in June normally, because the slopes are more slippery. However, the climbing can also be arranged for June and July.


How to go about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

There are six established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro - Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai and Umbwe. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain (Mweka is used only for descent). The Lemosho and Shira routes approach from the west. The Rongai route approaches from the north.


Description of the routes

lemosho

The Lemosho route is one of the newer routes on the mountain, and a superb choice for your climb. It is preferred by many an experienced climber due to its ideal balance of low traffic, beautiful scenery and a high summit success rate.

The route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the west, beginning with a long drive from Moshi to Londorossi Gate. From there, the first two days are spent trekking through the rainforest to Shira Ridge.

Unlike the popular Machame route, which simply intersects the Shira Plateau, the Lemosho route crosses the entirety of the plain from west to east in a pleasant, relatively flat hike. An added bonus is that climbers will encounter low traffic until the route joins the Machame route. Afterwards, Lemosho follows the same route through Lava Tower, Barranco and Barafu, known as the southern circuit. Descent is made via the Mweka route.

The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although eight days is best.

Lemosho is considered the most scenic route on Kilimanjaro, and grants panoramic views on various sides of the mountain. This makes it a route we highly recommend.

Shira

The Shira Route is a difficult route that begins in the west, at Shira Gate. What is unque about Shira is that the first section of the trail is not hiked, but rather driven. Therefore, climbers using Shira will miss out on hiking through one of Kilimanjaro's ecological zones, the rain forest. The gate is located at 11,500 feet, which is a hefty altitude gain for someone who slept at Moshi, at 2,500 feet, on the previous night.

The route takes six days minimum to complete, although seven days is recommended. The descent is down Mweka, in the south-east. Because the starting point is far from Moshi, it is more expensive to climb this route due to the added transportation cost of getting climbers to the gate. Scenicaly, Shira is beautiful because it crosses the spectacular Shira Plateau, and then combines with the Machame route to share its viewpoints around the southern circuit. Shira has low traffic until it combines with Machame.

Shira is ideal for those who are confident in their ability to acclimatize to altitude, and to walk over steeper paths for extended periods.

rongai

If climbing in peace and quiet is the thing for you then you should consider climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro via the Rongai Route. Approaching Kibo from the north, this is the least climbed of all routes. This is not because it’s in any way inferior rather because most people will opt to go with the more popular routes like Machame and Marangu.

For those who choose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro by the Rongai Route, you’re about to discover the mountain’s best-kept secret. Few people use this route and chances of bumping into anyone during your ascent are extremely rare. Because most of the rain on Mount Kilimanjaro falls on the southwest slopes, there is little rain forest to climb through. Instead, you will find that the heather and moorland stretches further down the Rongai Route compared to others. You are likely to see monkeys on your first day and it is not unusual to see some of the bigger African animals such a buffalo and even elephant.

The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, and seven days are recommended.

umbwe

The Umbwe route has a well-deserved reputation of being the most challenging yet most spectacular route on Mount Kilimanjaro. It also is a direct way to reach Uhuru Peak. It follows a forested ridge to the moorlands, then traverses below the Southern Icefields to reach the Barafu Route which is followed to the summit. An early start is made on the summit day to reach Stella Point, on the Crater Rim at dawn. Uhuru Peak lies a further 40 min. along the rim.

The entire walk up and down takes a minimum of five days if going via the Barafu Campsite (though this is entirely too rapid; take six minimum, with a day at Karanga Valley); or five minimum (six is again better) if going via the Western Breach/Arrow Glacier, with more days if sleeping in the crater.

marangu

Known as the "Coca-Cola" route, the Marangu route approaches Kilimanjaro from the southeast. It is the oldest, most well established route. Many favor the Marangu route because it is considered to be the easiest path on the mountain, given its gradual slope and direct path.

Marangu is the only route which offers sleeping huts in dormitory style accommodations. There are 60 bunk beds each at Mandara and Kibo Huts, and 120 bunk beds at Horombo Hut.

Guests are supplied with mattresses and pillows, but sleeping bags are still required. The huts have communal dining halls and basic washrooms, ranging from flushing toilets and running water at the lower huts to long drop toilets and buckets of water at Kibo Hut. Also available for consumption are soft drinks, bottled water, and beer.

The minimum days required for this route is five, although the probability of successfully reaching the top in that time period is quite low. Spending an extra acclimatization day on the mountain is highly recommended.

Machame

The Machame route, known as the "Whiskey" route, is now the most popular route on the mountain. Machame approaches from the southwest and descends using Mweka, rewarding climbers with views of the expansive Shira Plateau, an optional scramble up Lava Tower, a climb up the Great Barranco Wall, and a traverse underneath Kilimanjaro's Southern Icefield. The descent occurs on the Mweka route.

Climbers sleep in supplied tents at designated campsites, and eat meals either outdoors or inside a large dining tent. Staff prepares all meals and sets up the tents.

The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although seven days is recommended.

The Machame route is scenically beautiful and varied. Compared to Marangu, the days on Machame are longer and the walks are steeper. It is considered a difficult route, better suited for the more adventourous climber and those with some hiking or backpacking experience.