Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, the best routes to consider.
Mount Kilimanjaro located in Tanzania is the tallest mountain in Africa, making it one of the seven summits in the world at number 4. It is not only Africa’s tallest peak, but also the world’s tallest free standing mountain. The summit, named Uhuru Point, is 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level.
In this guide, we will explore the best routes to access M Kilimanjaro and the best time to visit.
THE MARANGU ROUTE
The Marangu route, famously known as the “Coca-Cola” route as you can get a bottle of Coca-Cola at each hut, is the original route established to climb Kilimanjaro. It is often billed as one of the easier walking routes – however, according to KINAPA it suffers from the lowest success rate (42%) as too many climbers try to do it in only 5 days and fail because of poor acclimatization. Approaching Mount Kilimanjaro from the southeast, the Marangu route uses the same ascent and descent route which means it is less scenic than the other routes.
For climbers who do not wish to camp, then Marangu is the only route that offers dormitory-style hut accommodation. The huts have a communal dining room, simple washrooms and toilets which lower down will be flushable, but as you move higher up the mountain will be “long drop” loos. Although some climbers like the idea of staying in the huts rather than camping you need to remember that on the Marangu route you will be sharing the hut with lots of other climbers in open dormitory accommodation. The hut accommodation also means the Marangu route is one of the best routes to make the attempt on Kilimanjaro during the rainy season
The Rongai Route is one of the easiest routes and the success rate is very high.
The route starts on the north side of the mountain just south of the Kenyan border, and is one of the least traveled routes. The descent is down the Marangu Route on the south side of the mountain, so climbers see the mountain from many view points.
The drive to the trail head takes about 2.5 hours from Moshi through many villages and coffee plantations, including a stop to register climbing permits at Marangu.
The Rongai Route can also be accessed from Amboseli National Park in Kenya. Allow 2 hours including border crossing. We will need copies of passports ahead of time.
The Machame route also known as the Whiskey route, given its reputation for being a tough climb. Unlike the gradual incline and hut accommodations found on the Marangu Route, the climbers on Machame hike steeper trails, for longer distances, while sleeping in tents.
The Machame Route climb can be done in a minimum of six days (five nights) on the mountain. However, it is most often tackled over seven days (six nights), for a better altitude acclimatization schedule. The success rate is significantly higher when using the seven day route.
The trek begins at Machame Gate, located in the southern base of mountain, which is just a short drive from Moshi or Arusha.
The Machame Route is approximately 62 km/ 37 miles from gate to gate. It is designed for physically fit people with some hiking experience, but plenty of first time trekker use the route as well and do just fine. It is rated as one of Kilimanjaro’s better routes and thus is recommended.
Lemosho Route offers a seven day and an eight day climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Both offer good acclimatization and wonderful views enroute. This route has a beautiful approach through the forest on the first day through the Lemosho Glades from the west before joining the Machame trail at the Shira Plateau and contouring around the dramatic southern flank of the mountain via Barranco Camp, Karanga Camp and then on to Barafu camp for the summit push. The descent is via Millennium Camp and through Mweka Gate.
The 8-day option has a particularly good summit success rate, the extra day makes a difference to how you feel and there are three nights sleeping at the same altitude. The 7 day option is about an 85% summit success rate.
THE NOTHERN CIRCUIT
This route avoids the crowds on the southern routes and over 9 days, you have a fantastic journey and a great chance of summiting successfully.
The climb begins at Londorossi Gate, at an altitude of 2360 metres, with an approach far to the west of the mountain. It follows the Lemosho route, passing through majestic rainforest where some of the region’s most unique wildlife can often be seen. The route continues up to the mountain’s third summit at Shira Ridge. From there you will cross the famed Shira plateau and see the awe-inspiring Shira Cathedral before turning north onto the Northern Circuit proper. The northern slopes of Kilimanjaro are far more remote and have the benefit of less traffic from other climbers. On a clear day the views stretch over the Amboseli Plains of Kenya. The trail then joins the Rongai and Marangu routes in the east for the final summit ascent via Gillmans Point. After reaching the summit, you will descend by the Mweka trail, rather than retracing your steps along the ascent route.
The Northern Circuit is a good nine day hike for those who have not trekked much at high altitudes, with an effective extra day’s acclimatization, giving a better success rate. Experienced trekkers may opt for the more difficult 8 day ascent along the Northern Circuit.