Undisputed on its majesty, this freestanding mountain is the highest peak in Africa Kilimanjaro is also one of the world’s highest volcanoes, and it’s the highest free-standing mountain on earth covered about 5,895meters, rising from cultivated farmland on the lower levels, through lush rainforest to alpine meadows, and finally across a lunar landscape to the twin summits of Kibo and Mawenzi. Kilimanjaro’s third volcanic cone, Shira, is on the mountain’s western side. The lower rainforest is home to many animals, including buffaloes, elephants, leopards and monkeys, and elands are occasionally seen in the saddle area between Kibo and Mawenzi.
A hike up Kili lures around 25,000 trekkers each year, in part because it’s possible to walk to the summit without ropes or technical climbing experience. Non-technical however does not mean easy. The climb is a serious (and expensive) undertaking, and only worth doing with the right preparation. There are also many opportunities to explore the mountain’s lower slopes and to learn about the Maasai and the Chagga, two of the main tribes in the area. Mount Kilimanjaro lives forever in the hearts of those who have climbed it.
MT. KILIMANJARO CLIMBING ROUTES
MARANGU ROUTE “Coca Cola Route”
The Marangu route, also known as the “Coca-Cola” route, is the oldest most well-established route on Kilimanjaro and considered to be the easiest path given its gradual slope and direct path to the summit. The ascent is more gradual and no professional equipment is required. The accommodation on the way up and down is provided in mountain huts with all the basic necessities. There are 60 bunk beds each (for 60 people each) at Mandara Hut (2700m) and Kibo Hut (4700m), and 120 bunk beds (for 120 people) at Horombo Hut (3720m) which is also used for descent. Climbers are supplied with mattresses and pillows, but sleeping bags should be brought along. There are communal dining halls, washrooms and toilets.
The route can be completed in 5 days; however, it is recommended that climbers take an extra day to acclimatize at Horombo Hut. Many favor Marangu making it the most crowded route for that reason.
MACHAME ROUTE “The Whiskey Route”
This is probably the most scenic route up Kilimanjaro. The accommodation on the way up and down is strictly camping (mobile tents) only. This trek is strenuous and may be better suited to more adventurous hikers. The Machame route is normally completed in a minimum of 6 days/5nights on the mountain.
LEMOSHO(SHIRA) GLADES ROUTE
The Lemosho Glades route is perhaps the least used initial ascent route on Kilimanjaro, partly because of its remote location and likewise the difficult roads leading to the trailhead. The road to the trailhead is only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles and can be impassable during wet periods. The trailhead is at relatively high elevation, and thus we start slow and easy on this route. Buffalo and elephant sightings are possible on the first day trekking through the forest, and the trail is often overgrown from lack of use.
The route is the longest distance to trek up Kilimanjaro, so fitness certainly plays a role in the enjoyment and success of this trek. The Lemosho (Shira) route takes 7 days / 6 nights on the mountain. Overall, the distance covered and the intensity of the final few days make this trek a good choice only for the experienced hiker. The many changes of scenery and spectacular hike across the Shira Plateau make this trek truly special. There are no huts on this route, the accommodation is in mountain tents.
RONGAI ROUTE “The Northern Route”
There is only one route over on the north eastern side of the mountain, Rongai, which is usually a five night climb. This lesser known track may not be quite as spectacular as the western routes, but it does usually have far lower traffic than the other five night routes. This route retains a sense of unspool wilderness and offers a different perspective on Kilimanjaro by approaching it from the north. It is generally considered to be the easiest of the quality routes on the mountain. Rongai is the best route for people who are looking for a decent quality experience and are perhaps not absolutely confident about their fitness.
The Umbwe route, which is based in the south, is a 6-day / 5-night tour and is said to be the most scenic and difficult one offered on Kilimanjaro. The first two days are extremely steep, muddy and generally strenuous making it only suitable for well-trained mountaineers. An acclimatization day is rarely offered on the standard program, but can be added whereby giving the climber an extra day in the Karanga Valley. The descent trail is the same as the Mweka Route.
Nearly identical to the Lemosho route, the Shira route is a less favorable trail due to its relatively high altitude starting point near Shira Ridge. Accessed quickly by vehicle, the route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the west, beginning with a long drive from Moshi, bypassing the rain forest zone to the hiking trail at Shira Ridge. The route traverses underneath Kilimanjaro Southern Ice Field on a path known as the Southern Circuit before summiting from Barafu. The descent is made via the Mweka route.
The hiking trail starts at 3,600 meters and is therefore not ideal for trekkers who have little or no experience of high altitude trekking.