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Kilimanjaro Route Comparison

Kilimanjaro Route Comparison


Rongai Route

The Rongai is the only trekking route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north. It starts near to the border with Kenya and descends down the south east-side of the mountain on the Marangu path; you'll get to see both sides of the Kilimanjaro.

This route is usually far less busy than most of the other paths on the mountain – but it is becoming more popular.

The Rongai is considered to be the easiest route on the mountain in that it is physically less demanding than the others. It rises very steadily, without any particularly steep sections or height loss on any of the approach days.

The 7 day version of the route, which includes a rest and acclimatisation day at the Mawenzie Tarn, has an excellent success rate. In my opinion, this gives you the best acclimitisation of any of the standard Kilimanjaro climbs because 2 nights are spent a 4200m (the Mawenzie Tarn campsite).

As with all routes on Kilimanjaro, the summit climb is tough. The ascent via Gilman’s point takes about an hour longer than the other routes (which arrive at the crater rim at Stella Point) because Gilman’s Point is slightly further away from Uhuru Peak. This extra hour is spent walking around the crater rim, not slogging-up the scree slopes. The path to the crater rim is probably slightly tougher under-foot that the Lemosho/ Machame alternatives. It follows a steep scree path, whereas the Lemosho/ Machame take a rockier path which is easier under foot.

An excellent route for first timers.

Advantages

  • Physically less demanding approach days
  • Good (the best?) acclimatisation and an excellent chance of success.
  • Excellent campsites – often (but not always) away from the crowds
  • Less traffic than the other routes
  • The northern side of Kilimanjaro is a lot drier than the other sides. There’s less chance that you’ll get soaked on the approach.
  • Our programme gives a short day before the summit climb. This will allow you to eat, drink and rest before heading to the top.

Disadvantages

  • The descent via Marangu is much longer than the route followed by the Lemosho/ Machame trail. You'll spend much more time walking off the mountain.
  • Long vehicle approach from Arusha to the north side of the mountain on the first day.
  • This route is considered to be less spectacular than the routes on the south side of the mountain because it does not offer views of Kilimanjaro’s Breach Wall. This is debatable; the camp beneath Mawenzi Peak is one of the most scenic on the mountain.
  • The summit climb is an hour longer and slightly tougher than the Machame and Lemosho routes. It's a loose, scree covered path that can be a pain in the arse.


Machame Route




Machame is a spectacular west-to-south trek up Mt Kilimanjaro. Some of the approach days are long and strenuous with height gain and loss as the trail crosses a succession of valleys and ridges. Don’t let this put you off, it’s an achievable goal for regular hill walkers.

Whilst this is not a technically demanding route, you will have to climb the infamous Barranco Wall; a steep, 2 hour scramble that will require you to occasionally use your hands for balance. Despite it’s reputation, it looks a lot worse than it really is and will not cause problems to trekkers with scrambling experience.

As for scenery, the Machame route is absolutely spectacular: the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower and the Barranco Wall are awe inspiring to gaze upon and it is for it’s beauty that the Machame route has become the most popular climb on the mountain. The downside is that it can be crowded at times.

Advantages

  • Stunning scenery
  • Excellent natural acclimatisation because of time spent above 4000m gives a good chance of success.
  • Our programme gives a very short day before the summit climb. This will allow you to eat, drink and rest heading to the top.
  • The trail to the summit ascends a slightly different trail to the Rongai, which arrives on the crater rim at Stella Point, much closer to the summit than Gilman’s point. It's more of a rocky path than a scree track and is easier under foot than the Rongai.
  • The descent via Mweka is far quicker and easier than the Rongai.

Disadvantages

  • This route can be crowded.
  • More strenuous that the Rongai/ Lemosho

 


 

Lemosho Route




This route joins the Machame after a couple of days, so everything that applies to the Machame also applies to the Lemosho. However, because it takes 8 days to complete (rather than 7 for the Machame) it is less strenuous and gives better acclimatisation because the extra day is spent above 4000m.

The first two days on the Lemosho route take you through beautiful, deserted and very remote rainforest on the Western side of the mountain.

Advantages

  • Stunning scenery
  • Quiet and not crowded on the first two days. Often deserted.
  • Our programme gives a very short day before the summit climb. This will allow you to eat, drink and rest heading to the top.
  • More time spent at moderate-to-high altitude gives improved acclimatisation, this will greatly increase your chances of success.
  • Shorter approach days make the Lemosho route less physically demanding than the Machame,

Disadvantages

  • Long drive on the first day to the start of the route
  • Can be crowded where it meets the Machame
  • More expensive than the other normal routes


Umbwe/ Western Breach Route




The Umbwe route is not a technical route but it is a very direct, very steep, very tough and in parts exposed.

The Umbwe route joins the Machame route near the Barranco Camp on the second night, on other routes the Barranco Camp is reached on the third or fourth night - this demonstrates how much steeper the Umbwe route really is. Indeed, parts of the trail on the first day are so steep that they can only be negotiated because the tree roots provide good steps and hand holds.

The second day continues in much the same vein and the exposed ridge is not for people who are uncomfortable at heights.

Things ease-up for a few days when the Umbwe meets the Machame route, then it’s back to the grind as we climb the ultra-strenuous Western Breach.

Climbing the Western Breach is far more difficult than the other trekking routes to the summit. It involves slog up very steep scree as well as scrambling on exposed rock. At times the route is exposed to rock fall, and you may need to use an axe if conditions are snowy.

All-in-all, this is the most difficult and demanding of Kilimanjaro’s ascent routes. It’s a balls-out rollercoaster ride along the path-less-trodden, and not for the faint hearted!

Advantages

  • Pre-climb acclimatisation on Mt Meru
  • Quiet and not crowded on the first two days and on the Western Breach itself.
  • Stunning scenery, as per the Machame Route
  • Climb the less visited Western Breach
  • Rarely seen views of the Ash Pit, Reusch Crater and the Furtwangler Glacier
  • This is the toughest route on the mountain, but it is also the most rewarding. Your first bottle of Kilimanjaro Lager will taste that bit better for having climbed it.

Disadvantages

  • Strenuous
  • Additional cost. Climbers must warm-up on Meru before heading to the Breach Wall, and this incurs additional fees.
  • It’s a longer trip that the other routes on the mountain, not good for those on a tight schedule.
  • Rock-fall danger