Mount Kilimanjaro

The Ultimate Kilimanjaro Climbing Guide for 2024-2025

Mount Kilimanjaro, towering at 5,895 m (19,340 ft) above sea level, is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. Often referred to as the “Roof of Africa,” Kilimanjaro attracts over 40,000 visitors annually due to its stunning beauty and non-technical climbing requirements. Aspiring mountaineers with average fitness levels can successfully reach the summit, making Kilimanjaro a popular starting point for Seven Summits adventurers.
This comprehensive guide draws on years of experience to help climbers effectively prepare for their unforgettable Kilimanjaro journey. It provides valuable recommendations on physical training, selecting the appropriate route, essential gear, and choosing a reliable guiding service to ensure a safe and rewarding expedition.

Kilimanajro Routes

  • Umbwe Route (66 hikers) is one of the shortest and least crowded routes in the initial days. The 6-day variation is designed for experienced high-altitude trekkers, while the new 7-day itinerary is suitable for fit beginners. Although the first two days on Umbwe are quite challenging, the subsequent trek becomes more manageable.
  • Lemosho Route (15,675 hikers) is the most scenic path with an excellent acclimatization profile. Though it was relatively quiet a decade ago, it is now gaining a lot of popularity. The 6 and 7-day Lemosho itineraries, sometimes referred to as the Shira route, start from a high-altitude drop-off. You’ll be transported to an elevation of 3,407 m/11,177 ft by an off-road vehicle, beginning the hike from this point. This helps to jump-start acclimatization by spending more nights on the mountain.
  • Marangu Route (14,794 hikers), dubbed the “Coca-Cola route,” is another highly popular Kilimanjaro route, and the only route providing overnight stays in huts. The huts offer dormitory-style accommodation. The Marangu route starts southeast of Mt Kilimanjaro at Marangu Gate, ascends the summit, and returns back via the same trail.
  • Rongai Route (1,397 hikers), the only route starting from the northern slope, offers an off-the-beaten-path experience and is ideal for climbing Kilimanjaro during the rainy seasons. Passing by Mawenzi, one of Kilimanjaro’s volcanic cones, it ensures a unique perspective, with the return journey through Marangu offering views of both sides of the mountain. The Rongai is a great choice if you want to avoid the Barranco Wall.
  • Northern Circuit Route, the longest Kilimanjaro route, allows climbers to enjoy a quiet trek and witness the mountain from all sides. This trail, sharing the trailhead with the Lemosho route, receives only 5% of Lemosho’s traffic. It’s recommended for those seeking extended trekking experiences in remote wilderness with minimal crowds and a gradual slope.
  • Kilema Route is the exclusive mountain bike trek on Kilimanjaro, running parallel to the Marangu route and converging with it at the Horomobo Huts Camp. Few people know about it, but we are happy to organize specialized expeditions for true mountain biking enthusiasts.
  • Western Breach (a few hundred hikers)- this rarely used path is a shortcut to Kilimanjaro’s summit that few operators know how to navigate. The reason is simple: there is a real danger of rockfalls.

While Kilimanjaro offers eight diverse routes to the summit, they aren’t entirely independent. Many trails overlap. For example, Rongai and Northern Circuit meet in the School Hut Camp. Lemosho, Machame, and Umbwe converge in the Barranco camp and continue as one route to the summit via the Barranco Wall.

Expert Opinion

The difference between the Umbwe route and the Machame route comes down to the first two days. The average incline on Umbwe in the first two days is 21.5%, while on Machame it’s 17%. So, Umbwe is slightly more challenging. The upside is that during the first two days on the Umbwe route, you’ll hardly see any crowds.

Challenge and Awe your Spirit

A private 6 to 10-day high-altitude guided endurance trek to the Roof of Africa at 19,340 ft.

 

Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the 7 highest summits on the 7 continents and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. There are 6 routes up the mountain face, two crater rim summit points named Gillman’s Point and Stella Point and one peak named Uhuru which means freedom in the Swahili language. 

 

Following is a day-by-day accounting of our recommended hike via the Umbwe Route.  We love this route as it takes 6 days rather than 7, is highly scenic, and our groups are virtually “alone” on the mountain for the first 2 days.  We do not summit via the difficult Western Breach but merge with the Machame, Shira and Lemosho routes mid-mountain and summit via Stella point.

Kilimanjaro's Distinctive Routes

Explore Mount Kilimanjaro’s diverse climbing routes with our comprehensive guide, outlining difficulty, duration, and highlights of the Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Rongai, and Northern Circuit trails. Discover which path best aligns with your adventure goals.

Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, offers several climbing routes with varying levels of difficulty and duration. Here’s a detailed overview of the main routes, including what to expect and their specific challenges:

Marangu Route (Coca-Cola Route)

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Duration: 5-6 days
  • Distance: 72 km
The Marangu Route is the oldest and most popular route, with a gradual slope and well-established facilities. It features a diverse range of habitats and offers accommodation in huts.

Machame Route (Whiskey Route)

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Duration: 6-7 days
  • Distance: 62 km
The Machame Route is a scenic and challenging path that offers stunning views. Its steeper inclines require a higher level of fitness, and accommodation is in tents.

Lemosho Route

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Duration: 7-8 days
  • Distance: 70 km
The Lemosho Route is a lesser-known and more remote option, allowing for a quieter climb. It boasts diverse landscapes and offers excellent opportunities for acclimatization.

Rongai Route

  • Difficulty: Low
  • Duration: 6-7 days
  • Distance: 73 km
The Rongai Route approaches the mountain from the north, offering a unique perspective and less crowded experience. Its gentle inclines make it a suitable option for those seeking a less strenuous climb.

Northern Circuit Route

  • Difficulty: High
  • Duration: 8-9 days
  • Distance: 98 km
The Northern Circuit Route is the longest and most challenging path, circling around the northern side of the mountain. It offers breathtaking views and opportunities for acclimatization but requires a high level of fitness and endurance.
While each route has its unique features and challenges, all climbers should be prepared for the effects of high altitude, such as shortness of breath and fatigue. Proper acclimatization, physical fitness, and a positive mindset are crucial for a successful summit attempt.
 

I'm not sure where to go from here. You can't really beat climbing Kilimanjaro

The guides and porters are truly amazing

Audax is the most professional guide ever

Day 1:

Our very own mountain company Exceptional Mountain Tours will drive our group to the Umbwe Gate. Here we will meet the rest of our climbing crew. We will ascend for about 5-7 hours to Umbwe Camp (9,350 feet) through the lush, tropical rainforest full of magnificent birdlife, and many unique flowers and plant species. We will likely see the Blue or Black & White Colobus Monkeys that populate the forest zone. The air is thick with moisture and the path is usually muddy. The route then narrows and steepens to climb the ridge between the Lonzo and Umbwe Rivers. This path offers spectacular views of deep gorges and glimpses of Kilimanjaro towering over you in the distance. The camp is perched between huge trees with thick undergrowth.

 

Day 2:

Shortly after leaving the camp the forest starts thinning and is replaced by rockier terrain, sparser undergrowth and straggly, moss-covered trees. This steep all day climb continues along a narrow but spectacular ridge featuring the peak of Kilimanjaro etched against the bright blue sky. The path flattens as you descend slightly to Barranco Camp (13,074 feet). 6-7 hours. Barranco Camp has an incredible view of Kibo peak.

 

Day 3:

Lots of fun scrambling up the 800-foot Great Barranco Wall. This wall is imposing at first but is generally easier than anticipated and a favorite climb amongst hikers. Rest and snacks at the top with beautiful views of the Heim Glacier. Descend into the Karanga (peanut) Valley (13,254 feet) over alternating ridge and sand valleys. 5-6 hours. Not much gain in altitude this day.

Day 4:

Short but steep climb to our final camp before summit, Barafu (ice) Camp (15,357 feet) or Kosovo at 1,000 feet higher. 4-6 hours. Early dinner, briefing, gear preparation followed by an early night to sleep. We will wake around 11pm, dress for the summit, have a light meal and hike 5-7 hours to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro!

 

Day 5:

The final portion of the climb includes steep rocks, and a snow-covered area to Stella Point (18,850 ft). The hike from Stella point is slow (pole pole) with frequent breaks. Our goal is to reach the summit of Uhuru Peak (19,340 feet) as the sun rises which offers incredible views in all directions from the highest point in Africa. We will then descend via Stella Point to Kosovo Camp, rest for 1 hour then descend further to Millennium Camp (12,500 feet). Total hiking time is 11 to 15 hours.  This is your final exam!

 

Day 6:

Hiking back down through the Moorland and rain forest to the Mweka gate. (5-6 hours of hiking). Back to our hotel for a much-welcomed hot shower. We will drive through lush coffee and banana plantations and small villages on our return trip to Moshi where we will be staying. Then we will have dinner with our guides who will present us with our summit certificates.

Comfort

To ensure comfort in our trek, Exceptional Mountain Tours provides the best mountain equipment and group cooking experiences for our clients. Specially prepared menus will include fresh fruit and vegetables, plenty of protein and carbohydrates. Our cooks can customize our menus to meet any health restrictions or requests. Additionally, it is a good idea to bring your favorite snacks for your backpack during the climb (hard candy, energy bars etc.).  Porters will carry all group gear as well as your personal gear. Trekkers will be responsible only to carry their small day packs which will include a rain jacket, fleece, personal items and 2 liters of water. The mountain crew will break camp after we depart in the morning, then race ahead of climbers to set up the next camp for arrival. A welcoming cup of tea, coffee or cocoa together with freshly popped pop-corn will be waiting as you enter camp!

 

Safety:

Your safety and wellbeing are of utmost importance.

 

  • Our mountain guides are well-experienced – most with a decade or more of on the job training.
  • You are provided with safety and preparedness information and a detailed list of appropriate clothing and essentials to bring with you.
  • For Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru we recommend that you consult with your physician regarding medical concerns and appropriateness for you to partake in a high-altitude endurance event. We also provide you with information regarding high-altitude risks and physical/psychological preparedness.
  • Each trekking group is equipped with a pulse oximeter, first aid kit, and emergency oxygen.
  • We provide Flying Doctors Insurance for every trekker which will evacuate you from the mountain via helicopter should there be an unexpected medical emergency.

Exceptional Mountain Tours will provide:

  • Trekking poles
  • Sleeping tents with pads and pillows
  • Dining tent with camping tables and chairs
  • Mobile toilets and tents (yeah!)
  • 3 meals each day (2-3 will be hot) – plus afternoon tea/soft drinks/hot chocolate/coffee
  • Bottled, boiled and/or filtered water
  • All National Park daily fees for trekking clients and crew
  • Crew salary for your guides, assistant guides, cooks/waiters and porters.
  • 3.5 to 6 crew per client.

Trekkers Must Provide:

  • Personal hiking gear including warm clothes, warm sleeping bag, hiking boots, etc. A detailed list will be provided to you.
  • Mountain Crew Tip (as desired, suggested range is $100 to $400 per person depending on size of group)

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