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Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes: Which Route is the Best?

There are seven main Kilimanjaro routes that one can use to trek the highest mountain in Africa. The eighth Kilimanjaro route, Mweka, is used for decent only.

The Machame Route and Umbwe Route depart from the southwest side of the mountain and then use the Southern Circuit via Barafu and Stella Point to approach Uhuru Peak. Similarly, Shira Route and Lemosho Route also use the Southern Circuit to approach the summit and the Mweka Route to descend; however, both routes begin on the far western side of the mountain.

Marangu Route begins in the south-east and approaches Uhuru Peak via Gilman’s Point. It is the only route on Kilimanjaro that has hut accommodation for the entire climb and uses the same trail to ascend and descend.

Rongai Route starts from the North-East and passes through the Saddle situated between Kibo and Mawenzi Peak to approach the summit via Gilman’s Point. The Rongai route descends via the Marangu Route.

The newest and longest route is the Northern Circuit which uses the same starting point as Lemosho but veers north before Lava Tower, circling around the north of the mountain and approaching Uhuru Peak via Gilman’s Point.

The Western Breach is a difficult trail that was closed due to a tragic rock fall in 2006 that killed three trekkers. The route has subsequently re-opened but is seldom used by tour operators as it offers poor acclimatization is steep, and remains rather unsafe for inexperienced trekkers.

Trekkers who use the Western Breach usually approach from the Umbwe Route up to Lava Tower, before taking a steep ascent past Arrow’s Glacier and up the Western Breach to Crater Camp and Uhuru Peak. The Western Breach can also be approached using the Machame, Shira, and Lemosho Route. Descent is usually via the Mweka Route.

As alluded to above, there are three assault passages to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

The first is via the southern slopes of Kibo, up to Stella Point, and then west around the crater rim to Uhuru Peak. This approach is used by trekkers on the Lemosho, Shira, Machame, and Umbwe Routes.

The second assault passage approaches from the Eastern side of Kibo, up to Gilman’s Point and then west around the crater rim to Uhuru Peak. Trekkers on the Rongai and Marangu Route, and Northern Circuit use this passage to the summit.

Thirdly, trekkers can use the more technically challenging approach to the summit via the Western Breach.

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