Mount Kilimanjaro Umbwe Route (6-8 DAYS)

The Umbwe route has a well-deserved reputation of being the most challenging route on Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to the fast ascent to high altitude, this route does not provide the necessary stages for acclimatization. Together with the fact that the number of people on this trail is very low, the chances of success are also low. Umbwe is considered to be difficult, taxing route – one that should only be attempted by strong hikers and experienced adventurers who are confident in their ability to acclimatize quickly to altitude.

Approaching from the south, the Umbwe route is a short, Asteep and direct climb. After reaching Barranco Camp, the trail turns east and traverses underneath Kilimanjaro’s Southern Ice Field on a path known as the Southern Circuit before summiting from Barafu. Descent is made via the Mweka route.


After breakfast, you will be driven from Moshi town to the Machame gate where registration formalities will be completed and where you will enjoy your first hot lunch. From the Machame gate, you will be transferred to the Umbwe Gate (1641m), passing through the lush villages greened with coffee and banana plantations. When you start your hiking, the air is thick with moisture and the path is usually muddy. The route initially follows a forestry track winding up through the natural rainforest. It then narrows and steepens to climb the ridge between the Lonzo and Umbwe rivers, with huge trees surrounding you. The path offers some spectacular views of deep gorges and even glimpses of Kilimanjaro towering above you in the distance. Your final point for the first day is Umbwe Cave Camp surrounded by huge trees where you will spend the first night in nature.
  • Elevation: 1614m to 2850m
  • Hiking time: 5-6 Hours
  • Distance: Approximately 10.3 km
  • Habitat: Rainforest
  • Meal: Lunch – Dinner
Shortly after you leave Umbwe Cave Camp, the forest starts thinning and is replaced by rockier terrain, sparser undergrowth and straggly, moss-covered trees. The path continues along a narrow, but spectacular ridge. As you gain higher altitude, catch glimpses of Kilimanjaro rising majestically ahead of you with a stunning background of the blue sky. The path later flattens as you approach Barranco Valley. From the Umbwe ridge, the route descends slightly to the Barranco camp. The camp is situated where you spend the second night is right in the valley below the legendary Barranco Wall which surely gives you a memorable sunset while your dinner is being prepared.
  • Elevation: 2850m to 3985m
  • Hiking time: 6-7 hours
  • Distance: Approximately 6.3 km
  • Habitat: Moorland
  • Meal: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
After spending a night at the great Barranco Wall, you will make your way passing this awesome looking obstacle, which in the end turns out to be easier than anticipated. Topping out just below the Heim Glacier, you will now appreciate just how beautiful Kilimanjaro really is. The route then heads down through the Karanga Valley over intervening ridges and valleys, and then joins up with the Mweka route. This is the preferred route down from the summit, so remember it. The last water stop on the route is the Karanga Valley, as there is no water available at Barafu camp. But don’t worry! Chiefs’ Tours Porters will bring boiled purified water for you during your whole journey! You will enjoy dinner and overnight at the Karanga camp.
  • Elevation: 3850m to 4040m
  • Hiking time: 6- 7 hours
  • Distance: Approximately 6 km
  • Habitat: Moorland / Semi-desert
  • Meal: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
After breakfast, you will start your 4th day by turning left up the ridge and the route ascends 640m towards Barafu Camp. Barafu is the Swahili word for “ice” and it is a bleak and inhospitable camping area to spend the night. Totally exposed to the ever-present gales, the tents are pitched on a narrow, stony, and dangerous ridge. Please make sure that you familiarise yourself with the terrain before dark to avoid any accidents.
The holy summit is now a further 1214m higher and you will commence with your final ascent attempt, the same night. Prepare your equipment and thermal clothing for your summit attempt. This should include the replacement of your headlamp and camera batteries and make sure you have a spare set available as well. To prevent freezing, it will be wise to carry your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed as early as possible and try to get some precious rest and sleep.
  • Elevation: 4040m to 4681m
  • Hiking time: 4-5 hours
  • Distance: Approximately 3.4km
  • Habitat: Alpine desert
  • Meal: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
Around 11:30 pm, you will get up for some hot tea and biscuits before you shuffle off into the night. You will head in a north-westerly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. For most of the climbers, the unforgettable walk to Stella point is the most mentally and physically challenging on the route. At Stella Point (5739m) you will stop for a short rest and will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see.
From Stella Point, you will normally encounter snow all the way on your 2-hour ascent to Uhuru Peak. The time you will spend on the summit will depend on the weather and your conditions but do not stop here for too long, as it will be perhaps more difficult to get down!
After that, you will try to descend to Baranfu camp as soon as possible to treat yourself a well-deserved hot lunch and collect all of your luggage before the final descent. You then head down to Mweka Camp (3090m) where the route is not difficult and will take you down the rock and scree path into the moorland and eventually into the rainforest. At Mweka Camp, you will surely enjoy one of the best sleep ever in your life!
  • Elevation: 4681m to 5985m down to 3090m
  • Hiking time: 7-8 hours to Uhuru Peak, 6-8 hours to Mweka Camp
  • Distance: Approximately 4.5 km ascent and 10.8 km descent
  • Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit
  • Meal: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
After the last breakfast on the mountain, it will take you 4 to 6 hour doing a scenic hike back to the Mweka gate. Some hikers do experience knee problems which could make the descend longer than planned. So don’t forget your walking poles! At Mweka gate, you will sign your name and details in a registration form. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Stella Point (5739m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895m) receive gold certificates. Here you are strongly encouraged to give appropriate tips to your Mountain Supporting Team after all of their hard effort to guide you to the top of Africa.  From the Mweka Gate,  you will be driven down into the Mweka village where you will be served a delicious hot lunch!! After lunch, you drive be to Moshi for a long overdue hot shower, dinner and celebrations!!
  • Elevation: 3090m to 1641m
  • Hiking time: 4-6 hours
  • Habitat: Forest
  • Distance: Approximately 8.5 km
  • Meal: Breakfast – Lunch


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