During a recent stay at Selous Impala Camp in the Selous Game Reserve, Matt was lucky enough to spend some time with one of the region’s finest guides – Gerard Mwakila. They took some time to discuss the area’s uniqueness and the importance that tourism plays in protecting the wildlife. Here’s what Gerard had to say…
Our guide to Kilimanjaro
Keen on conquering the snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro? At 5,895 metres (19,340 feet) above sea level, Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest free-standing mountain. With its relatively easy ascent, ‘Kili’ has become a major destination for mountaineers and trekkers from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. For those who take on the challenge of reaching Uhuru Point, the actual summit, a little more preparation will be needed. Here’s our guide to Africa's highest mountain to help you decide which route is the right one for you.
When to climb?
The mountain is climbable throughout the year, but the best times are January and February, and from July to October. The mountain has the same weather as the rest of northern Tanzania - which means short rains in November and long rains in April, May and early June.
There are a number of different routes to the summit which vary in terms of difficulty, length and views. It is vital that you pick the right option for you, so here is our summary of each. We then recommend speaking to one of our Tanzania specialists who can advise you further.
This is the most popular route - and is sometimes called the 'tourist’ or ‘Coca-Cola’ route – and is probably the path taken by 90% of all climbers. It is also the cheapest and depending on how many days you take to do the climb, generally regarded as the easiest. However, the final night walk to the summit is about an hour longer on this route. This route is usually climbed over six days, but can be done in one day less. The climb is a total of 34 kilometres in each direction and purpose-built hut accommodation is available at all the stops. Bottled water and soft drinks are available at each of the overnight stops. The main drawback of this route is the heavy volume of other climbers.
Rated by many as the most beautiful and scenic route to the top, the Machame route usually takes six days on the mountain, though many people choose to take a day longer to allow time to acclimatise. Sections of this route are steeper and more physically challenging than the Marangu route, but the extra time to acclimatise often balances this out. Highlights of this route are the Shira Plateau, Barranco Wall, the Karanga Valley and reaching the summit via Stella Point. Nights are usually spent in tents at set camping areas along the route. The downside of this route, and all other routes, is that it is more expensive when compared to the Marangu route.
An eight day climb with each day passing through different vegetation as you get closer to the summit. You follow the principle of climbing high and sleeping low to help in acclimatisation to the altitude and maximising your chances of reaching the summit. Running from west to east across the centre of the Shira Plateau, this is a remote and less frequented route, perfect for those wanting to get off the tourist beaten track.
This route is the steepest and fastest route to the summit. We do not recommend the Mweka route for ascending the mountain, and apart from the demanding nature of the climb, the camps en route are very basic. It is however, often used as a descent by climbers using the Shira and Machame routes.
The Shira route is a popular longer climb, and scenically is superb. Although technically speaking it could be climbed in five nights, almost all trips are run with either six or seven nights on the mountain due to it starting at a higher altitude (11600ft/3500m). The route requires access to the national park via the Londorossi Glades Park Gate on the western side of the mountain, and once you reach the Shira hut, the route taken is the same as the Machame route. The descent is usually by the Mweka route. The highlight of this climb is the traversing of the Shira Plateau where it is often possibly to spot big game including elephant and buffalo.
This is a much less utilized route. Those who know it argue this is the most beautiful route to ascend the mountain, however it is much shorter than the other routes, it is also much steeper meaning there can be less time to acclimatise. A variation of Umbwe route can be taken to replicate the route taken by the IMAX team filming the mountain. This route is worth considering, but only with an itinerary that allows good acclimatisation time and by more-experienced climbers.
This route is fast gaining in popularity and is considered to be one of the easiest routes up the mountain. It is the only route starting from the north side of the mountain at Rongai a small village close to the Kenya border. The climbing conditions are drier on the northern side of the mountain and there are spectacular sweeping views over the broad flat Maasai lands. Overnights are spent camping in tents. The summit is reached via the east side of Kibo and the descent is via the Marangu route.
Ready to take on the challenge of Kilimanjaro?
Contact our specialists now on 020 3141 2810 to begin your preparations.