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The Umbwe Route | Kilimanjaro National Park

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If you’re looking for the ultimate experience, it doesn’t get better than Umbwe. Your legs, thighs and calves will curse you all day long, but your eyes and senses will delight at the scenery on display.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all!

The most mesmerizing scene can be found early in the trek, as you leave the rainforest behind and walk between skinny heathers. Narrow this ridge may be, but the mouth-watering imagery on each side ranks as the second-most dramatic views that Kilimanjaro has to offer.

Relentlessly uphill, yet mesmerizingly beautiful

The Umbwe Route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the south. It is an extremely steep and direct climb that goes all the way to Barranco Camp before turning east and traversing under the Southern Ice Field. Sure, the scenery is mesmerizing and the slopes stay untouched, but this private climb is never easy.

The most challenging route

You ascend quickly to a higher altitude and that’s never easy. The Umbwe route doesn’t offer easy acclimatization and this means that the route specifically caters to experienced trekkers and strong hikers only.

Kilimanjaro Umbwe Route
Camping in the Kilimanjaro Umbwe route

Umbwe Route Climbing Facts

Trek Difficulty: Very difficult   Scenery: Extremely beautiful
Success Rate: Low   Price: Expensive
Max Altitude: 5,895 metes   Popularity: Used by less than 1%
Trek Duration: 6 – 7 Days   Difficulty: Extremely difficult
Accommodation: Camping only   Crowds:

Very remote. Possible to complete first few days

without another soul in sight.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Explore parts of Kili that most will never see
  • Reach Barranco Wall in just 2 days instead of 3 – 4 days
  • One of the quietest trails up Kilimanjaro (for the first few days at least)

Cons

  • Short and steep
  • Poor acclimatization opportunities
  • Fully catered camping accommodations only
  • Lower success rates when compared to the more popular routes
  • Very difficult, and only suitable for those who are in optimal physical condition

Umbwe Route Tours

Umbwe Route Itinerary

This sample itinerary shows you what to expect when you choose the Umbwe Route. Your itinerary may vary slightly from one tour provider to the other.

Day 1 – Umbwe Gate to Umbwe Cave Camp (5 – 7 Hours)

Wondering why the Umbwe gets such a bad rap for being extremely difficult? Consider this. Day 1 takes you to a height of 2850 meters!

The Umbwe departs from the south and registration takes place a the Machame Gate. Your journey begins at Umbwe Gate, located at a height of 1600 meters.  The trek passes dense rainforests and views of Mount Kibo can be seen in the distance. It takes up to 7 hours to reach Cave Camp, a beautiful rest area located between a thick undergrowth and humongous evergreen trees.

Day 2 – Umbwe Cave Camp to Barranco Camp (4 – 6 Hours)

Day 2 is why most experienced climbers choose the Umbwe. It hosts something incredibly special, something that has often been touted as the second most dramatic sight on Kilimanjaro after the summit itself.

The trail follows an extremely narrow ridge and the surrounding heather thins out to offer truly mesmerizing views of Mount Mero and Tanzanian plains in the distance. You climb for 2 hours, before stopping for lunch.

The terrain becomes rockier after lunch until you reach Barranco Wall and the campsite comes into view.

Kilimanjaro National Park
Kilimanjaro National Park

Day 3 – Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp (4 – 6 Hours)

A difficult climb to the Barranco Wall is followed by a topsy-turvy route along the Southern Circuit. You pass the Karanga Valley and reach Karanga Camp, where you rest for the night. Those on a 5-day trek continue to Barafu Camp on the same day.

Day 4 Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp (4 – 5 Hours)

The journey from Karanga to Barafu feels incredibly easy compared to what you’ve already put your body through. The route passes through a high alpine desert zone and the trek is quite easy. However, gale force winds force you to take caution until you reach camp around lunch.

Uhuru peak
Uhuru peak

Day 5 – Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak, back to Mweka Camp (6 – 8 Hours Ascent, 5 – 8 Hours Descent)

Wake up at 2 AM for the big day. Climb the beautiful slopes of Kibo and test your physical capacities to their limits. Reach Stella Point around dawn and tick off a major milestone from your to-do list. Just reaching all the way to Stella Point puts you in elite company! Savor the moment, but always keep the main goal in sight.

Another 1 – 2 hour climb takes you to Uhuru Peak. Click images and get a video of yourself as you bask in the glory of conquering Africa’s tallest mountain. Head back down to Barafu Camp before continuing your descent to Mweka Camp. Those trekking poles will be indispensable to this part of your journey.

Day 6 – Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate (3 – 5 Hours)

Your journey comes to an end as you eat your last breakfast on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Head back down to Mweka Gate, collect your summit certificates and get transported to your hotel in Arusha or Moshi where a bottle of wine and a tub bath awaits!

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