Kilimanjaro Trekking Resource

Which Route?

Just to clarify and confirm your understanding, there are in total 7 recognized ascent routes on Mount Kilimanjaro, although we do not recommend them all :

1. Shira
2. Lemosho
3. Machame
4. Marangu
5. Rongai
6. Umbwe
7. Northern Circuit

Depending on which ascent route climbers follow, will be decided the exit route to be used. Those ascending on the Shira, Lemosho, Machame, Northern Circuit, and Umbwe routes MUST exit via the Mweka route, whereas those ascending via the Marangu and Rongai routes, MUST descend and exit via the Marangu route.

Detailed route descriptions, assessments, and profiles can be found below, along with a map of each of the Kilimanjaro routes

SHIRA ROUTE

The Shira route is great for those who like to trek far from the beaten track, but as she starts as a dizzyingly high altitude she isn’t recommended for first time climbers. The serene Shira Route allows you to set off on a high note and takes a relatively direct route to the summit. It has a stable climb rate throughout the glorious scenery of the Shira, comprising poetic forests and sweeping desolate moorlands.

One of our specialist vehicles will transport the group to the Shira gate, where you will start your journey towards the Simba Camp. Acclimatization to the new heightened altitude is essential, especially for those who decide to stay in Moshi or Arusha the night before. You can gaze at the fascinating rock formations and the even pass the southern ice fields to feel the chill kinds cool your skin.

Take in the quiet of the Shira route and its vast beauty across the Shira Plateau, before combining with the Machame route to complete the climb. After adjoining with Machame, the route becomes a little more energized and bustling, and you will be exposed to the stunning highlights of the southern circuit.

LEMOSHO ROUTE

One of the freshest routes to traverse Kilimanjaro, the Lemosho route is loved for its stunning vistas and its crowd free paths. Many hikers will take the alternative path leaving Lemosho wide open. Despite its youthful vitality, Lemosho is not an easy path, but cutting across the majestic Shira Plateau and witnessing the snow swirled summit glowering against a pink tinged sky makes every step well worth it.

We offer a 7 or 8-day adventure along Lemosho via Stella Point. After crossing the wild and untamed heart of the Shira Plateau you will meet with the Machame Route and have the option of an overnight in the pretty Karanga Valley or pushing on. There is also the option to take the Western Breach after crossing the Shira Plateau.

Whilst the Western Breach can be hazardous you will have the chance to camp beneath Arrow Glacier – a place seemingly frozen in time and more reminiscent of the Antarctic than the dry heat of Africa. You also have the chance to overnight at the puckered crater, another memorable stop on this epic journey. As you can see the Lemosho route boasts plenty of variation and is considered one of the most scenic ways to reach the summit.

MACHAME ROUTE

One of the most popular routes for those determined to reach the summit – the Machame route, also known as the whiskey route, is the perfect pathway to heaven. Over half those who make the spirit defining decision to climb Kilimanjaro will opt for this route, despite it being tougher and more treacherous than neighboring Marangu. The reason for its popularity lies mainly in its range of natural habitats and its flourishing scenery.

Monkeys in trees, soft heather lands, crater deserts, glacial walls, and lava towers – these are just some of the sights that pull people tumbling into the world of the Machame route. The Machame route can take four days to ascend and an additional two to come down the mountain. There is the option to stop at the Karanga Valley which is recommended for those who want to ease the pace and boost their chances of summit success.

Machame is for those who want to take a more adventurous path. The days are longer, the way is steeper, and the challenges greater. If you have previous hiking experience, then Machame can truly test your fierce nature.

MARANGU ROUTE

A route highly recommended for novice climbers, the Marangu route is one of the quickest and most direct routes to the summit. It has a consistent rate of ascension, making acclimatization and stamina easier to regulate. It is the most popular route on the mountain and boasts one of the finest treks through the humid rainforest, brimming with exotic sights and sounds.

Affectionately known as the ‘Coca Coca Route’, in a past life, the Marangu route was previously renowned for the availability of soft drinks at the park huts. As the simplest route on offer, it naturally attracts more adventurers than all the other routes combined. This embeds a real sense of camaraderie for those on their very first mountain climbing adventure.

It is the only route on offer to ascend and descend by the same two-way path, and uses park huts, as opposed to tents, for accommodation. This is perfect for travelers tempted by a sense of comfort and who want to meet other walkers along the way and share their spirited adventure. Also for hikers in the rainy season – the promise of a warm bed and dry walls is a further pull.

RONGAI ROUTE

Starting close to the burnt oranges and golds of the Kenyan border at the famed Mount Kilimanjaro, the Rongai route takes adventurers from its north eastern face to climb above the vast Amboseli plains, dotted with dry wood forests and free ranging elephants. Approaching the crisp white summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to the west of the Mawenzi Peak, you will feel a sense of accomplishment upon completing this spectacular feat.

Our specialized vehicles will deposit climbers at the Rongai Gate, after which you will begin your experience ascending along the edge of the crater via Gillman’s Point to Uhuru Peak. Once you reach the highest point of the crater, and feeling as though on the edge of the world, you will be led through your descent via the picturesque Marangu route. This is a more bustling part of the journey in which you’ll be treated to sleeping in the comfort of park huts as opposed to tents.

With good acclimatization, beautiful views and rave reviews, we highly recommend the 7-day option for the Rongai route, so you can take your time to drink in the sights of Africa.

Which Route Should I Use to Climb Kilimanjaro?

While we cannot guarantee that climbers will summit their chosen peak (this is largely dependent on the climber) we can assure you that our teams know how best to exploit climbers strengths and fortify them at times of weakness, and will offer them the greatest summit opportunity possible.

Selecting a route is a tough choice for most. To find the best Kilimanjaro route for you, considerations should be taken for the route’s scenery, difficulty, foot traffic and its altitude acclimatization characteristics.

On the basis of information available in guide books and on the internet, the standard Lemosho route (approaching Kibo from the west) is arguably the most logical choice for a varied, stimulating and safe ascent of Kilimanjaro. However, our most popular scheduled routes would currently be the 7 Day B2C Rongai routes (our new B2C 8 day variation on the Lemosho Route is now challenging for a place in with these other routes) followed by the 6 & 7 Day Machame routes.

On the Machame Route, most climbers opt for the 7 day route in order to err on the side of caution with respect to being well rested and adequately acclimatized prior to their assault, however timings on the 6 day route are still safe and most people with active lifestyles and who are younger than around 45 years of age, and not carrying significant excess body mass, will usually manage very well on the 6 day Machame Route.

Our own 7 Day B2C Rongai Route variations have been conceived specifically to address some of the weakness inherent in the other routes. All western and southern routes including Machame, standard Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe suffer somewhat from two blights; there is a slightly disappointing bottleneck effect caused by the convergence of all these routes at Barranco and the fact of there being only one way of passing over the steep Breach Wall; and perhaps more significantly, they all have a series of steep and unnecessary undulations (ie wasted height gain) en route to the high camp. These undulations occur after the principle climb high, sleep low feature (Lava Tower, 4642m) has already been achieved and therefore contribute nothing to acclimatization, only serving to deplete a climber’s precious reserves that ought rather to be conserved for the summit bid.

Our new B2C Rongai Routes are proving incredibly successful and enjoy the lowest crowds (virtually none until the last camp), arguably the greatest likelihood of wildlife confrontation (because of low volumes of climbers passing through), by far the greatest climb high, sleep low differential (up to nearly 300m more than on the standard Lemosho and Machame) and therefore the safest and most thorough
acclimatization; and perhaps most significantly of all, the gentlest and most logical approach to high camp that ensures climbers arrive in position to assault the summit in as fresh condition as possible.

As with the Rongai Route above, we have also configured our own unique Lemosho Route, which also enjoys low crowds when compared to the standard Shira, Lemosho, Machame and Umbwe routes. This route approaches the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro from the west before switching to the north, and circling Kibo to the north before arriving at high camp.

While we are happy to arrange climbs on the Marangu Route, we do not recommend this route (especially the 5 day variation) because there is an obvious absence of exploitable topography en route to high camp and inadequate use of the climb high, sleep low principle is afforded. This results in a low success rate, with some 40% of all route users failing to pass beyond Gilman’s Point, and some 20% failing to reach even Gilman’s point. In addition to this, the use of huts on the Marangu Route necessitates crowded living quarters at camps with a) queuing and delays being necessary in the morning due to limited eating space in the crowded mess halls, b) compromised sanitation caused by crowding.

Where climbers are keen to use the Marangu Route, we will recommend a 6 day B2C Marangu itinerary where after overnighting at Horombo Huts on Day 2, on Day 3 we will arrange an acclimatization excursion from Horombo Huts up to the Camel’s Back feature where we will have a picnic lunch before completing a circuit back to Horombo for the night to ensure maximum acclimatization can be gained. We will also spend the pre-summit night (end of Day 4) at School Hut camp rather than Kibo Huts due to the poor route configuration from Kibo Huts to Gillman’s point and the overcrowding that occurs at Kibo Huts.

The Shira Route is another variation on the Machame Route running parallel and to the north of the Lemosho Route, and intersecting Machame at Shira Camp. This route is essentially the vehicle evacuation route for sick and wounded climbers who have to give up before crossing the Breach Wall east of Barranco Camp. It is possible to drive a vehicle to 3,760m to within 30 minutes of the day two camp. We do not recommend this route as walking along a road for two days detracts from the wilderness experience.

The Umbwe Route is generally regarded to be one of the hardest routes when you climb Mount Kilimanjaro but has spectacular scenery including a number of caves that can be viewed en route.

While we are very happy to lead climbers up the admittedly very exciting Western Breach assault, we do however maintain that it remains an option to which climbers should understand that they are willingly exposing themselves to a level of objective risk that we feel is significantly elevated with respect to the alternative assault options on Kilimanjaro.

As long as climbers are fully aware of the potential risk that still exists, we are happy to schedule a climb on this route.

If you want to include a night at Crater Camp, that would be from our Excel Series. The Excel Series is a very exciting series that spends the night with a small lightweight support team in the crater at 5729m after summiting Kilimanjaro. The following morning we launch excursions to a number of fascinating and rarely seen features within the crater from the Reusch Ash Pit at the crater’s centre, to the rapidly retreating edges of the northern and eastern ice fields, where health and strength permit. This is a truly unique opportunity. Support levels are typically: 1:8, 2:12, 3:15, 4:17, 5:20, 6:23, 7:26, 8:29.

We like to make very clear at the outset that with regards to the dangers associated with high altitude, there is a small but significant risk of developing severe AMS or pulmonary or cerebral oedema, amongst those overnighting in the crater. In order to best minimise this risk we summit first prior to sleeping in the crater, thereby ensuring that we observe an imperative principle of acclimatisation, ‘climb high, sleep low’, at this critical altitude. You should also be aware that amongst those requesting to spend a night in the crater; around 20% change their minds while on the mountain after consulting with the guide and agreeing that they have failed to obtain a sufficiently safe level of acclimatisation for this option. You would need to be aware of all of these considerations before moving ahead with a crater excursion request.

I certainly would not want to dissuade you from a climb that included a crater excursion as this is arguably the greatest experience to be had on Kilimanjaro; I only wish for you to be properly informed of some of the implications of this option. We would be happy to arrange a climb for you from our Excel Series via the Western Breach. I would suggest our 8 day Lemosho route.

If pushed as to my own personal preference for you, I recommend any of the unique B2C Rongai or b2c Lemosho Routes, as these have been configured to make maximum use of the available topography with regards to acclimatization and preparation prior to assaulting the summit, and also have the gentlest approach to high camp before the summit assault. As a third choice I would opt for the Machame Route.

On the mountain

Weather and Temperature on Kilimanjaro

Not only will the change of seasons affect the weather and temperature on Kilimanjaro, but also the altitude will have an impact. Walking through the humid rainforests on the lower slopes the temperature could be a balmy 20 degrees, but upon the summit, it could plummet to as low as minus 20. Be sure to read through our clothing and equipment section above so you are able to choose your clothing accordingly.

What do I Need in my Day Pack?

At Bush 2 City we want your journey from slope to summit to be mesmerizing, memorable, and magical – this is why we hire local porters to carry your heavy belongings, so you can take the time to enjoy the view. The only thing you will need to carry in your daypack. Your daypack should weigh no more than 5-6 kg to keep you comfortable and should contain water, waterproof clothing, sunscreen, a camera if you wish, and maybe some snacks to keep your energy high on the ascent. Those taking prescription medication should also be sure to pack them in their daypack.

1. Sweets

2. Water (3 liters water carrying capacity – bladder system, with  insulated hose, recommended, or water bottles)

3. Camera

4. Sun hat/sunglasses and sun cream

5. Travel Pack Toilet Tissues and Wet Wipes

6. Waterproof jacket and trousers

7. Walking poles

8. Small personal Medical kit –  including chopstick, for ready access and non-altitude-specific medicines. (Your guide will be carrying a much more comprehensive medical kit.)

Tents and Camping Equipment’s

As regards the equipment we provide, our Advantage Series climbs are configured to aim to ensure the best possible acclimatization and preparation for the assault by maximizing hydration, nutrition, and rest. To this end, we use mess tents, tables, and chairs for virtually all meals. This allows us to have a very leisurely lunch every day under shelter that will typically include a soup starter, light pasta dish, and fruit pudding. We, therefore, provide the entire equipment requisite for these arrangements. We supply climbers with lightweight waterproof, breathable sleeping tents and 4cm thick sleeping mattresses. We include lightweight Portable Toilets as standard on all of our climbs.

List Of Equipment For Climbing Kilimanjaro (36 Items)

This is the standards of personal equipment every climber will need to have to approach high altitude At the entrance to the national park there are a couple of rental points where you can rent some equipment. Basically, these are sleeping bags, trekking poles, polyurethane rugs and headlamps. But the best course is to bring all the equipment with you, since rolling equipment has a state far from the first freshness.

CAMPING EQUIPMENTS - 3 Elements

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Camping Accessories

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Medium (5 to 29 Degree) Down Sleeping Bags

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Sleeping Pads
CLIMBING EQUIPMENT - 1 Elements

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Trekking Palls 

FOOTWEAR - 6 Elements
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Ski Socks
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Hiking Socks
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Approach Shoes
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Hiking & Trekking Boots
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Overboots & Gaiters
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Sandals
HANDWEAR - 2 Elements
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Gloves
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Gloves
PERSONAL EQUIPMENTS - 6 Elements
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Backpack
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Packing Solutions
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Thermos
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Sun & Skin Protection
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Water Bottles
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Knives & Tools
TECHNICAL CLOTHING - 10 Elements
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Technical Shells
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Technical Pant Shell
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Long underwear bottoms
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Long underwear tops
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Long underwear bottoms
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Fleece Jackets
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Down Jackets
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T-Shirts
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Long Sleeve Shirts
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Soft-Shell Pants
OTHERS - 3 Elements
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Duffer Bags
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First Aid Kits
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Toiletry Kits

Climb Preparations

Is Climbing Kilimanjaro Safe?

If you only read one page on our site, this should be it.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is probably one of the most dangerous things you will ever do. Every year, approximately 1,000 people are evacuated from the mountain, and about ten deaths are reported. The actual number of deaths is believed to be two to three times higher. The leading cause of death is altitude sickness. Everyone climbing Mount Kilimanjaro should be familiar with the symptoms of altitude sickness. And everyone climbing Kilimanjaro should choose an operator like Bush 2 City Adventure that has the proper safety systems in place.

Bush 2 City Adventure Safety Precautions:

  • – Our staff abides by the Standard Operating Procedures to prevent clients from exposure to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) while in the country.
  • – Our guides are highly experienced in preventing, detecting, and treating altitude sickness because they handle over 1,000 climbers per year.
  • – Our guides conduct twice-daily health checks using a pulse oximeter to monitor your oxygen saturation and pulse rate.
  • – Our guides administer the Lake Louise Scoring System (LLSS) to help determine whether you have symptoms of altitude sickness and their severity.
  • – Our guides are certified Wilderness First Responders (WFR). They have the tools to make critical medical and evacuation decisions on location.
  • – Our staff carries bottled oxygen on all climbs and can administer it to treat climbers with moderate and serious altitude sickness quickly.
  • – Our staff carries a portable stretcher on northern routes to evacuate climbers who need to descend but are unable to walk on their own. Wheeled stretchers provided by the park are available on other routes.
  • – Our staff can initiate helicopter evacuation through Kilimanjaro Search and Rescue (SAR), a helicopter rescue operation.
  • – Our staff carries a first aid kit to treat minor scrapes, cuts, and blisters.

The above-listed measures ensure that Bush 2 City Adventure guides and staff are prepared to keep our climbers safe and treat climbers who become ill or injured. Your health and well being are of utmost importance to us and paramount to an enjoyable and memorable experience.

WARNING: Most Kilimanjaro operators do not have safety measures in place. They are simply not prepared for emergencies. While it is true that most operators employ guides with many years of experience on Mount Kilimanjaro, that does not necessarily mean they know how to handle severe altitude sickness cases. Consider the following excerpt from the Journal of Travel Medicine:

We present the above scenarios not to scare you but to inform you. Because anyone who contemplates climbing Kilimanjaro must understand the risks. While the dangers associated with high altitude trekking can never be eliminated, they absolutely can be minimized by a competent, professional operator. And we are not exaggerating when we say that we here at Bush 2 City Adventure would be comfortable sending our friends, family, and loved ones on Kilimanjaro with less than a dozen active companies.

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Bush 2 City Adventure is fully compliant with the Standard Operating Procedures published by Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The two main goals of the new procedures are to ensure that tourists entering the country do not bring in COVID-19 and to prevent tourists from infection while in the country.

Extra precautions are taken when interacting with clients and when packing, transporting, and preparing food and equipment for climbers. Personal protective equipment is worn by staff, and the number of staff interactions with clients is also limited.

Our clients should expect the following on their climb:

  • – Tourists will be subjected to a rapid test procedure on arrival at the airport and a temperature checking park gate and hotels. Individuals showing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 on arrival in Tanzania will be directed to a medical team for further consultation.
  • – All mountain crew will wear masks when they are in vehicles, at the park gate, and camp. Hotel staff will wear masks when interacting with clients.
  • – All mountain crew and hotel staff will maintain at least three feet (one meter) from clients. However, in dealing with a medical emergency, it may be necessary to be in closer proximity.
  • – All clients must wear a mask when traveling in vehicles and when in public places. Clients are required to supply their masks. Medical masks (KN95, N95, surgical masks) and non-medical face coverings (cloth mask, neck gaiter, Buff) are sufficient.
  • – Clients should carry hand sanitizer on their person at all times. Clients are required to supply their own hand sanitizer.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

The percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere at sea level is about 21%. As altitude increases, the percentage remains the same, but the number of oxygen molecules per breath is reduced. At 12,000 feet (3,600 m), there are roughly 40% fewer oxygen molecules per breath, so the body must adjust to having less oxygen. Altitude sickness, known as AMS, is caused by the failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced oxygen at increased altitudes. Altitude sickness can occur in some people as low as 8,000 feet, but severe symptoms do not usually occur until over 12,000 feet.

Mountain medicine recognizes three altitude categories:

  • – High altitude: 4,900 to 11,500 ft (1,500 to 3,500 m)
  • – Very high altitude: 11,500 to 18,000 ft (3,500 to 5,500 m)
  • – Extreme altitude: 18,000 ft and above (5,500 m and above)

 

In the first category, high altitude, AMS, and decreased performance are common. In the second category, very high altitude, AMS, and reduced performance are expected. And in extreme heights, humans can function only for short periods, with acclimatization. Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit stands at 19,340 feet – in extreme altitude.

At over 10,000 feet (3,000 m), more than 75% of climbers will experience at least some form of mild AMS.

There are four factors related to AMS:

  • – High Altitude
  • – Fast Rate of Ascent
  • – High Degree of Exertion
  • – Dehydration

The leading cause of altitude sickness is going too high (altitude) too quickly (rate of ascent). Given enough time, your body will adapt to the decrease in oxygen at a specific altitude. This process is known as acclimatization and generally takes one to three days at any given altitude. Several changes take place in the body which enable it to cope with decreased oxygen:

  • – The depth of respiration increases
  • – The body produces more red blood cells to carry oxygen
  • – Pressure in pulmonary capillaries is increased, “forcing” blood into parts of the lung that are generally not used when breathing at sea level
  • – The body produces more of a particular enzyme that causes the release of oxygen from hemoglobin to the body tissues

 

Again, AMS is ubiquitous at high altitudes. It is difficult to determine who may be affected by altitude sickness since there are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlate with susceptibility. Many people will experience mild AMS during the acclimatization process. The symptoms usually start 12 to 24 hours after arrival at altitude and will generally disappear within 48 hours. The symptoms of Mild AMS include:

  • – Headache
  • – Nausea & Dizziness
  • – Loss of appetite
  • – Fatigue
  • – Shortness of breath
  • – Disturbed sleep
  • – A general feeling of malaise

 

Symptoms tend to be worse at night and when respiratory drive is decreased. Mild AMS does not interfere with regular activity, and symptoms generally subside as the body acclimatizes. As long as symptoms are mild and only a nuisance, ascent can continue at a moderate rate.

While hiking, you must communicate any symptoms of illness immediately to others on your trip.

The signs and symptoms of Moderate AMS include:

  • – Severe headache that is not relieved by medication
  • – Nausea and vomiting, increasing weakness and fatigue
  • – Shortness of breath
  • – Decreased coordination (ataxia)

 

Normal activity is challenging, although the person may still be able to walk on their own. At this stage, only advanced medications or descent can reverse the problem. It is essential to get the person to descend before the ataxia reaches the point where they cannot walk on their own (which would necessitate a stretcher evacuation). Descending only 1,000 feet (300 m) will result in some improvement, and 24 hours at the lower altitude will result in a significant improvement.

Continuing on to a higher altitude while experiencing moderate AMS can lead to death.

Severe AMS increases the severity of the symptoms mentioned above, including:

  • – Shortness of breath at rest
  • – Inability to walk
  • – Decreasing mental status
  • – Fluid buildup in the lungs

 

Severe AMS requires immediate descent of around 2,000 feet (600 m) to a lower altitude. There are two serious conditions associated with severe altitude sickness; High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). Both of these happen less frequently, especially to those who are properly acclimatized. But, when they do occur, it is usually in people going too high too fast or going very high and staying there. In both cases, the lack of oxygen results in fluid leakage through the capillary walls into either the lungs or the brain.

 

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

HAPE results from fluid buildup in the lungs. This fluid prevents effective oxygen exchange. As the condition becomes more severe, the level of oxygen in the bloodstream decreases, which leads to cyanosis, impaired cerebral function, and death. Symptoms of HAPE include:

  • – Shortness of breath at rest
  • – Tightness in the chest
  • – Persistent cough bringing up white, watery, or frothy fluid
  • – Marked fatigue and weakness
  • – A feeling of impending suffocation at night
  • – Confusion and irrational behavior

 

Confusion and irrational behavior are signs that insufficient oxygen is reaching the brain. In cases of HAPE, immediate descent of around 2,000 feet (600 m) is a necessary life-saving measure. Anyone suffering from HAPE must be evacuated to a medical facility for proper follow-up treatment.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

HACE is the result of the swelling of brain tissue from fluid leakage. Symptoms of HACE include:

  • – Headache
  • – Weakness
  • – Disorientation
  • – Loss of coordination
  • – Decreasing levels of consciousness
  • – Loss of memory
  • – Hallucinations & Psychotic behavior
  • – Coma

This condition is rapidly fatal unless the afflicted person experiences immediate descent. Anyone suffering from HACE must be evacuated to a medical facility for follow-up treatment.

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