Arusha to Machame Gate to Machame Camp:
Elevation (m): 1,390m to 1,640m to 2,980m
Elevation (ft): 4,560ft to 5,380ft to 9,780ft
Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
Hiking Distance: 11km
Terrain: Montane Forest
After breakfast at your hotel, you will be driven to Machame Village where your guides and porters will prepare and pack your equipment and supplies. After registering at the park office, you will start your ascent and enter the rainforest immediately. Heavy rains on this side of the mountain often transform the trail into a soggy, slippery experience, so good footwear, walking poles and gaiters are useful. You will enjoy a lunch stop halfway up and reach Machame Camp in late afternoon. Your porters will arrive at camp and erect your tent before you arrive. In the evening, enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by your cook. Dress warmly. Night temperatures can drop to freezing at Machame Camp.
Machame Camp to Shira 2 Camp:
Elevation (m): 2,980m to 3,840m
Elevation (ft): 9,780ft to 12,600ft
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
Hiking Distance: 5km
After rising early in the morning, enjoy your breakfast at Machame Camp. Climb for an hour to the top of the forest, followed by 2 hours of hiking through gentle moorland. After a short lunch and rest, continue up a rocky ridge onto the Shira Plateau where you will be able to see Kilimanjaro’s great Western Breach with its stunning glaciers. Sometimes, the walls of the Western Breach are draped with extensive ice curtains. You are now west of the Kibo volcanic cone where Uhuru Peak is located. After a short hike westward, you will reach the Shira campsite. The night at this exposed camp will be colder, with temperatures dropping below freezing. Make sure you put layers of clothing on to keep warm.
Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp:
Elevation (m): 3,840m to 4,630m then down to 3,950m
Elevation (ft): 12,600ft to 15,190ft then down to 12,960ft
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours ascent then 2-3 hours descent
Hiking Distance: 7km ascent then 3km descent
After breakfast, you will walk up a steepening path above the highest vegetation toward Kilimanjaro’s looming mass. After a few hours of walking, you pass through a rocky landscape to reach a prominent landmark called Lava Tower, also called the “Shark’s Tooth”, at 4,630m/15,190ft. This chunky remnant of Kilimanjaro’s earlier volcanic activity is several hundred feet high, and the trail passes right below it. After a lunch stop near Lava Tower, descend for 2-3 hours below the lower cliffs of the Western Breach to reach Barranco Camp at 3,950m/12,960 ft. There are numerous photo opportunities on this hike, especially if the cliffs are festooned with ice. Barranco Camp is located in a valley below the Western Breach. While you are waiting for your dinner, the Great Barranco Wall in the backdrop will provide you with a memorable sunset. On this day, be careful to notice any signs of altitude sickness. Although you will end the day at almost the same elevation as when you started, this “climb high sleep low” approach is very useful for acclimatization and will help your body prepare for summit day.
Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp:
Elevation (m): 3950m to 4200m
Elevation (ft): 12,600ft to 13,800ft
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Hiking Distance: 5km
Terrain: Alpine Desert
After spending a night under the Great Barranco Wall, you climb this awesome obstacle, which is one of the highlights of the trek. Topping out just below the Heim Glacier, you can now appreciate just how beautiful Kilimanjaro really is. The Machame route then winds down through Karanga Valley and goes over intervening ridges and valleys to join the Mweka route, which you will use later for descending the mountain. You have now completed the South Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. Tonight, you will rest at Karanga Camp, where the last water stop is.
Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp:
Elevation (m): 4200m to 4550m
Elevation (ft): 13,800ft to 14,930ft
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Hiking Distance: 4km
Terrain: Alpine Desert
The famous snows of Kilimanjaro are near the summit of the mountain far above Barafu Camp. Barafu is the Swahili word for “ice”. Totally exposed to the ever-present gales, Bafaru Camp is not a very hospitable place to spend the night. Your tent will be pitched on a narrow, stony, wind-swept ridge, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the terrain before dark to avoid any accidents. Prepare your equipment and warm clothing for your summit attempt. This should include replacing your headlamp and camera batteries and making sure that you have a spare set available. To prevent freezing, consider carrying your water in a thermal flask. If you are using a water bladder/hydration pack, make sure you have an insulation sleeve for the drinking tube. After an early supper, go to bed by 7pm and try to get a few hours of precious sleep before a very early start the next day.
Summit Day! Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka:
Elevation (m): 4,550m to 5,895m then down to 3,100m
Elevation (ft): 14,930ft to 19,340ft then down to 10,170ft
Hiking Time: 7-8 hours ascent then 6-8 hours descent
Hiking Distance: 5km ascent then 12km descent
Terrain: Volcanic rock scree, seasonal snow and ice-capped summit
This long but memorable day of trekking starts with rising around midnight. After some steaming hot tea and a light breakfast, you shuffle off into the night. The 6-hour climb northwest up through heavy scree between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers to Stella Point on the crater rim is the most challenging part of the route for most climbers. At Stella Point (5,685 m/18,650 ft), you can stop for a short rest and a chance to see a supremely sanguine sunrise. But do not stop here for too long, as it will be extremely difficult to start again due to cold and fatigue. Depending on the season and latest weather conditions, you may encounter fresh snow on your remaining hike along the Kibo crater rim to Uhuru Peak. On the summit, you can enjoy your accomplishment and know that you are creating a day that you will remember for the rest of your life. After a 3-hour descent from the summit back to Barafu Camp, you can have a short well-earned rest. After collecting your gears, hike down a rock and scree path into the moorland and eventually into the forest to reach Mweka Camp (3,100m/10,170ft). Gaiters and trekking poles will be very helpful as you are going down the slope with the loose gravel. This camp is in the upper forest, so you can expect mist or rain in the late afternoon. Your delicious dinner and washing water await you and celebration time begins!
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate to Arusha:
Elevation (m): 3,100m to 1,640m to 1,390m
Elevation (ft): 10,170ft to 5,380ft to 4,560ft
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Hiking Distance: 10km
After a well-deserved breakfast, you will have a short, scenic hike down to the park gate. Hiking trails in the rainforest at lower elevations are often wet and muddy, so gaiters and trekking poles will help. Shorts and t-shirts are probably sufficient but keep rain gear and warmer clothing handy on your hike. Remember to tip your guides, cook and porters at the gate as you will be leaving them there. After signing your name at the register, you will receive your summit certificates at Mweka Gate. Climbers who have reached Stella Point are issued green certificates and those who have reached Uhuru Peak will receive gold certificates. You will be served a delicious lunch at Mweka Village, after which you will be driven back to Arusha for an overdue hot shower and comfortable night.