Kilimanjaro – Trekking Routes For The Insurmountable Mountain

Kilimanjaro and a Giraffe by Ahmad Khadhran on

Historically Africa has always won nature’s bounty. From time immemorial, the lost continent with bewildered nature has taken ride in its vast landscape, Savannah, sprawling species of animals and even volcanic mountains. Yes, Kilimanjaro is what I am talking about. The dormant volcano with around three cones, “Kibo”, “Mawenzi” and “Shira” is the undoubtedly main attraction of Tanzania. The height of the mountain humbles all other ranges of the continent, a soaring 4,900 meters from its base to 5,895 meters above sea level.

Naturally, it has been long in the radar of inquisitive humans to be explored and more. Many adventure tourists have paved the road for history of mankind. Kilimanjaro , as the name suggests, “Mountains of Caravans” has been long a subject of adventure escapades of non indigenous explorers as well as scientific studies for receding glacier levels and ice capped mountains.

Following is a list of the most famous trekking route that hikers use to climb atop the mighty Kilimanjaro. Please be advised to carry along necessary equipment and guidance and advice to avoid any mishap enroute.

1. Marangu Route

The trek encompasses the shortest time period (5 days) and thus allows the hiker to spend one extra day atop the mountain (altogether a 6 days trek). The trail is popular and crowded, with a lot of makeshift commercial shops selling mineral water, chocolates and even beers enroute. Shared huts with accommodation for the night is available on payment.

On the way you will pass through the jungles and rain-forest, finally reaching the plateau beyond the much acclaimed moorland. The rim of the Maundi Crater is a highlight of a short detour. Take a moment to appreciate the majestic glaciers of Kibo in the morning sun.

2. Machame Route

Any experienced backpacker will tell you volumes of the Machame Route that lets you take the best view of the quintessential most scenic hiking trail. An ascending path from the small village at the lap of the mountain will take you all the way through rain forest, muddy slopes, steep rocky ridge, Shira Plateau, multiple astounding beautiful valleys, and trails all along. The trek is of a week’s time, allowing you to slowly hike and ample time to acclimatize. The day before ascent to the summit calls for a camp stay at night and a midnight hike. Rain gear is one essential equipment for this trip.

3. Rongai Route

The only route approaching Kilimanjaro from the north, the Rongai route is highly suggested for those with less of backpacking experience. The trail is rather remote and less crowded. It is close to the Kenyan border. Not as rewarding as other scenic alternative routes, Rongai flaunts a more gradual slope than the mountain’s other routes and receives lesser rainfalls. A moderately difficult route, Rongai calls for a week’s hike up on the trail. You reach there by crossing vast fields of corn and potato farming and climb up by passing through true wilderness areas.

4. Umbwe Route

A secluded and scenic route, Umbwe is a dangerous yet rewarding hike up the mountains. A steep, constant, straight climb to the top make Umbwe the most difficult route on the mountain. The ascent profile is not kind to the climbers and allow less time to adjust to the altitude. The success rate is very low. All these reasons make hikers avoid the trail however it is ideal for those who want a challenging climb, and are very confident in their ability trek over consistently steep slopes. A trek of 6 to 7 days is recommended on this trail. You may not expect a scenic trail compared to the other routes.

5. Shira Route

One of the oldest trail crossing the Shira Plateau, the trail allows travelers to ascent to the summit at ease. The road here is mostly paved for cars thus allowing you a steady access, sometime even within 4 days. Please be advised the route will not allow you any glimpse of the prized rain forest of the area. The emergency vehicles frequent the route in abundance thus allowing easy commute in case of need.

6. Lemosho Route

Lemosho is favored route for the hikers who wants to have a more complete experience, one that includes both ascending and descending via all the vegetation zones.the hike is for around 8 days amid extremely scenic views. Most prominent Kilimanjaro operators use this trail to conduct the hike. You will walk through the forest to reach multiple camp sites. On your way expect to see a Savannah of tall grasses, heather, volcanic rock draped with lichen beards, several streams, lush mountain valleys, glacier peak, moorland meadows by a stream and many other exotic places. The camp sites are frequent and allow you for acclimatization effectively.

7. Northern Circuit Route

The most recent of all hiking trails discovered to explore Kilimanjaro, the Northern tour calls for a 11 days toil up on the mountain. The most visually stunning experience through this 11 day long trek lets you take a glimpse of the best of African wilderness. You also undergo gradual and complete acclimatization before reaching the summit due to the long trail time. The Northern Circuit also boasts of the highest climb success rate out of all the routes up Kilimanjaro. The majestic barren landscape of the Low Alpine moorland zone, enormous violet lobelias and wild vegetation, stunning campsite atop the sprawling Kenyan plane are all standing at alert to astonish you!

While the hike is quite a daunting challenge and does call for adrenaline rush please be advised about the dangers associated as well. Kilimanjaro’s summit is way above the altitude that bars life threatening acute mountain sickness. Do not rush to keep in terms with high daily national park fees, busy holiday travel schedules, and the lack of permanent shelter in most routes but instead slow down, and take your time to ascend amid the spectacular natural beauty. Be careful of the falls on steep portions of the mountain and rock slides that have previously killed trekkers. Apart from wild elephants, cape buffaloes and sparse wolf populace, there is no dangerous wildlife looming large en-route either.

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