Umbwe Route

The Umbwe route has a well-deserved reputation of being the most challenging route on Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to the fast ascent to high altitude, this route does not provide the necessary stages for acclimatization.

Although the number of people on this trail is very low, the chances of success are also low. Umbwe is considered to be very difficult, taxing route – one that should only be attempted by strong hikers who are confident in their ability to acclimatize quickly to altitude.

Approaching from the south, the Umbwe route is a short, steep and direct climb. After reaching Barranco Camp, the trail turns east and traverses underneath Kilimanjaro’s Southern Ice Field on a path known as the Southern Circuit before summiting from Barafu. Descent is made via the Mweka route.

How Long is the Umbwe Route?

The distance of the Umbwe route is approximately 53 km or 32 miles.

How Many Days Does it Take to Climb Kilimanjaro on the Umbwe Route?

The Umbwe route is typically done in 6 or 7 days.

How Hard is it to Climb Kilimanjaro on the Umbwe Route?

The Umbwe route is considered the hardest route on Mount Kilimanjaro. The trail is steep and challenging, gaining altitude very quickly. The rapid speed of the ascent makes acclimatization difficult.

What is the Success Rate of Climbing Kilimanjaro on the Umbwe Route?

Data for the Umbwe route is lacking. We estimate that the success rate of the 6 day Umbwe route is approximately 50%. The 7 day Umbwe route has a success rate of about 70%.

6 DAY UMBWE ITINERARY

DAY 1 – Umbwe Gate to Umbwe Camp

Elevation: 5,249 ft to 9,514 ft

Hiking Time:  5-7 hours

Distance: 11 km | 7 miles

Habitat: Health

The day begins with a 50 minute drive to Machame Gate where registration formalities will be completed. We then transfer through villages and coffee and banana plantations to Umbwe Gate. The trail ascends sharply on a forestry track which winds up the dense rain forest. The path narrows and steepens as we climb the ridge between two rivers surrounded by huge trees. Umbwe Camp is perched between trees and thick undergrowth.

DAY 2 – Umbwe Camp to Barranco Camp

Elevation: 9,514 ft to 13,044 ft

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 6 km | 4 miles

Habitat: Health

The second day of the trek follows rockier terrain with sparse undergrowth and straggly, moss-covered trees. As we gain elevation, glimpses of Kilimanjaro can be seen.  The path flattens as we approach Barranco Valley. From Umbwe ridge, the route descends to Barranco Camp through the strange but beautiful Senecio Forest.

DAY 3 – Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp

Elevation: 13,044 ft to 13,106 ft

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Habitat: Alpine Desert

We begin the day by descending into a ravine to the base of the Great Barranco Wall. Then we climb the non-technical but steep, nearly 900 ft cliff. From the top of the Barranco Wall we cross a series of hills and valleys until we descend sharply into Karanga Valley. One more steep climb up leads us to Karanga Camp. This is a shorter day meant for acclimatization.

DAY 4 – Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp

Elevation: 13,106 ft to 15,331 ft

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 4 km | 2 miles

Habitat: Alpine Desert

We leave Karanga and hit the junction which connects with the Mweka Trail. We continue up to the rocky section to Barafu Hut. At this point, you have completed the Southern Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. Here we make camp, rest and enjoy an early dinner to prepare for the summit day. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are viewable from this position.

DAY 5 – Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak

Elevation: 15,331 ft to 19,341 ft

Hiking Time: 7-8 hours

Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Elevation: 19,341 ft to 10,065 ft

Hiking Time: 4-6 hours

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Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Habitat: Arctic

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Distance: 12 km | 7 miles

Habitat: Rain Forest

Very early in the morning (around midnight), we begin our push to the summit. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The wind and cold at this elevation and time of day can be extreme. We ascend in the darkness for several hours while taking frequent, but short, breaks. Near Stella Point (18,900 ft), you  will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see coming over Mawenzi Peak. Finally, we arrive at Uhuru Peak- the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa.

From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. The trail is very rocky and can be quite hard on the knees; trekking poles are helpful. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.

DAY 6 – Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate

Elevation: 10,065 ft to 5,380 ft

Hiking Time: 3-4 hours

Distance: 10 km | 6 miles

Habitat: Rain Forest

On our last day, we continue the descent to Mweka Gate and collect the summit certificates. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. From the gate, we continue another hour to Mweka Village. A vehicle will meet us at Mweka Village to drive us back to the hotel in Moshi.

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