Kilimanjaro Hiking Tours – The complete Mt Kilimanjaro guide to climbing Kilimanjaro

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Umbwe Route

The Umbwe route has the reputation of being the most challenging route to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. This is only true however if you choose to summit Mount Kilimanjaro’s, Uhuru peak, via the Arrow Glacier campsite and the Western breach. However if you choose to hike the Umbwe route with Kilimanjaro Hiking Tours, will the route with the southern circuit and attempt to summit from Barafu campsite, much safer option with more time to acclimatize. The Umbwe route is a steep Kilimanjaro route for the first 2 days and it is considered to be a difficult and challenging trail. This is because of some steep sections while ascending the Umbwe ridge to Baranco campsite. The Baranco wall can be also be a challenge for hikers with a fear of heights. For the first 2 days, the route offer unspoiled beautiful scenery, however traffic increase once you reach the Baranco campsite when the route merge with the southern circuit. Please click on the Umbwe map to see an enlarged Umbwe route map.

Recommended duration of climb

The 6 day Umbwe route is the minimum duration allowed for the Umbwe route, however we strongly recommend you choose the 7 day Umbwe route option. The biggest cause of altitude sickness is going too high, too fast and nobody can predict who will get altitude sickness and who not. Altitude sickness affect every person differently, irrespective of their age, fitness levels etc. By choosing the 7 day Umbwe route, do you allow your body more time to acclimatize and reduce the possibility to get altitude sickness.


Umbwe route advantagesUmbwe route disadvantages
7 Day Umbwe offer opportunity to climb high / sleep low, allowing for better acclimatization. Actual trail from the Umbwe gate to Barafu campsite is challenging.
The actual summit trail shorter less challenging than the Marangu route summit trail. The Baranco wall is a potential problem for hikers with a fear of heights.
Ascend and descend using different routes. High number of hikers can be expected for night 2 onwards.
Short distance to High campsite or Mweka campsite, after reaching the summit. Steep Kilimanjaro route especially for the first 2 days.
Quiet route for the first 2 days. Basic long drop style toilets at campsites.
Scenic and beautiful route. Some parts like the Baranco wall, subject to “bottled neck” effect due to high number of hikers.

6 Day Umbwe route itinerary – click here

7 Day Umbwe route itinerary

Day 1 – Umbwe Gate (1 800m / 5 905ft) – Umbwe Cave campsite (2 850m / 9 350ft)

Hiking time: 6 Hours
Distance: Approximately 11 km / 6.8 miles
Habitat: Forest (Montane)

Transfer 1 hour to the Machame gate to register and then transfer to the Umbwe gate, passing through villages with coffee and banana plantations. The route initially follows a forestry track winding up through the natural rain forest. It then narrows and steepens to climb the ridge between the Lonzo and Umbwe rivers, with huge trees surrounding you. The path offers some spectacular views of deep gorges.

Day 2 – Umbwe Cave campsite (2 850m) – Baranco campsite (3 900m) / 12 795ft)

Hiking time: 6 hours
Distance: Approximately 6.3 km / 3.9 miles
Habitat: Moorland

Shortly after leaving the campsite the forest starts thinning and is replaced by rockier terrain, sparser undergrowth and straggly, moss-covered trees. The path continues along a narrow, but spectacular ridge. From the Umbwe ridge the route descends slightly to the Baranco campsite. The campsite is situated in the valley below the Western Breach and Great Baranco Wall, which should provide you with a memorable sunset while your dinner is being prepared.

Day 3 – Acclimatization day

Baranco Campsite (3 900m / 12 795ft) to Lava Tower (4 600m / 15 091ft)

Hiking time: 5 to 6 hours
Distance: Approximately 6 km / 3.7 miles
Habitat: Semi-desert

Enjoy breakfast at Baranco campsite and then hike up to Lava Tower for lunch. At Lava tower you reach an altitude of 4 600m / 15 091ft and this offer you the opportunity to climb high and sleep low, helping your body to acclimatize faster, reducing the possibility to get altitude sickness.  The descent to Baranco campsite takes about 2 hours and offers great opportunities to take some beautiful photographs.


Day 4 – Baranco campsite (3 900m) / 12 795ft) – Karanga campsite (3 995m / 13 105ft)

Hiking time: 6 hours
Distance: 6 km / 3.7 miles
Habitat: Semi desert

After breakfast, make your way up the Baranco wall, which in the end, normally turns out to be easier than anticipated. Topping out just below the Heim Glacier, you will now appreciate just how beautiful Kilimanjaro really is. One should keep in mind that there are three rises and falls before reaching Karanga campsite where you will have lunch, dinner and overnight.

Day 5 – Karanga campsite (3 995m / 13 105ft) – Barafu campsite (4 673m / 15 330ft)

Hiking time: 3 hours
Distance: 4 km / 2.5 miles
Habitat: Alpine desert

Enjoy breakfast and ascend 640m to Barafu campsite. Barafu is the Swahili word for “ice” and the Barafu campsite is totally exposed to the ever-present gales. The summit is now a further 1 222m / 4 009ft higher and you will commence with your final ascent attempt, the same night. Go to bed at round about 19h00 and try to get some precious rest and sleep.

Day 6 – Summit attempt

Ascend: Barafu campsite (4 673m / 15 330ft) – Uhuru Peak (5 895m / 19 341ft)

Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours to reach Uhuru Peak
Distance: Approximately 5 km / 3.1 miles
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit

Descend: Uhuru Peak (5 895m / 19 341ft) – Mweka (3 100m / 10 170ft)

Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours to reach Uhuru Peak, 6 to 8 hours to descend to Mweka Campsite
Distance: 12.5 km / 7.8 miles to Mweka campsite or 9 km / 5.6 miles to High campsite
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit

You will get up around 23h20, and after some tea and biscuits you shuffle off into the night. You will head in a north-westerly direction and ascend up a steep path towards Stella Point, located on the crater rim. For many climbers the 6-hour walk to Stella point is mentally and physically the most challenging part of the entire hike. At Stella Point (5 756m / 18 884ft) you will stop for a short rest and will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see (weather permitting). From Stella Point it is possible to encounter snow all the way on your 2-hour ascent to Uhuru Peak. Enjoy your accomplishment and a day to remember for the rest of your life!

The walk back to Barafu from the summit, takes about 3 hours. Here you will have a well-earned, but short rest and collect the rest of your gear. If the group managed to summit just after sunrise and everything was on schedule will we descend down to Mweka campsite (3 100m / 10 170ft). However if the summit attempt took longer than planned, will we overnight at High Campsite (3 950m / 12 960ft), which is located closer to Barafu campsite.

Day 7 – Final descend with the Mweka route

Shorter: Mweka campsite (3 100m / 10 170ft) – Mweka Gate (1 640m / 5 380ft)

Hiking time: 3 to 4 hours
Distance: Approximately 10 km / 6.2 miles
Habitat: Forest


Longer: High campsite (3 950m / 12 960ft) – Mweka Gate (1 640m / 5 380ft)

Hiking time: 5 to 7 hours
Distance: From High Campsite approximately 13.5 km Mweka campsite approximately 13.5 km / 8.4 miles
Habitat: Forest

After an early and well-deserved breakfast, it is a short 3 to 4 hour scenic hike from Mweka campsite to the Mweka gate on the Mweka route. If the group spend the last night at High Campsite it will be slightly longer 5 to 7 hour hike down to the Mweka gate.

At Mweka gate, you sign your name and details in a register. This is also where successful climbers will receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Stella Point (5 756m / 18 884ft) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5 895m / 19 341ft) receive gold certificates. Drive back to the hotel for a long overdue hot shower and well deserved rest!