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Climb Mount Kilimanjaro: Umbwe Route  The Natural Adventure Company

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro: Umbwe Route

Overview

Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world at 5895 m above sea level. It is located in Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania and is one of the most popular climbing destinations globally. All our Kilimanjaro itineraries are privately guided – you can start on any date you wish, subject to availability, and we are happy to accommodate solo travellers, too (supplement may apply). We typically provide one chief English-speaking guide plus an assistant guide per every two people, as well as three porters per climber and one cook for the group. Our Kilimanjaro private departures offer arguably the best value for money on the market with an above-average success rate.

There are several trekking routes to the summit, and among them, the Umbwe Route is considered to be the most challenging way to climb Kilimanjaro as it is short, steep and direct. Due to the quick ascent, Umbwe does not provide the necessary stages for altitude acclimatization, and that is why it is suitable for very experienced hikers. While success rates are lower compared to the other routes, it offers a challenging but rewarding trek away from the crowds.

Our standard Umbwe Route itinerary is 7 nights (6 trekking days, 8 days total). As all our departures are private, we can be quite flexible and on request, we can adapt the itinerary and make it shorter or longer to suit your preferences and stamina.

Click to view map

*This map is for general reference only and it should not be used for navigation purposes.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Arusha | 1400 m

Pick up at Kilimanjaro international airport, met with your guide and drive to your hotel in Arusha, where you overnight before the trek begins.

Day 2: Umbwe Gate – Umbwe Cave Camp | 2850 m

After breakfast, you will be driven to the Machame gate where registration formalities will be completed. From the Machame gate, you will be transferred to the Umbwe Gate (1641 m), passing through villages surrounded by coffee and banana plantations. The air is thick with moisture, and the path is usually muddy. 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 and, if you are lucky, glimpses of Kilimanjaro towering above you in the distance. The camp is perched between huge trees and thick undergrowth. Enjoy dinner and overnight at the Umbwe Cave Camp.

  • Hiking for the day: 6 hours, ~11 km ↑1293 m; final elevation: 2850 m

Day 3: Umbwe Cave Camp – Barranco Camp | 3950 m

Shortly after leaving the camp 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. As you gain higher altitude, catch glimpses of Kilimanjaro rising majestically ahead of you – etched against the blue sky. The path flattens as you approach Barranco Valley. From the Umbwe ridge, the route descends slightly to the Barranco camp. The camp is situated in the valley below the Breach and Great Barranco Wall, which should provide you with a memorable sunset while your dinner is prepared.

  • Hiking for the day: 4-6 hours, ~6 km ↑1042 m; final elevation: 3950 m

Day 4: Barranco Camp – Karanga Camp | 4000 m

After spending a night at the Great Barranco Wall (a very imposing sight), you make your way up this awesome looking obstacle, 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. The route then heads down through the Karanga Valley over intervening ridges and valleys and then joins up with the Mweka route. This is the preferred route down from the summit. The last water stop on the route is the Karanga Valley, as there is no water available at Barafu camp. Enjoy dinner and overnight at the Karanga camp.

  • Hiking for the day: 4-5 hours, ~6 km ↑48 m; final elevation: 4000 m

Day 5: Karanga Camp – Barafu Camp | 4600 m

Breakfast at Karanga camp and after breakfast turn left up the ridge and the route ascends 640 m towards Barafu Camp. Barafu is the Swahili word for “ice”. Totally exposed to the ever-present gales, the tents are pitched on a narrow, stony, and dangerous ridge. Make sure that you familiarize yourself with the terrain before dark to avoid any accidents. You will commence with your final ascent attempt, the same night, so prepare your equipment, hiking poles and thermal clothing. This should include the replacement of your headlamp and camera batteries and make sure you have a spare set available as well. To prevent freezing it will be wise to carry your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed as early as possible and try to get some precious rest and sleep.

  • Hiking for the day: 3-4 hours, ~4 km ↑600 m; final elevation: 4600 m

Day 6: Barafu Camp – The Summit – Mweka Camp | 5895 m

You will get up at around 23:30 h, and after some tea and biscuits, you shuffle off into the night. You will head in a north-western direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. For many climbers, the 6-hour walk to Stella point is mentally and physically the most challenging on the route. At Stella Point (5739 m) you will stop for a short rest and will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise (weather permitting). From Stella Point, you will normally encounter snow all the way on your 2-hour ascent to Uhuru Peak. The time you will spend on the summit will depend on the weather conditions. 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, before heading down to Mweka hut (3100 m). The route is not difficult and will take you down the rock and scree path into the moorland and eventually into the forest. The camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Dinner and washing water will be prepared for you.

Hiking for the day:

  • Barafu – Uhuru: 7 hours, ~5 km ↑1300 m; final elevation: 5895 m
  • Uhuru – Mweka Camp: 5-6 hours, ~12 km, ↓2800 m; final elevation: 3100 m

Day 7: Mweka Camp – Mweka Gate – Arusha | 1400 m

After an early and well-deserved breakfast, it is a short and scenic hike back to the park gate. Some hikers do experience knee problems which could make the descent longer than planned. It is strongly recommended not to pay your porters any tips until you and all your gear have reached the gate safely. At Mweka Gate, you sign your name and details in a register. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Stella Point (5739 m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895 m) receive gold certificates. From the Mweka Gate, you will continue down into the Mweka village, normally a muddy 3 km/1-hour hike. In the Mweka village, you will meet your driver for a ride back to Arusha.

  • Hiking for the day: 4 hours, ~10 km ↓1250 m; final elevation: 1400 m
  • Overnight in Arusha: SG Premium Resort or similar

Day 8: Departure

Transfer to Kilimanjaro Airport and departure. Possible safari extension on request.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation in Arusha is in a 3-star hotel on a twin share basis. The accommodation during the hike is in tents in camps. There is no electricity in the camps inside the national park, and we recommend climbers to bring battery chargers they can plug in the car, or the driver will take you to the nearest lodge to charge batteries. Public toilets are available at the camps, but they are often quite filthy; therefore, our standard package always includes a private portable toilet. There are no showers in the camps and no Wi-Fi.

Sample hotel in Arusha: SG Premium Resort

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a property of equal standard. We will provide full accommodation details upon booking confirmation.

Meals

All meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – are included during the hike – from lunch on day 2 to the lunch on day 7. In Arusha, only breakfast is included. A typical breakfast includes porridge, fruits, omelette, toasted bread, cheese, sausages, coffee, tea, hot chocolate. A lunch box contains chicken or fish, fruits, biscuits, chocolate, fruit juice. Dinner includes soup, bread, pasta, rice, chicken, fruits, tea, coffee etc. A vegetarian menu can be arranged on request.

Difficulty & terrain

This is a demanding trek (read more about difficulty grades). The Umbwe route should only be attempted by strong and experienced hikers who are confident in their ability to acclimatize. Walking pace will be slow and steady. 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. The final ascent is made very early in the morning from the Barafu Camp. For the descent, we will use the Mweka Route, which is quicker and offers different landscapes to enjoy.

When to go

This trip is available with daily private departures, year-round. Best time to climb weatherwise is either between June and October or between December and February – which are also the busiest times. In April and May, there are generally fewer climbers because of the rain season. Mt. Kilimanjaro climate features 5 different zones. At the beginning of the climb, the average temperature is around 27°C to 32°C and tends to be relatively stable year-round. At the summit, Uhuru Peak, evening temperatures range between -18°C to -26°C. As the weather is often unpredictable, you should always be prepared for lower temperatures than expected and for rain even in the dry season.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Recommended airport: Kilimanjaro International Airport

  • Transfers Kilimanjaro Airport – Arusha and Arusha – Kilimanjaro Airport are included in the price (one arrival and one departure transfer per party)
  • It is also possible to fly to Nairobi Aiport and take a shuttle to Arusha, about 5-hour drive. You will need a visa to Kenya.

Good to know

  • Guides: the guides used are highly trained and qualified, registered with the Kilimanjaro National Parks Board. There will be one chief guide, and one assistant guide will be provided if more than 2 climbers are travelling.
  • Visas: the citizens of most European countries, the USA, Canada, Australia, need a visa to enter Tanzania, it is recommended that you apply online for an eVisa in advance
  • Luggage transportation: your luggage will be placed in specially designed waterproof bags carried by the porters, giving it that extra protection if it is wet on the mountain.
  • Altitude sickness: while climbing, you may experience different symptoms of mild altitude sickness, with the most common being headaches, light-headedness, nausea, sleeplessness and a loss of appetite, loss of balance and dizziness. In most cases, these can be controlled by taking painkillers such as panadol or similar. It’s important to eat well and maintain your energy. Staying hydrated is essential, and you should drink a minimum of 3 litres daily.
  • Sun injuries: it is strongly recommended to use a 30+ sun protection cream at lower altitudes, and a total block cream above an altitude of 3000 m. Wearing sunglasses when climbing is a must, especially for the summit hike as the morning reflection of the sun can lead to snow blindness.
  • Tips guidelines: head guide – 200-250 USD; assistant guide – 100-150 USD; cook – 100-120 USD; porter – 30-40 USD
  • Equipment: we recommend that you travel as lightly as possible, bringing backpacks and not suitcases.

Inclusions

Included

  • Transfers from/to Kilimanjaro Airport
  • Transfers to/from the national park gates
  • 6-day Umbwe route trek with a full board from lunch on day 2 to lunch on day 7
  • 2 overnights at a 3-star hotel in Arusha in private rooms with ensuite facilities and included breakfast
  • All park fees and government taxes
  • Tents and mattresses on the trek
  • Private chemical toilet available on all days
  • Boiled water
  • First aid kit box, oxygen cylinder
  • Services of a private English-speaking professional mountain guide and one assistant guide per every two climbers
  • 3 porters per climber, 1 cook per party

Excluded

  • Airfare
  • Lunches and dinners in Arusha, drinks, snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Tips to guides and porters
  • Sleeping bag, own climbing equipment
  • Tanzanian visa
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as some costs are not shared
  • Extra nights in Arusha are available upon request
  • A sleeping bag can be rented on the spot for about 20 USD

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