Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Machame Route

The Machame Route is without a doubt one of the best routes by which to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It has a great mix of gentle slopes, tough inclines and great scenery. Few people come back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro via the Machame route without some of the best memories of their lives. A 7-day climb that can be done at anytime throughout the year so it’s easy to see why the Machame Route is a popular climb.

Machame Route: Overview

The Machame route is regarded as the best route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro by. Starting in the jungle, you climb through the forest on Kili’s south western slopes, spend a day on the Shira Plateau, get to see the Lava Tower and Barranco Valley, as well as having the option of summiting from Barafu Camp or the Western Breach, camping in the crater. This route also offers great views of Mawenzi. Another advantage of climbing the Machame Route is that you descend on the Mweka Route, meaning you get to see another section of Mount Kilimanjaro on the way down.

Our Machame Route climb lasts 7 days, including an acclimatization day in the Keranga Valley before your summit push. This gives you 2 short 4-hour days before the summit bid. Our Machame Route itinerary can be extended to 8 or even 9 days should you wish to do some extra exploring. On day 2 the Machame Route skirts the spectacular Shira Plateau and an extra day can be added here letting you explore the plateau and visit the giant lava towers of the Shira Cathedral. The Shira Plateau used to be a massive crater before an eruption caused the volcano to collapse leaving some great scenery.

Those climbing the Machame Route and summiting via the Western Breach spend more time on the plateau for acclimatization. Those climbing the standard summit route from Barafu Camp climb east from the plateau, merging with the Shira Route, Lemosho Route and the Umbwe Route on the Southern Circuit.

The Machame Route can be tough in places but with a good success rate, it is without a doubt on of the best ways to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Machame Route: Day 1 - MACHAME GATE TO MACHAME CAMP

Start:Machame Gate
5997ft / 1828m
Finish:Machame Camp
9948ft / 3032m
Gain:3951ft / 1204m
Distance:10.5km
Duration:5.5 hours

Pick-up from the hotel is around 8.00am. The drive to the Machame route gate takes about 1 hour. At the Machame route gate, Thomas has some paper work to do before you start. Heading into the jungle, a 4-wheel drive track climbs gently for about 1 hour. Here you enter thicker forest, often with cloud swirling through the trees and monkeys calling from the canopy above. The trail is well maintained. 2 hours from the end of the 4-wheel drive track you arrive at a clearing that we use for lunch stops.

Heading on after lunch the trail gets slightly steeper and as you climb and the trees begin to thin you can see that you’re climbing a narrow ridge between 2 shallow valleys. After 2 hours of climbing you reach the end of the forest; from here you enter the heather and moorland zone and after 15 minutes you reach Machame Camp, your first night's stop on the Machame route. Camp will have been set up for you by the porters and when you arrive you'll get hot drinks, popcorn and warm water for washing followed by dinner. The evening views of Kibo from Machame Camp are breath-taking.

Machame Route: Day 2 - MACHAME CAMP TO NEW SHIRA CAMP

Start:Machame Camp
9948ft / 3032m
Finish:New Shira Camp
12,620ft / 3847m
Gain:2672ft / 815m
Distance:5.25km
Duration:5 hours

Wake-up each day at 7.30am. Hot water and a large breakfast is provided, then Thomas will give you a quick medical check before you leave camp.

Today’s climb is relatively short but it can be taxing as you have a few steep sections to overcome and once through the cloud, the temperature rises under the direct sun. Leaving camp, you start straight into a steep section that will take you approx 1 hour to complete. You arrive at a large rocky outcrop from the top of which you get an amazing view of the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru in the distance. Another hour of steady incline brings you to the end of the renovated path and your lunch stop for the day.

The worst of the day’s climbing is now behind you. The trail winds northwest for 1 hour up to the Shira Plateau. Shira Camp is 20 minutes from the edge of the Plateau and has great views of the Shira Cathedral, Mount Meru and Kibo. You should arrive mid-afternoon giving you time to do some exploring. It can dip below freezing on the Shira Plateau at night so wrap up warm.

Machame Route: Day 3 - NEW SHIRA CAMP TO BARRANCO CAMP

NOTE: Today the Machame Route merges with the Lemosho Route, Shira Route and the Umbwe Route as all 4 join the Southern Circut

Start:Shira Huts
12,620ft / 3847m
Finish:Barranco Camp
13,070ft / 3985m
Gain:450ft / 138m
High Point:Lava Tower
15,230ft / 4642m
Max Gain:2610ft / 795m
Distance:9.5km
Duration:6-8 hours

Today you climb high and sleep low for acclimatization. Your destination is the impressive Barranco Valley. You have 2 options for getting there. Those who prefer a less strenuous day or those feeling the effects of altitude can climb a maximum height of 14,860ft / 4530m just after lunch before descending into the valley. Those who feel up for a little more adventure can continue climbing to the Lava Tower (15,230ft / 4642m) before their descent.

Leaving camp after breakfast you climb into increasingly barren land, straight towards Kibo. The trail rises gently as it winds across the Shira Plateau and after 3 hours you climb up a ridge and merge with the Shira Route and Lemosho Route on the Southern Circuit, near the lunch stop.

After lunch those heading directly to the Barranco Valley descend south for 2 hours to camp. The route has great views of the Lava Tower and the Western Breach. Those heading for the Lava Tower continue to climb a moderate slope for about 45 minutes before arriving at the foot of the Western Breach. After an hour of resting, exploring and even rock climbing you descend to camp, ending day 4 of the Lemosho route. Note that it is normal to have a headache by the end of today - plenty of fluids and a good rest almost always helps greatly.

Machame Route: Day 4 - BARRANCO CAMP TO KARANGA CAMP

NOTE: Today's itinerary for the Machame Route is the same as the Lemosho Route, Shira Route and the Umbwe Route

Start:Barranco Camp
13,070ft / 3985m
Finish:Karanga Camp
13,250ft / 4040m
Gain:180ft / 55m
Distance:5.25km
Duration:3-4 hours

Today's climb is short and beautiful, a favourite of many who climb the Machame route. Before leaving camp look south from camp down a deep gorge in the mountain. You should just be able to see Moshi town on the plains.

Today's main obstacle is the near vertical Barranco Wall. A path zigzags up to the top and while you will need both hands at times, it's a scramble not a rock climb. There is no rush and there are plenty of great photo opportunities on the Barranco Wall. It will take about 1 hour 30 minutes to reach the top, your highest point of the day at 13,890ft / 4233m.

From the top of the Barranco Wall Kibo rises in front of you, an amazing sight. From here it’s an hour's walk to the Karanga Valley. You begin a gentle descent of about 1km into a small valley before a short ascent out the other side. Then it’s another shallow downhill for 1.5km. A steep scramble down a slope takes you to the floor of a gorge (12,925ft / 3940m) and steep switchback path of about 330ft/100m, taking about 20 minutes, brings you to the Karanga Camp. The afternoon’s your own.

Machame Route: Day 5 - KARANGA CAMP TO BARAFU CAMP

NOTE: Today's itinerary for the Machame Route is the same as the Lemosho Route, Shira Route and the Umbwe Route

Start:Karanga Camp
13,250ft / 4040m
Finish:Barafu Camp
15,360ft / 4681m
Gain:2110ft / 641m
Distance:3.75km
Duration:3-4 hours

The penultimate day of the ascent and a short one. Leaving camp the path begins to rise and does so most of the way to Barafu Camp. The landscape is desolate and the Southern Icefields on the slopes of Kibo to your left add to the surreality of your surroundings. After a steady climb of 1 hour 30 minutes you enter a long, shallow valley. If you turn north and face Kibo, you are about inline with the summit, Uhuru Peak. A walk of 1 hour 15 minutes followed by a short steep scramble brings you out of the valley. Turning north you begin the last leg to Barafu, taking about 30 minutes and with no serious incline.

Once in camp you will get a solid meal and Thomas will brief you on the plan for the summit bid. The views of the summit and also of Mawenzi are great from Barafu. It can be hard to sleep at this altitude and it’s still going to be bright outside, with porters and climbers about, so an eye mask and ear plugs can be useful.

Machame Route: Day 6 Ascent - BARAFU CAMP TO THE SUMMIT

NOTE: Today's itinerary for the Machame Route is the same as the Lemosho Route, Shira Route and the Umbwe Route

Start:Barafu Camp
15,360ft / 4681m
Finish:Summit
19,340ft / 5895m
Gain:3980ft / 1214m
Distance:6.25km
Duration:approx 7 hours

You’ll be woken about 11.30pm and hot drinks and snacks will be served. It's vital that you drink as much as you can tonight, dehydration will end your climb. You have 4000ft/1220m to cover before reaching Uhuru Peak. Leaving camp you climb for about 2 hours to the top of a large ridge. From here the path is made of switchbacks to very near the rim. They are not overly steep but it is constant. From the top of the ridge to the end of the switchbacks will take about 3 hours 30 minutes.

As the switchbacks end you come to the last section of the climb to the crater rim. After 30 minutes you reach Stella Point at 18,870ft/5752m having climbed 3510ft/1070m from Barafu. You’ve now less than 500ft/150m to climb! From Stella Point the path turns southwest and after 45 minutes of steady but shallow incline you reach the iconic sign that marks the summit and the roof of Africa. Looking east, you see the sun rising over Africa, Mawenzi silhouetted against it and the Icefields and glaciers sparkling orange and pink in the early morning glow. Congratulations, you made it.

Machame Route: Day 6 Descent - SUMMIT TO MILLENNIUM CAMP

NOTE: Today's itinerary for the Machame Route is the same as the Lemosho Route, Shira Route and the Umbwe Route

Start:Summit
19,340ft / 5895m
Finish:Millennium Camp
12,533ft / 3820m
Drop:6801ft / 2075m
Distance:10.25km
Duration:6-8 hours

The descent follows the same path you climbed to reach the summit. Trekking poles are useful here; going down is tough on the knees. Depending on your physical state, the descent to Barafu Camp can take 2-4 hours. If you're feeling up to it, food will be provided before an hour or 2 of sleep before continuing down Mount Kilimanjaro.

Leaving Barafu you descend due south for 4km, loosing a lot of altitude over the 2 hour trek. After about an hour you come to a crossroads. To the left is a little used trail to the Horombo Huts on the Marangu Route and to the right is the Southern Circuit leading to the Keranga Valley. You can now see Millennium Camp ahead and below it, Mweka Huts Camp. If you’re feeling good it’s possible to trek on down to Mweka Camp at 10,138ft/3090m (another 3.5km descent), just mention to Thomas. It’s a good idea to give tips to Thomas for distribution in camp, as tomorrow you may not see all the porters.

Machame Route: Day 7 - MILLENNIUM CAMP TO PARK GATE

NOTE: Today's itinerary for the Machame Route is the same as the Lemosho Route, Shira Route and the Umbwe Route

Start:Millennium Camp
12,533ft / 3820m
Finish:Park Gate
5385ft / 1641m
Drop:7148ft / 2179m
Distance:13.5km
Duration:4-5 hours

Before leaving camp, take a few minutes to look north at the snow-covered cone of Kilimanjaro. It's a beautiful sight and one you will never forget.

A steady descent of about 1 hour 30 minutes brings you 3.5km downhill to Mweka Camp. There are some nice places to grab a few last pictures of the summit on this trail. 5 minutes from Mweka Camp you reach a very clear divide with the forest. From the boundary of the forest to the park gate is 10km of downhill. For a lot of today’s hike, you're walking on a ridge between 2 huge gorges, giving some impressive views through gaps in the trees. After about 2 hours of hiking you come to the start of the 4-wheel drive track and from here to the gate is only a 40-minute walk. This last section of the forest has an abundance of elusive monkeys but if your lucky you may come across a few foraging in the trees. You will also pass young children allowed in by the park rangers in order to collect dead wood for the fire. They are fascinated by digital photography and showing a photograph you just took of them always gets a good reception. Any sweets or chocolate you still have is a welcome treat for these kids.

At the park office you are presented with your certificate if you reached Stella Point (green) or better yet, the summit (gold). Then it is back to the hotel for a hot shower and big feed. All that’s left to do now is get a good night's rest before your transfer onwards or to the airport tomorrow.

Machame Route: CLIMB ITINERARY AND COST

Climb length:7 days
Trip length:9 days
Cost:£970/$1940
Extra night:£90/$180

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro by the Machame Route in 2009

Anyone can join the Machame route climbs listed below. To organise your own climb click here

New Year climb 2009 View Book
17-25 Jan 2009 View Book
14-22 Feb 2009 View Book
16-24 May 2009 View Book
18-26 July 2009 View Book
19-27 September 2009 View Book
New Year climb 2010 View Book

How to Book

To organise your own climb of Mount Kilimanjaro by the Machame route, either call our office on +44 (0)28 9073 6050 (UK telephone number) or fill in your details online by clicking the link below

7-day Machame Route Itinerary

DayDetails
1Arrive in Kilimanjaro International Airport, transfer to hotel in Moshi (approx 1 hour) for night. Receive climb briefing.
2Machame park gate - Machame Camp
3Machame Camp - Shira Camp
4Shira Camp - Barranco Camp
5Barranco Camp - Karanga Camp
6Karanga Camp - Barafu Camp
7Barafu Camp - Summit - Millennium Camp
8Millennium Camp - park gate. Overnight in hotel
9Transfer to Kilimanjaro International Airport for onward flight or departure

What's included

  • 1 night in hotel before climb and 1 after (B&B)
  • All transfers to and from Moshi and to and from Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Park fees, guide fees and mountain rescue fees
  • 4 porters per person
  • Food and water while on the mountain
  • tents (individual if requested for no additional cost), sleeping pads and all eating utensils
  • There is NO local payment on any of our climbs!

What's not included

  • International flights
  • Tanzania visa (approx $50)
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips for porters (we recommed $80-120 per climber)

UK