Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Umbwe Route

The Umbwe Route, toughest of all routes you can choose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro by. Throw in a summit attempt via the Western Breach and you have yourself a devilishly physical climb. However it is still not technical, just very demanding. Why on earth would you choose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro’s notorious Umbwe Route then? Because a carefully organized and executed climb can still be highly successful regardless of the demands it will make on your body. Reaching the summit on this climb, you know that you have done what few people who have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro have ever managed. You have conquered Umbwe.

Umbwe Route: Overview

The Umbwe Route is the hardest you can choose if you wish to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The first 2 days are very steep, so steep that in places you use tree roots to haul yourself from one ledge on the forest trail to the next. Those adventurous climbers that climb the Umbwe Route reach the Barranco Camp in 2 days, something that takes 3 days on the Machame Route and 4 days on the Lemosho Route.

So if it’s so steep, why on earth would you want to climb it? A very small percentage of climbers that climb Mount Kilimanjaro can say that they have climbed thed Umbwe route. The route sees very little traffic each year and for the majority of your climb you will mostly have the route to yourself, something that’s hard to come by during the climbing season. Also the scenery on this route is spectacular, offering the most stunning views on the whole mountain, save for the summit itself.

If you climb the Umbwe Route, you can join the Southern Circuit along with the Machame route, Shira route and lemosho Route in the Barranco Valley and climb northeast, summiting via Barafu Camp. We include a rest day in the Barranco Valley for all of our Umbwe Route climbs due to the altitude gain getting there.

For those that are seeking the ultimate climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, summiting via the Western Breach is for you. This is still not technical but is very tough. For those that dream of pushing on beyond what they thought imaginable and completing a truly amazing physical feat, this is the climb for you. Think your up to the greatest challenge Mount Kilimanjaro has to offer?


Start:Umbwe Gate
5450ft / 1661m
Finish:Umbwe Camp
9350ft / 2850m
Gain:3900ft / 1189m
Duration:6 hours

Pick-up from the hotel at 8.00am The drive to the Umbwe Park Gate takes about 45 minutes. At the Park Gate, Thomas has some paper work to do before signing into the park. Your climb starts on a 4-wheel drive track that rises with a constant gradient for the first 2 hours of your climb. The 4-wheel drive track now comes to an end, marked by a sign and an obvious change in the trail. From here the path continues to rise with a constant gradient for approx 1.5 hours of climbing. For the majority of today’s climb from here on in you will be climbing not on soil but over tree roots. A small clearing provides a handy place to grab lunch before heading off again.

After lunch the trail gets noticeably steeper but to compensate, the views are amazing. You’re now climbing along a knife-edge ridge with a deep ravine on each side, the one to the right carved by the River Umbwe far below. After 2 hours of climbing you reach Umbwe Camp You have now climbed the steepest section on the route. Tonight’s camp is one of the nicest on the mountain and one of few actually situated in the forest. 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.


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

Start:Umbwe Camp
9350ft / 2850m
Finish:Barranco Camp
13,070ft / 3985m
Gain:3720ft / 1135m
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 of average length but you will be gaining almost 4000ft in altitude as you reach the Barranco Valley, a serious amount considering you climbed a similar height yesterday. Leaving Camp you climb up a short, steep section of the trail before coming to the clear dividing line between forest and heather. The trail continues to follow the narrow ridge you climbed yesterday and as the heather thins you get some impressive views of the Tanzanian plains below and Mount Meru in the distance. After approx 2 hours of steady uphill climbing, you stop for lunch on a vantage point with a good view of Moshi. Continuing your climb north, the terrain becomes noticeably rockier as you climb and after approx 2 hours of climbing the Barranco Wall and Barranco Camp come into view.

Arriving in camp you will have time to do some exploring of the local area. The Barranco Valley has some great views of Kibo to the North and Moshi to the South as well as a beautiful starry sky if the cloud holds off.


Start:Barranco Camp
12,620ft / 3847m
Finish:Barranco Camp
13,070ft / 3985m
Duration:This is your rest day, relax and taske it easy!

Today you rest, simple as that. In the last 2 days you have climbed to an altitude that Machame Route climbers take 3 days to do and Lemosho Route climbers take 4. It is vital that you take it easy to let your body get used to the thinner air. The chances are you will have a headache by this stage and so the rest day will be a welcome change from day 1 and 2.

Take some time to walk through the valley, snap a few pictures but most important of all, relax. You will want a good book or 2 to keep you amused until other climbers start filtering into the valley in the mid afternoon. If you have a pair of binoculars, you can watch the poor sods that have to climb the Barranco wall today as well. Just remember it’s all ahead of you tomorrow assuming your summiting from Barafu Camp.


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

Start:Barranco Camp
13,070ft / 3985m
Finish:Karanga Camp
13,250ft / 4040m
Gain:180ft / 55m
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.


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

Start:Karanga Camp
13,250ft / 4040m
Finish:Barafu Camp
15,360ft / 4681m
Gain:2110ft / 641m
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.

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

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

Start:Barafu Camp
15,360ft / 4681m
19,340ft / 5895m
Gain:3980ft / 1214m
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.

Umbwe Route: Day 6 Descent - SUMMIT TO MILLENNIUM CAMP

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

19,340ft / 5895m
Finish:Millennium Camp
12,533ft / 3820m
Drop:6801ft / 2075m
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.


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

Start:Millennium Camp
12,533ft / 3820m
Finish:Park Gate
5385ft / 1641m
Drop:7148ft / 2179m
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.


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

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro by the Umbwe Route in 2008 and 2009

We have no climbs organised for the Umbwe route in 2009. Why not check out our climbs of the Machame Route or the Shira Route instead? You can also organise your own climb of the Umbwe Route.

How to Book

To organise your own climb of Mount Kilimanjaro by the Umbwe 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 Umbwe Route Itinerary

1Arrive in Kilimanjaro International Airport, transfer to hotel in Moshi (approx 1 hour) for night. Receive climb briefing
2Umbwe park gate - Umbwe Camp
3Umbwe Camp - Barranco Camp
4Barranco Camp - Rest day
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)