6/7 Day Climb Kilimanjaro, Umbwe Route
The Umbwe Route is the least used, least crowded route on the mountain. For good reason, it is also the most difficult route on the mountain. Umbwe is a steep, constant, straight climb to the top.
Umbwe is mostly avoided because the ascent profile does not give climbers much time to adjust to the altitude. The success rate is very low.
The route takes seven days minimum to complete, although eight to nine days is recommended. The descent is down Mweka, on the south-east side of the mountain. Umbwe is not as scenically varied as Machame, Lemosho and Shira, because the path up and down are nearby.
Umbwe route is ideal for those who want a challenging climb, and are very confident in their ability trek over consistently steep slopes. Also, Umbwe is for those who are experienced at altitude and thus are confident that the punishing schedule of Umbwe will not impede their ability to adjust to altitude. Umbwe is also for those who want a secluded hike.
Day 1: Umbwe Gate (5906ft/1800m) – Bivouac (first) camp (9646ft/2940m)
Hiking time: 5hours
Habitat: Montane Forest
After breakfast you will be driven to the Umbwe Gate at 5906ft/1800m, passing through village with coffee and banana plantations. On arrival at the Park Gate your Guide and Porters will meet you. Sign the register before you enter the park for your first step to accomplishing a life-long dream. 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.
Day 2: Bivouac (first) camp (9646ft/2940m) – Barranco camp (12959ft/3950m).
Hiking time: 6 hours.
Habitat: Montane forest and Moorlands.
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 being prepared.
Day 3: Barranco camp (12959ft/3950m) – Lava Tower (15190ft/4630m) – Arrow Glacier Camp (15748ft/4800m).
Habitat: Moorland/Semi desert.
After breakfast you will start your hike towards Lava Tower, a famous landmark on Kilimanjaro. The path is steep and rocky, with views of Mt. Meru, Kilimanjaro’s little sister, punching her peak through the clouds. From Lava Tower you turn towards the Western Breach, a steep climb to Arrow Glacier camp (15748ft/4800m). This is taxing and symptoms of altitude sickness might become noticeable. The campsite is spectacular. Vegetation has now all but disappeared, leaving only rock and scree in varying shades of brown and black. The campsite is very cold and you need to be prepared.
Day 4: Arrow Glacier (15748ft/4800m) – Crater (18700ft/5700m).
Hiking time: 5 hours.
Estimated distance: About 15 km’s
Habitat: Semi desert/ Snowfields.
Day 5: SUMMIT ATTEMPT, Crater (18700ft/5700m) – Uhuru Peak (19341ft/5895m) – Mweka (10171ft/3100m).
Hiking time: 2 hours to reach Uhuru Peak,7-8 hours to descend to Mweka.
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit.
You will rise around 2200hrs, and after some tea and biscuits you shuffle off into the early morning darkness. From the crater floor you will probably encounter snow all the way on your 2-hour ascent to Uhuru Peak. Time spent on the summit will depend on the weather conditions. Do not stop here for too long, as it will be extremely difficult to start again due to cold and fatigue. Enjoy your accomplishment and a day to remember for the rest of your live. The walk to Barafu camp from the summit, takes about 3 hours. Here you will have a well earned but short rest, before heading down to Millennium camp (10171ft/3100m). 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 provided as well as drinking water.
Day 6: Mweka camp (10171ft/3100m) – Mweka Gate (6496ft/1980m).
Hiking time: 3 hours.
Estimated distance: About 15 km’s.
Habitat: Montane Forest
After an early and well-deserved breakfast, it is a 5-hour, scenic hike back to the Park gate. 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 (18652ft/5685m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (19341ft/5895m) receive gold certificates. From the Mweka Gate you will continue down into the Mweka village, normally a muddy1.9 miles/ 3 km (1 hour) hike. In the Mweka village you will be served a delicious hot lunch!! You will then drive back to Arusha for a long overdue hot shower and celebrations!!