There are six initial approach routes, counter-clockwise from west to east:
1. Lemosho Glades – starting from a remote trailhead and ascending through forest, and heather over two days to reach the western edge of the great Shira plateau. This route continues up either the Northern Circuit, Western Breach or the Machame/Southern Circuit route. Done via the Southern Circuit (most common), it’s the longest distance route to choose on Kilimanjaro. It’s best done 7 or more days.
2. Shira /Morum Barrier – This route starts high (over 12,000’ / 3,500m) but on longer climbs offers the chance of easy/gentle hiking from the start of the climb, as well as avoiding other tourists, especially when choosing the remote northern circuit route. Although a start from Morum Barrier Gate offers the choice to continue on the Southern Circuit, Northern Circuit or Western Breach, it’s best done via the Northern circuit in 8 days (as per our 8-day group trek option). We prefer this route over all others, for its’ wilderness character and low foot-traffic.
3. Machame (Whiskey Route) – by far the most popular route and busiest route overall, usually done in 6 or 7 days via southern circuit and finally ascending to the summit via the east facing Mweka (Barafu Camp) route to the crater rim at Stella Point. It’s also quite pretty and rugged. Best done in 7 days. Very difficult to do in 6 days.
4. Umbwe – The shortest and most direct way to Kilimanjaro’s summit, and this is the most challenging both in terms of terrain and grade. This route is best done via the Western Breach, in 6 or 7 days, but can continue on the Machame/Southern circuit route too.
5. Marangu (Coca-Cola Route) – the original hut route starting at the southeast and passing through thick forest, heather and moorland before crossing the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo, then up to Gillman’s point before skirting around the south crater rim to Uhuru Peak. Pre-booking and deposits are required on this route (to reserve the huts). From 5+ days, best done in 6 days.
6. Rongai – An approach from the dry northeast (Kenya side), up to the flanks for Mawenzi (the most easterly of Kilimanjaro’s three volcanoes) then on into the great expanse of barren saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo, and finally up to the summit via the Marangu Route. From 5+ days, but best done in 6 or 7 days. The descent route on Rongai is the Marangu Route, which makes for a longer last day than other camping routes.
There is a circuit of routes traversing the Kibo massif in the alpine desert (ranging from about 3,500 to 4,000 m), and from this circuit on upwards there are only three summit route choices.
The Northern Circuit is by far the least used route on Kilimanjaro, and is home to the true wilderness on Kilimanjaro.
The Southern Circuit is essentially the continuation of the popular Machame Route following the east facing Mweka (Barafu Camp) route to the crater rim at Stella Point. This route to the summit receives more than 80% of all summit foot-traffic. Most of the rest of the summit-goers pass via the Marangu Route via Gillman’s point before skirting around the south crater rim to Uhuru Peak.
The Western Breach is the third and last summit route, and gets a tiny percentage of the summit foot traffic, as it’s a steep scramble from camp at 4,900 m (Arrow Glacier Camp) to the crater rim at 5,900m, and is a true alpine-adventure style scrambling route, which includes rock fall risk. We’ve imposed our own restrictions on this route, in order to ensure the group is relatively homogenous and have prior experience with this type of terrain. We provide mountaineering helmets for all participants who ascend the Western Breach.