The notorious 8 Days Umbwe Route is our newest tour and the toughest route to tame the summit of Kilimanjaro. If you’re an experienced, bold climber you’ll relish challenging yourself on the unforgiving but uncrowded and beautiful terrain.
You’ll enjoy breathtaking sights that few travellers see. You’ll experience the raw, primitive beauty of sun bleached rocky outcrops and balance along knife-edge ridges with water-carved ravines swooping giddily below.
You’ll clamber upon the gnarled tree roots of ancient rainforest trails, traverse ice fields shimmering like frosted diamonds in the African sun, and sleep under sweeping star-filled skies. You’ll skirt round the dangerous mist-clad Western Breach, crossing each grade of alpine and glacier zone. Every moment will be a feast to your senses and a challenge to your body and character.
The Umbwe Route is like no other; a test of endurance amongst the majesty and grace of Kilimanjaro. As you stand proudly on Uhuru Peak at sunrise, you can say that you have conquered Umbwe. Although not technical, this route is arduous and the steep but short physical climb early on in the tour means there’s no time for altitude acclimatization.
If you’re undecided or less experienced, try our Machame Route; more gentle but just as amazing.
Day 1: Kilimanjaro Airport to Moshi
Our driver will pick you up at the airport and take you to the hotel for briefing. Your guides will provide you with a detailed orientation and will examine your gear. If you arrive at midday or before, you will have time to explore Moshi, a chilled-out blend of African and Asian influences with a colourful market and a choice of coffee houses and bars. Overnight at Moshi.
Day 2: Moshi to Umbwe Cave Camp
Elevation Gain: 1250 metres Walking Time: 5-7 hours Distance: 10.5km
This morning you’ll meet your crew, who will be with you at all times during your trip. After a sustaining breakfast you’ll be driven the 45-minute trip from your hotel through a lush landscape of bustling villages and coffee smallholdings sheltered by banana palms to the Umbwe Gate. Here, your crew will register you for your climb, while the porters and guides make last minute preparations. After lunch the real work starts. Your journey begins through dense green mountain rainforest. The air, warm and heavy with moisture, is redolent of the lush vegetation as you scramble and slide your way up an often muddy track through a dense canopy of rubber and giant fig trees. The route steepens between the Umbwe and Lonzo rivers, and you’ll need every ounce of strength to pull yourself upwards using the wild, strong tree roots. As you climb, you’ll see Kibo, unexpected, glimmering in the distance. Beneath your feet drop deep gorges. After a sumptuous dinner, you’ll rest overnight at the lonely Umbwe Cave Camp, nestling amongst giant trees and deep undergrowth, with the mystery of Umbwe Cave a short walk away.
Day 3: Umbwe Cave Camp to Barranco Camp
Elevation Gain: 1150 meters Walking Time: 4-6 hours Distance: 6.5km
After a good, energy-rich breakfast you’ll prepare for today’s climb which takes you out of the rainforest and into the drier, crisper air of moorland broken with rocky outcrops. You’ll ascend through cloud forest, past thinning, moss-entwined trees, glimpsing more and more of the bright blue sky as you ascend the hair-raising and spectacular Umbwe Route ridge with sides that drop steeply until it flattens out near to the Barranco Valley. The Barranco Camp nestles in the valley below the Western Breach and the Great Barranco Wall, which you should study as this is your first climb after breakfast tomorrow! Enjoy a filling and delicious dinner gazing on the dramatic colours of a glowing African sunset.
Day 4: Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp
Elevation Gain and Loss: 300 meters Walking Time: 4-6hours Distance: 6km
The first thing that greets you this morning is the scaling of the 257 meter Great Barranco Wall, often called the Breakfast Wall as it’s the first thing you’ll do after breakfast! It’s challenging but more of a scramble than a climb and you’ll enjoy a total-body workout. You’ll top out just below the glorious Helm Glacier soaring above you, and from here the views are incredible. You’ll descend through a tumbling up-and-down route across scree and ridges through alpine desert towards the Karanga Valley, lying beneath the icefalls of the Decken, Heim and Kersten Glaciers. Overnight after a satisfying dinner at Karanga Camp.
Day 5: Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp
Elevation Gain: 641 meters Walking Time: 4-5hours Distance: 3.5km
After a good breakfast you’ll attack the path that starts climbing as you leave Karanga Camp. The Southern ice fields of Kibo sparkle to your left as you journey the arid and surreal high alpine landscape, such a contrast to the green lushness of earlier days. The route takes you up a constant climb then shelves into a shallow valley with a short, sharp scramble and hike leading you into Barafu Camp. Barafu Camp is situated on a rocky and desolate ridge, exposed to the elements but with glorious panoramic views from 15,000 feet up. You’ll be gazing at clouds below your feet and ice fields and the summit above you. It’s a tough environment for you to prepare your equipment and your mind-set for your final ascent tonight. Grab as much rest as you can before your 11pm push for the Uhuru Peak summit.
Day 6: Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
Elevation Gain: 1,295 meters Elevation Loss: 2,795 meters Walking Time: 14-16hours Distance: 19km
It’s summit day and you’ll be woken at 11pm for hydration, food and a quick medical check. You’re very close now; but this section of the climb is the most dangerous. You’l l be climbing a steep gradient of heavy scree in darkness through the night as the temperature drops to below freezing. But as you reach Stellar Point, something amazing begins. Imperceptibly at first, then more quickly, the sky pales to the softest blue and as you look east, the sun rises apricot, pink and gold above the cloud horizon. Tramping through iridescent ice fields burnished gold by the colours of sunrise and past impressive, impassive Rebmann and Ratzel Glaciers, look west to see the giant shadow of Kilimanjaro spreading across the plains far below you. In another hour you’ll reach Uhuru Peak. You have conquered Umbwe Route. Marvel at the glorious vista with Mawenzi silhouetted against the blue skies and the dawn clouds gliding below. There’ll be time for pictures before you make your descent via breakfast at Barafu Camp. Your journey isn’t over, yet. You’ve a long descent over loose gravel through ice-capped outcrops and down to the welcoming moorland of the lower reaches. Mweka Camp nestles in lush vegetation in the mists of the upper forest and you’ll enjoy good food and good company as your body recovers from the harsh but beautiful experience of the night before.
Day 7: Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate to Moshi
Elevation Loss: 1,600 meters Walking Time: 3-4hours Distance: 10km
With Uhuru Peak a glorious memory far behind you, you’ll begin your hike back to civilisation on a full stomach. The slope here is gentler than the ascent at Umbwe, but it can be slippery so watch those knees! You’ll have time to take in the misty cloud forest and perhaps even spot a Colobus monkey or two. Arriving at Mweka Gate you’ll receive your summit certificates and there’s an opportunity to buy sodas and t shirts. Our Viva Africa Tours vehicle will take you back to your hotel in Moshi. What a difference a week makes!
Day 8: Moshi to Kilimanjaro Airport
Transfer to Kilimanjaro Airport, from where you will connect your flight back home. If you’ve opted to go on a safari – well, that’s a new adventure and we’ll be pleased to arrange it for you!