April 25, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
If you are an avid trekker, a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro should be on your must-do list. Despite its intimidating height, Kilimanjaro is considered to be one of the most accessible high summits, which means you can do it even if you’ve never done any high trekking before. What’s more, you do not need any special mountain climbing equipment to reach the summit. All you need is the right clothing and a walking stick.
What you should know before deciding on doing this trek, is that there are 6 trekking routes that you can choose from depending on your level of trekking experience. Each of these routes varies in scenic beauty and degree of difficulty as well as climber traffic en route. If you are considering taking up this climbing challenge, it is worth putting some thought into selecting a route that best suits your expectations and your experience.
This is the original route on Kilimanjaro. It is also the easiest, cheapest and most heavily travelled of all routes. It takes about 6 days to get to the top, with allowing for acclimatisation. Attempting the climb any faster than that can be risky. On your trek up you pass through stunning landscapes and can see the famed ‘Saddle’ between the Mawenzi and Kibo peaks. This is the only route that offers huts with beds and mattresses. With most of the other trails you ascend and descend via different paths, giving you a wider view of the incredible landscapes. However, with Marangu, you ascend and descend via the same path.
The Machame route is physically more challenging than Marangu but thanks to its diverse vegetation and magnificent views, it has become one of the most popular routes especially amongst the more experienced climbers. This trail approaches Kilimanjaro through forest and moorland from the southwest and passes through volcanic desert. There are no sleeping huts on this trail, only a few tents to rest in.
For the Rongai route, you start the climb just south of the Kenyan border. This is the least travelled of the routes though many guides consider this route to be easier and also more beautiful than the main Marangu trail. The Rongai trail takes you through varying climatic zones, making the trek considerably more interesting. Though it can be done in six days, adding an extra day ensure better acclimatisation and give you more opportunities to view the panoramic scenery. This route offers a different perspective on Kilimanjaro by approaching it from the north.
A less travelled route, Lemosho offers a more pristine trail to the summit, with lush rainforest and fabulous wilderness experiences, particularly on the first three days of the climb. The time taken to walk across the wilderness of the Shira Plateau allows climbers to get used to the altitude before tackling the busy Barafu route to the summit. It takes 8 to 9 days to reach the top using this route but many choose it for the magnificent views it offers and also because the longer ascent time and optimum acclimation provides the maximum chance of reaching the summit.
This is one of the toughest trails to the top. If you choose this route, be prepared to do some rock scrambling around the second day during the approach to Barranco Camp, which is at 3940m. Only a few, experienced climbers choose this route. Acclimatizing on Mt. Meru or elsewhere is advisable. Those who attempt to do this route without sufficient acclimatising are less likely to make it to the summit.
A climb up Shira can be done in 7 days. This is possible as the trail commences at a higher elevation. You take a vehicle to bypass much of the lowland rainforest that you would take on other routes. The downside is that it does not give you enough time to get acclimatised, and unless you are in excellent shape, this could lead to problems.
Kilimanjaro offers a route for anyone who may be interested in making it to the summit, from the first timer to the experienced trekker. Take time to decide which is the best route for you and go for it.