Umbwe Route via Barafu Camp
The Umbwe route is known for its caves. The first night you actually sleep at the Umbwe Cave Camp with two more caves that can be visited en route the following day. The Umbwe route is one of the shortest routes to the Southern Glaciers and the Western Breach. It is probably one of the most scenic, non-technical routes on Kilimanjaro. There are however higher risks involved when attempting to summit via the Western Breach / Arrow Glacier and overnight at the Arrow Glacier camp, which include:
- Safety on the Western Breach – nobody can guarantee your absolute safety, as the area is unstable and rock falls may occur at any time.
- During a normal summit of Kilimanjaro we will sleep at Barafu camp (4 600m) or Kibo Hut (4 650m) before attempting the summit. By sleeping at Arrow Glacier camp (4 850m) the risks for severe altitude sickness are considerably higher.
Most of our Umbwe route hikes are currently re-routed, to join with the Machame route from night 2 on the mountain. On special request we can assist with Umbwe route hikes attempting to summit using the Western Breach / Arrow Glacier path and overnight at the Arrow Glacier camp (and the Crater camp). Please note this can only be arranged through our higher quality Superior Packages and a supplementary rate will apply.
Umbwe Gate (1614m) – Umbwe Cave camp (2850m)
Hiking time: 6 Hours Distance: Approximately 10.3 km Habitat: Forest (Montane)
After breakfast you will be driven to the Machame gate where registration formalities will be completed. From the Machame gate you will be transferred to the Umbwe Gate (1641m), passing through villages with coffee and banana plantations. 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. Enjoy dinner and overnight at the Umbwe Cave Camp (2 850m).
Umbwe Cave camp (2850m) – Barranco camp (3985m)
Hiking time: 6 hours Distance: Approximately 6.3 km Habitat: Moorland
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.
Barranco camp (3985m) – Karanga Camp (4040m)
Hiking time: 6 hours Distance: Approximately 6 km Habitat: Moorland / Semi desert After spending a night at the great Barranco Wall (a very imposing sight at first), you make your way up this awesome looking obstacle, which in the end normally turns out to be easier than anticipated. Topping out just below the Heim Glacier, you will now appreciate just how beautiful Kilimanjaro really is. The route then heads down through the Karanga Valley over intervening ridges and valleys, and then joins up with the Mweka route. This is the preferred route down from the summit, so remember it. The last water stop on the route is the Karanga Valley, as there is no water available at Barafu camp. Enjoy dinner and overnight at the Karanga camp.
Karanga camp (4040m) – Barafu camp (4681m)
Hiking time: 4 hours Distance: Approximately 3.4km Habitat:Alpine desert Breakfast at Karanga camp and after breakfast turn left up the ridge and the route ascends 640m towards Barafu Camp. Barafu is the Swahili word for “ice” and it is a bleak and inhospitable camping area to spend the night. Totally exposed to the ever-present gales, the tents are pitched on a narrow, stony, and dangerous ridge. Make sure that you familiarise yourself with the terrain before dark to avoid any accidents.
The summit is now a further 1214m higher and you will commence with your final ascent attempt, the same night. Prepare your equipment, hiking poles and thermal clothing for your summit attempt. This should include the replacement of your headlamp and camera batteries and make sure you have a spare set available as well. To prevent freezing it will be wise to carry your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed as early as possible and try to get some precious rest and sleep.
Day Five – summit attempt
Barafu camp (4681m)-Uhuru Peak (5895m)-Mweka (3090m)
Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours to reach Uhuru Peak, 6 to 8 hours to descend to Mweka Camp Distance: Approximately 4.5 km ascent and 10.8 km descent Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit You will get up around 23h20, and after some tea and biscuits you shuffle off into the night. You will head in a north-westerly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. For many climbers the 6-hour walk to Stella point is mentally and physically the most challenging on the route. At Stella Point (5739m) you will stop for a short rest and will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see (weather permitting). From Stella Point you will normally encounter snow all the way on your 2-hour ascent to Uhuru Peak. The time you will spend on the summit will depend on the weather conditions. Do not stop here for too long, as it will be extremely difficult to get going again due to cold and fatigue.
Enjoy your accomplishment and a day to remember for the rest of your life!
The walk back to Barafu from the summit, takes about 3 hours. Here you will have a well earned but short rest and collect the rest of your gear, before heading down to Mweka hut (3090m). 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 prepared.
Mweka camp (3090m) – Mweka Gate (1641m)
Hiking time: 4 to 6 hours Habitat: Forest Distance: Approximately 8.5 km
After an early and well-deserved breakfast, it is a short 4 to 6 hour and scenic hike back to the Park gate. Some hikers do experience knee problems which could make the descend longer than planned.
It is strongly recommended not to pay your porters any tips until you and all your gear have reached the gate safely. Visit the tips page for more info.
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 (5739m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5895m) receive gold certificates.
From the Mweka Gate you will continue down into the Mweka village, normally a muddy 3 km (1 hour) hike. In the Mweka village you will be served a delicious hot lunch!! After lunch you drive back to Moshi for a long overdue hot shower, dinner and celebrations!!