Because the ascent profile does not give climbers much time to adjust to the altitude, Umbwe is mostly avoided. The likelihood of success is extremely low.
It takes at least six days to complete the route, but seven days is recommended. The descent is down Mweka, which is on the mountain’s southeast side. Because the path up and down is close by, Umbwe does not have the same variety of scenery as Machame, Lemosho, or Shira.
The Umbwe is ideal for those looking for a challenging climb and is confident in their ability to trek over steep slopes regularly. Umbwe is also for those who have prior altitude experience and are confident that the punishing schedule will not hinder their ability to adjust to the altitude. Umbwe is also ideal for those looking for a quiet hike.
Day 1: Umbwe Gate to Umbwe Camp
The day starts with a 50-minute drive to Machame Gate, where you’ll complete your registration paperwork. We then travel to Umbwe Gate via villages and coffee and banana plantations. The trail climbs steeply up a forestry track that winds its way through the dense rainforest. As we climb the ridge between two rivers, surrounded by massive trees, the path narrows and steepens. Umbwe Camp is nestled among the trees and thickets.
Day 2: Umbwe to Barranco Camp
Distance: 6 km Elevation: 9,514 ft to 13,044 ft
The trek continues on a rockier terrain with sparse undergrowth and straggly, moss-covered trees on the second day. As we climb higher, we get a better view of Kilimanjaro. As we get closer to Barranco Valley, the path flattens out. The trail descends from Umbwe Ridge to Barranco Camp through the strange but beautiful Senecio Forest.
The day begins with a descent into a ravine to the Great Barranco Wall’s base. Then we climb the nearly 900-foot cliff, which is non-technical but steep. We descend sharply into Karanga Valley from the top of the Barranco Wall, passing through a series of hills and valleys. Karanga Camp is reached after a final steep ascent. This is a shorter day designed to help you acclimate.
We leave Karanga and come to a fork in the trail that connects to the Mweka Trail. We continue up to Barafu Hut’s rocky section. You’ve completed the Southern Circuit, which provides views of the summit from a variety of perspectives. To prepare for the summit day, we set up camp, rested, and eat an early dinner here. From this vantage point, the two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo can be seen.
We start our ascent to the summit very early in the morning (around midnight). This is the trek’s most mentally and physically demanding section. At this elevation and time of day, the wind and cold can be brutal. We climb for several hours in the dark, taking frequent but brief breaks. You’ll be rewarded with the most spectacular sunrise you’ll ever see coming over Mawenzi Peak near Stella Point (18,900 ft). Finally, we reach Uhuru Peak, which is the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the African continent.
We now descend from the summit, continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping for lunch at Barafu. The trail is rocky and can be difficult on the knees, so trekking poles are recommended. Mweka Camp is located in the upper forest, so expect mist or rain in the late afternoon. Later that evening, we have our final meal on the mountain and a well-deserved rest.
We continue our descent to Mweka Gate on our final day and collect our summit certificates. It can be muddy and wet at lower elevations. We travel another hour from the gate to Mweka Village. At Mweka Village, a vehicle will be waiting to take us back to the hotel in Moshi.