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Umbwe Route - Kilimanjaro

The Umbwe route is considered Mount Kilimanjaro’s toughest and most unforgiving route of all, thanks in part to its fast ascent and high altitude. Therefore being prepared isn’t just advisable, it's mandatory to a successful and safe summit! Learn more about the route below and equip yourself for one incredible challenge. 

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Where is the Umbwe route located?

Getting to the start of the Umbwe trail is uncomplicated. Starting from the south of Mount Kilimanjaro, the route is easily accessible but no walk in the park. Commonly referred to as the hardest trail on the mountain, the Umbwe trail involves a tough vertical climb through the jungle and in some places, tree roots that act as a natural ladder.

Aside from the physically taxing journey, the scenery is the ultimate reward. Your eyes will be treated to jaw-dropping views along each stage of the journey. As for the route itself, Umbwe starts from the southern part of Kilimanjaro and presents trekkers with a steep climb and travels below the Southern Ice Field before eventually summiting from Barafu. 

The Umbwe Route doesn't go through Crater Camp.

How difficult is the Umbwe route?

The trek is shorter and much more direct than the other trails, however, should not be attempted by novice climbers. And while it is not a technical climb, it's both a physically and mentally challenging journey. Previous trekking experience is highly recommended, as the days will feature 6-8 hours hiking with daily ascents of 900m to 1,000m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 1,100m to 1,200m. Depending on the route, you may be trekking at an altitude of over 3,500m. You need complete confidence in your ability to trek for many days over difficult terrain.

Extremes of altitude and weather may be encountered, as may the use of ice axes and crampons for some routes. A degree of physical and mental stamina will be essential to complete the hike as the days will be tiring. 
 

  • Difficulty rating: Extremely challenging
  • Height: The Umbwe route travels to the summit and reaches the Uhuru peak and a height of 5,895 metres (19,341 feet)
  • Duration: The Umbwe route can be completed in 5 days, however, this is not advised as there are no acclimatisation days and success rates are low. Most itineraries will travel for 6 or 7 days which allows time for acclimatisation.
  • Trail conditions: The trail itself is steep, and you will find yourself trekking through rocky outcrops, and in places, you’ll be holding on to tree routes as you haul yourself up to the slope. As you travel to the high alpine zone you will encounter strong winds and will be exposed to the elements. 

What is the success rate of the Umbwe route?

Considered to be the most difficult route on Kilimanjaro, the Umbwe route should be attempted only by experienced climbers. The success rate of the route is between 60% and 70%, with higher chances of reaching the summit if you give yourself extra time for acclimatization.

Umbwe Route tips

  • Altitude sickness often appears on the third day of your hike, so it's best to allow extra time in your itinerary where possible
  • Before your Kilimanjaro adventure, make sure your shoes are worn in to prevent blisters on your feet and consider adding insoles and proper socks to your packing list
  • Trekking poles will become your best friend and some operators might provide these in your tour price however it is suggested that you enjoy a few hikes beforehand to practice using your poles
  • Make a packing list and triple check you have everything you need before you go, rentals will be available through some operators however you’d hate to be missing any essential items
  • Consume as much water as physically possible as this will help reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness
  • Most importantly, have fun and don’t forget to enjoy the view

Facts about Kilimanjaro & Umbwe

Name and heigh of summit
Uhuru Peak is 5,895 m or 19,341 feet high
Amount of climbers annually
Approximately 25,000 people attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro annually
Last major eruption
Roughly 360,000 years ago
Warmest months
January, February, March

Day-by-day breakdown of the Umbwe route

Below you will find a detailed breakdown of what, where and how long you'll be trekking should you opt to select the challenging 6-day itinerary for the Umbwe route. 

DayStartAltitude (m/ft)FinishAltitude (m/ft)Time (hrs)Distance (km/mi)
1Umbwe Gate1,600m/ 5,249ftUmbwe Camp2940m/ 9514ft5-711km/ 7mi
2Umbwe Camp2,940m/ 9,514ftBarranco Camp3,976m/ 13,044ft4-56km/ 4mi
3Barranco Camp3,976m/ 13,044ftKaranga Camp3,995m/ 13,106ft4-55km/ 3mi
4Karanga Camp3,995m/ 13,106ftBarafu Camp4,673m/ 15,331ft4-54km/ 2mi
5Barafu Camp4,673m/ 15,331ftUhuru Peak5,895m/ 19,341ft7-85km/ 3mi
Uhuru Peak5,895m/ 19,341ftMweka Camp3,068m/ 10,065ft4-612km/ 7mi
6Mweka Camp3,068m/ 10,065ftMweka Gate1,640m/ 5,380ft3-410km/ 6mi

Frequently asked questions: how to climb the Umbwe route

  • How do I prepare for the Umbwe route?

    Any physical activity you can do beforehand will help make your ascent more enjoyable. As for how hard you train, this will depend on whether you're aiming for the Uhuru Peak or embarking on a shorter journey and will be different for everyone.
    Learn more.
  • When should I climb the Umbwe route?

    You can climb the Umbwe route year-round, but it may be wet and cold which means you should be equipped with the right waterproof gear. Consider climbing between January–March and June–October. Note that April, May and November are the wettest months. 
    Learn more.
  • What should I pack and what equipment do I need?

    While trekking tour operators may supply some of the gear you’ll need, there are a few non-negotiables you will need that includes waterproof gear, a headlamp, sunglasses, appropriate hiking boots, personal medication, a non-disposable water bottle and a cap or a beanie for example. Learn more.
  • How to get to the Umbwe Route?

    Before you start your hiking escapade to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, you will need to establish how to get there, and the best mode of transport to suit your itinerary or tour. Travellers flying from the UK, the US, Australia or Canada and other parts of the world have a few options to explore. Learn more.
  • What are the climbing requirements for the Umbwe route?

    Mount Kilimanjaro welcomes hikers of all levels of fitness and ability, but if you’re planning to reach the summit, careful planning and vigorous training is vital. Consider adding extra time to your itinerary to avoid altitude sickness and to enjoy your time climbing Kilimanjaro. Learn more.
  • What permits do I need?

    Each visitor will be required to pay a fee per person, per day for the conservation fee to help manage the national park, however, most tours will cover the permits and entry fees are included in the price. 
    Learn more

Mount Kilimanjaro routes & maps

  • Marangu Route

     If you’re searching for the most ‘iconic’ trek, the Marangu route is the oldest marked trail. The gradual slope appeals to many travellers as it's considered the easiest route, and is the only Kilimanjaro route that offers hut accommodation. It’s recommended to allow for one extra night to acclimatise. 

    Distance: 72 km
    Average duration: 5-6 days 
    Average difficulty: Marangu route has one of the lowest summit success rates of all the routes up the mountain. Although it is known as the easiest trekking route, the summit success rate is sometimes as low as 50% when travellers undertake a shorter hike. 

     

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  • Machame Route

    Known as the most popular climbing route on Kilimanjaro, Machame is classified as a difficult route due to its steep ascent, and each day tends to cover more distance compared to the Marangu route. Because of it’s challenging nature, Machame tends to attract adventurous and experienced hikers.  
     
    Distance: 62 km
    Average duration: 6-7 days
    Average difficulty: A 7-day hike often shows a higher success rate of approximately 85%. A 6-day hike generally shows a lower success rate of 70%. Less experienced hikers are advised not to rush and aim at 7-day hike for higher chances of reaching the summit.

     

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  • Lemosho Route

    Starting in a similar direction to the Shira route, climbers are likely to encounter lower traffic on the trails until the route meets with the Machame route. Lemosho is known as one of the most beautiful routes as it includes hiking through the rainforest, past the Shira Plateau and through vast icefields.
     
    Distance: 70 km
    Average duration: 7-8 days
    Average difficulty: The success rates are high, and the longer you take to complete the journey often shows a higher success rate. An 8-day hike usually offers around a 90% success rate while a 7-day hike will be around 85%. For a 6-day hike, the success rate will be much lower at approximately 65%. 

     

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  • Rongai Route

    Starting from the northern side of Kilimanjaro, Rongai is the only route that travels from this direction and is often less crowded than Marangu. Rongai is considered a moderately difficult route recommended for less experienced hikers. 
     
    Distance: 73 km
    Average duration: 6-7 days 
    Average difficulty: This route is considered difficult as it does not offer the same climb height. The longer you take to complete this trail, the higher the success rate will be. A 7-day hike often sees an 80% success rate, and a 6-day hike is much lower at 65%.

     

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  • Shira Plateau Route

    Boasting similar qualities to the Lemosho route, the Shira route also approaches Kilimanjaro from the west. Hikers should take note of the steep elevation on this route, as day one catapults you to some serious altitude. 
     
    Distance: 56 km
    Average duration: 7-8 days 
    Average difficulty: Shira has an excellent success rate. However, it should only be tackled by more experienced climbers or those who are comfortable with their ability to acclimatise as the first day is incredibly steep.

     

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  • Northern Circuit Route

    The Northern Circuit route follows the Lemosho trail at the start before travelling along the northern slopes where trekkers can enjoy more space on the trails. 
     
    Distance: 98 km
    Average duration: 8-9 days 
    Average difficulty: Because of its length, the Northern Circuit is one of the most successful routes for reaching the summit and sees a success rate of almost 95%. 

     

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Umbwe Route Tours - from 5 to 8 days

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