Which is the best track to the top of Kilimanjaro?
July 27, 2015
Most if not all of us reach some point in our life when we wish take on a challenge that will push us to our physical and mental limits. Maybe it’s just an urge to break the cycle of monotonous working life or perhaps a milestone birthday (or dare I say a mid-life crisis) that brings on the search for adventure. I am also pretty sure that close mates have regularly hatched an idea after one too many ales to challenge themselves to something that’s ‘well outside’ the normal realms of that annual golf trip away.
We see celebrities do it time and time again, Richard Branson with his hot air balloon, James Cameron with his submarine, Ewen McGregor’s 20,000km motorcycle journey in 2004 and more recently David Beckham has gotten in on the action with his own two-wheel expedition. With a lot less budget (and not to mention time) for most of us then begs the question: What, Where and How?
A ‘serious’ mountain trek is always high on the list because it delivers on the brief in so many ways. Physically demanding? Check. Mentally challenging? Check. Bragging rights? Check.
At the top of the list (or at least not too far down) of mountains to conquer is Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. This ancient 2 peak Tanzanian volcano known widely as ‘Kili’ has been attracting adventure seekers from around the world for decades. And it’s obvious why, as Africa’s tallest mountain and the world’s tallest ‘free standing’ mountain, Kilimanjaro’s summit stands at an intimidating 5895 metres.
Make no mistake, an expedition to the top of Kili shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can defeat over-confident and unprepared trekkers. Locals put the number at 1 in 4 trekkers who won’t get to the crater of Kili let alone the summit. Some think that this may be due to Kilimanjaro looking deceptively small from a distance thus enticing a large number of ‘accidental tourists’ who make an on the spot decision to take her on. At the end of the day there is nowhere to hide when you take on this mountain. Anytime you’re at these kind of altitudes even well thought out attempts can become quickly unstuck. The main cause of failure is altitude sickness caused by climbers ascending to quickly and not allowing their bodies to acclimatize enough before moving on.
As there are several different routes to choose from to reach the summit, we thought we would give you some insight on which option may be the best track to the top of Kilimanjaro for you and your group.
The Machame Track (via Barafu Huts)- 40.16km/6 days on mountain
As one of the most popular routes, the Machame Track is widely used by a large portion of the local guides. It is highly regarded for the wide variety of scenery whilst also boasting fantastic views of the mountain and surrounds on the ascent. It is seen as a more difficult route compared to some of the other alternatives but ironically enjoys a solid success rate. This phenomenon is mainly put down to the extra day required thereby helping with the acclimatisation process.
The Umbwe Track (via Barafu Hut)- 27.71km/6 days on mountain
Recognised as the most difficult route of all the options Umbwe starts with an intense uncompromising vertical slog through the jungle before you reach the southern circuit. From here trekkers can take two different paths to the summit. The first option being the Western Breach route but this is only recommended for experienced trekkers. For those with less experience, a walk around to the Barafu Huts is the preferred approach.
The Rongai Track (via Mawenzi Tarn Diversion)- 37.65km/6 days on mountain
Starting on the Kenyan side of Kilimanjaro, the Rongai Track is the only route coming from the north thus allowing trekkers to enjoy a very different view of the mountain as they climb. Its close proximity to the Amboseli also means that that your chance to view local wildlife is the greatest when compared to the alternative routes. These key aspects have seen the Rongai Track rise in popularity over recent times.
The Lemosho Track (via Barafu Hut)- 46.26km/8 days on mountain
As the longest of all the routes available, the Lemosho Track enjoys the highest success rate of all options due to the acclimatisation benefits a slower ascent provides. Starting from the western side of Kili trekkers experience a mesmerising forest walk which has seen it rise in popularity, albeit still the quietest of all the routes. Our Lemosho Track package also includes a nights camping in Kilimanjaro’s crater which is definitely a highlight.
In relation to timing, we recommend climbing Kilimanjaro nearest to a full moon as pre-dawn starts are crucial with this trek. To make the night ascents more pleasant getting up and walking up by moonlight is the most ideal situation.
We have expeditions available all year round however for the optimal experience we recommend January, February and September that are undoubtedly the best months.
Details of our Machame Track Expedition can be found here.
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