The Umbwe route has a well-deserved reputation of being the most challenging route on Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to the fast ascent to high altitude, this route does not provide the necessary stages for acclimatization. Although the number of people on this trail is very low, the chances of success are also low. Umbwe is considered to be very difficult, taxing route - one that should only be attempted by strong hikers who are confident in their ability to acclimatize quickly to altitude.
Approaching from the south, the Umbwe route is a short, steep and direct climb. After reaching Barranco Camp, the trail turns east and traverses underneath Kilimanjaro's Southern Ice Field on a path known as the Southern Circuit before summiting from Barafu. Descent is made via the Mweka route.
Day 1: Umbwe route 6 days – Umbwe Gate (1800m) – Bivouac Camp (2940m)
Habitat: Montane forest
Hiking time: 5 hours
After an early breakfast at your hotel, you will be picked up from Arusha (1400m) and driven to the Umbwe Gate. Here you can buy mineral water and will receive a packed lunch. At this time, the porters will organize and pack the belongings for the hike while you and your guide register with the Tanzania National Park (TANAPA). You will then begin your ascent into the rainforest. During this section of the hike, you should expect rain, mud, and fog. Also, be on the look out for wildlife, including Colobus monkeys! About halfway up the trail you will have a lunch break and you will reach the Bivouac Camp (2940m) in the late afternoon or early evening. The porters and chef, who move very fast up the mountain, will reach camp before you and set up your tents, boil drinking water, and prepare snacks for your arrival. After washing up, a hot dinner will be served. For overnight, mountain temperatures may drop to freezing so be prepared.
Day 2 Umbwe route 6 days – Bivouac Camp (2940m) – Barranco Camp (3950m)
Hiking time: 6 hours
After an early morning breakfast, you will start your ascent leaving the rain forest and entering the heathland moorland vegetation. In the moorland, you will spot exotic plants, including giant lobelia and groundsel. As you ascent, the trail provides a spectacular view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The trail then flattens then descends into the Barranco Valley until you reach Barranco Camp. At this campsite, you will be next to a stream and have a spectacular view of the Western Breach and the Great Barranco Wall in the East. Similar to the first night, your tents will be set up prior to arriving at camp and the porters will prepare drinking and washing water for you. You will enjoy evening snacks then dinner prepared by our chef. Be prepared for a cold night as temperatures drop below freezing at this exposed camp.
Day 3 Umbwe route 6 days – Barranco Camp (3950m) – Lava Tower (4630m) – Arrow Glacier Camp (4800m)
Habitat: Moorland/Semi desert
Following an early morning breakfast, you will leave the moorland environment and enter the semi desert and rocky landscape. After 5 hours of hiking east, you will be come face to face with the Lava Tower (4630m). Packed lunches are served at the Tower and hikers have the option of climbing the massive Lava Tower weather permitting. At this point of the hike, it is normal for hikers to start feeling the effects from the altitude including headaches and shortness of breath.
After eating lunch at Lava Tower, hikers will scramble up the steep Class 2 trail to the Arrow Glacier Camp (4800m). Vegetation at Arrow Glacier is sparse and hikers are surrounded by stone scree. Snacks, dinner, and washing water will be provided, as hikers stay warm in their tents at this camp.
Day 4 Umbwe route 6 days – Arrow Glacier (4800m) – Crater (5700m)
Hiking time: 5 hours
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped glacier
After an early morning breakfast, hikers will continue to scramble up the Class 2 trail on rocks. During the rain season, an ice ax and crampons are required due to icy conditions. Hikers slowly ascend up the Western Breach to the Crater (5700m). Upon reaching the top of the crater, you will be amazed by the Northern Ice fields of Kilimanjaro with the Furtwangler Glacier directly in front of you. At the campsite, you have the option of completing a day hike to the infamous Ash Pit (1.5 hour) of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The ash pit is 340m across and 120m deep. After hiking, you will enjoy a warm dinner and be one of the few and fortunate hikers to stay at the inner, snow-covered crater of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Day 5 Umbwe route 6 days – Summit Attempt Crater (5700m) – Uhuru Peak (5895m) – Mweka (3100m)
Hiking time: 2 hours to Uhuru and 7-8 hours to Mweka
Distance: Approximately 7 kilometer ascent and 23 kilometer descent
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit
Your guide will wake you around 0400 for tea and biscuits. You will then begin your summit attempt. During the ascent, many hikers feel that this is the most mentally and physically challenging part of the climb. For about 2 hours, you will hike on a snow-covered trail to Uhuru Peak (5895m). Reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro is a lifetime accomplishment! You will be able to spend a short time on the summit taking photographs and drinking tea before the descent to Barafu begins. The hike down to Barafu Camp takes about 3 hours.
At camp, you will rest and enjoy a hot lunch in the sun. After eating, you will continue descending down to Mweka Hut (3100m). The Mweka Trail will lead you through the scree and rocks to the moorland and eventually into the rain forest. Mweka Camp (3100m) is located in the upper rain forest, so fog and rain should be expected. You will have a dinner, wash, and rest soundly at camp.
Day 6 Umbwe route 6 days – Mweka Camp (3100m) – Mweka Gate (1980m)
Hiking time: 3 hours
Distance: Approximately 15 kilometers
Following a well-deserved breakfast, your staff will have a big celebration full of dancing and singing. It is here on the mountain that you will present your tips to the guide, assistant guides, chef(s), and porters. After celebrating, you will descend for three hours back to Mweka Gate. The National Park requires all hikers to sign their names to receive certificates of completion. Hikers who reached Stella Point (5685m) receive green certificates and hikers who reached Uhuru Peak (5895m) receive gold certificates. After receiving certificates, hikers will descend into the Mweka village for 1 hour (3 kilometers). You will be served a hot lunch then you will drive back to Arusha for long overdue showers and more celebrations.
Park fees (for non-residents)
All activities (unless labeled as optional)
All accommodation (unless listed as upgrade)
Camping equipment (sleeping bag excluded)
A professional driver/guide
All transportation (unless labeled as optional)
Roundtrip airport transfer
Meals (as specified in the day-by-day section)
Drinks (as specified in the day-by-day section)
International flights (from/to home)
Additional accommodation before and at the end of the tour
Tips (tipping guideline US$10.00 pp per day)
Personal items (souvenirs, travel insurance, visa fees, etc.)
Government imposed increase of taxes and/or park fees
This tour starts and ends in Arusha, Tanzania
Book your own international flights when using this operator
A transfer from and back to the airport (or hotel) is included
Additional accommodation before and at the end of the tour can be arranged for extra cost