Kilimanjaro Umbwe Route
The Umbwe route has a reputation for being the most challenging route on Kilimanjaro. And rightly so. It’s the shortest and steepest of the Kilimanjaro routes, and accordingly has a poor acclimatisation profile. For this reason its summit success rate is low and its one of the least used trails on the mountain. The Umbwe approaches the summit from the south and camping is the only available accommodation option. Pre-acclimatisation is recommended for those who choose to trek this route.
To learn about the different Kilimanjaro routes, watch the video above.
Follow Alice’s view
The Umbwe route is our least favourite of the Kilimanjaro climb routes. Given its steep ascent, it doesn’t offer much time to acclimatise and so has a low summit success rate. In our view, other Kilimanjaro routes such as the Lemosho route are much better choices. We recommend the Umbwe route only be attempted by strong hikers who are confident in their ability to acclimatise quickly to high altitude.
✓ Panoramic views
✓ A challenge for seasoned climbers
– Shorter acclimatisation period
– Low summit success rate
– Less scenic
– Harder climb
The Umbwe route is for those who are seasoned high-altitude trekkers and want a very challenging Kilimanjaro climb.
What is the scenery like on the Umbwe route?
The Umbwe route is less scenic than the other Kilimanjaro routes because of how steeply and quickly it ascends the mountain. That said, the scenery it does have is beautiful, and includes rainforest, moorland and high-altitude desert.
How hard is the Umbwe route?
The Umbwe route is one of the toughest and steepest Kilimanjaro routes and shouldn’t be undertaken by anyone who isn’t fit and accustomed to steep trekking. It also has some steep drops, so it should be avoided by those afraid of heights. The route heads directly upward in a northerly direction towards Barranco Wall. At the wall it links up with the Shira, Lemosho and Machame routes. Because of its steep ascent profile, it has a relatively low summit success rate.
What is the Umbwe route summit success rate?
The Umbwe route is one of the shortest, most direct Kilimanjaro routes, which lowers the quality of its acclimatisation profile. Summit success is low. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all Kilimanjaro operators for the five-day Umbwe route is just 50%.
How busy is the Umbwe route?
The Umbwe route is the least popular of the seven Kilimanjaro routes because it’s the most difficult route up the mountain. It’s therefore not very busy.
What is accommodation like on the Umbwe route?
The Umbwe route offers camping accommodation only. For those who trek with Follow Alice, our climbing package includes all of your camping equipment: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and pillow. Further, all tents are pitched and taken down each day by our dedicated mountain crew throughout the trek.
How long does it take to hike the Umbwe route?
The Umbwe route can be completed in five to seven days. If you were to choose this route, we would recommend the six- or seven-day itinerary because the extra time is helpful to your acclimatisation. Climbing Kilimanjaro isn’t a race – take your time, enjoy the views and, most importantly, pole pole!
What is the Umbwe route cost?
Follow Alice does offer the Umbwe route as a six-day group or private climb upon request. This package costs $2,285 per person (based on double occupancy). This fee includes six nights on the mountain and one night either side at our beautiful partner lodge in the town of Moshi. For more information on package inclusions and exclusions, as well as for more details about the trip, head to our Kilimanjaro climb page.
“Thanks to everyone at Follow Alice, from the guys who help plan to the guides and porters, I will never forget my time in Kilimanjaro!” Stephen Hemmings
6-day Umbwe route overview
The trek starts at Umbwe Gate. You hike to the summit, then descend to finish at Mweka Gate.
|Day||Start||Altitude (m)||Altitude (ft)||Finish||Altitude (m)||Altitude (ft)||Time (hr)||Distance (km)||Distance (miles)|
|1||Umbwe Gate||1,600||5,249||Umbwe Camp||2,940||9,514||6-7||11||7|
|2||Umbwe Camp||2,940||9,646||Barranco Camp||3,976||13,044||4-5||6||4|
|3||Barranco Camp||3,976||13,044||Karanga Camp||3,995||13,106||4-5||5||3|
|4||Karanga Camp||3,995||13,106||Barafu Camp||4,673||15,331||3||4||2|
|5||Barafu Camp||4,673||15,331||Uhuru Peak||5,895||19,341||6-8||5||3|
|Uhuru Peak||5,895||19,341||Mweka Camp||3,068||10,065||6-8||12||7|
|6||Mweka Camp||3,068||10,065||Mweka Gate||1,640||5,380||3||10||6|
Umbwe route in profile
The graphs below show the elevation of the Umbwe in profile – first in metres, then in feet. This clearly shows how steep the trail is!
Umbwe route itinerary
The Umbwe routestarts its approach of the summit from the south. The entire route is a short, steep and direct climb. After reaching Barranco Camp, the trail turns east and takes trekkers below Kilimanjaro’s Southern Ice Field on a path known as the Southern Circuit. It leads to Barafu Camp, which is the starting point for summit day. The trail descends the mountain via the Mweka route.
The Umbwe route is one of the shortest and most challenging of the Kilimanjaro routes.
Day 1: Umbwe Gate to Umbwe Camp
You enter Kilimanjaro National Park at Machame Gate, where you’re recorded in the park registry. From here you start your trek by making your way through warm and humid mountain rainforest to Umbwe Camp, where you stay overnight.
Day 2: Umbwe Camp to Barranco Camp
On the second day of the trek you make your way from Umbwe Camp to Barranco Camp. The journey is rocky and takes you through the Senecio Forest. Giant groundsels (ragworts) can be seen here, which is a highlight for nature lovers. You soon arrive at Barranco Camp and stay here for the night.
Day 3: Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp
Today’s hike of four to five hours is important to your acclimatisation. After an early breakfast, it’s time for you to conquer the great Barranco Wall. Although it may look intimidating, trekkers usually report that it turned out to be less taxing than they anticipated. At the top of the wall, you’re above the clouds and have superb views of the Southern Ice Fields and the summit. The trail then winds up and down until you arrive at Karanga Camp, where you spend the night.
Day 4: Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp
It’s getting real – you’re now very close to the summit! Today you have a climb of about three hours to reach Barafu Camp. The views throughout the day’s hike are epic. Tonight you all head to bed early as your summit trek begins around midnight!
Day 5: Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
Today is the day you climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro! Your goal is Uhuru Peak on the crater rim of Kibo. It will take all of your determination to reach the top, but dig deep, because it’s 100% worth the effort!
Part 1 | Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak
Today’s summit attempt starts at around midnight! The route heads northwest into the dark night, taking you on a path that’s made mostly of scree. After about six to eight hours of trekking you reach Uhuru Peak, which sits at 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by your achievement!
Part 2 | Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
After some time at the summit, you start your long descent to Mweka Camp at 3,110 m (10,204 ft). Mweka Camp is in the forest zone, and you’ll love how easy it is to breathe again! This is where you spend your final night on the mountain.
Day 6: Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
Today you trek through rainforest to reach the foot of the mountain, where your driver fetches you. What an adventure to have climbed Kilimanjaro!
The 7 Kilimanjaro routes
- Lemosho Route
The Lemosho is the most beautiful Kilimanjaro route.
- Machame Route
The Machame is the most popular Kilimanjaro route.
- Marangu Route
The Marangu is the only route to offer hut accommodation.
- Rongai Route
The Rongai approaches the summit from the north.
- Shira Route
The Shira approaches the summit from the west.
- Northern Circuit Route
The Northern Circuit is the newest and longest Kilimanjaro route.
- Umbwe Route
The Umbwe is the shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route.
Keen to explore more of Tanzania?
If you want to add a little adventure onto the end of your Kilimanjaro climb, we recommend going on a Tanzania safari – you won’t find a better African safari! Or hop over the border into Uganda to trek with mountain gorillas. Alternatively, if you’ve limited time and budget, why not do one or two extra activities in the Kilimanjaro region like visit a Maasai village or a coffee farm?