Female hiker in moorland of Umbwe route, Kilimanjaro

The Umbwe route on Kilimanjaro

Aug 18, 2022
Reading time: 8 minutes

The Umbwe is the shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route. It's not ideal for most trekkers, as it doesn't give your body much time to acclimatise to the increased elevation. We explain the pros and cons of the 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.​

Quick facts on the Umbwe route

Difficulty: High

Distance: 53 km / 33 miles

Duration: 5-7 days

Success rate: Low

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on the Kilimanjaro Umbwe Route

Your choice of Kilimanjaro route affects your chances of successfully summiting the mountain!

Follow Alice's opinion of the Umbwe

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

✓ Not crowded


- 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?

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 very beautiful, and includes rainforest, moorland and high-altitude desert.

Giant groundsel in mist on Kilimanjaro

A giant groundsel surrounded by mist

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.

Trekkers climbing up steep path in the forest of Kilimanjaro

A steep section through the rainforest that encircles Kilimanjaro

What is the route's 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?

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.

Mount Kilimanjaro Scenery from Umbwe Route

The views from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro are breathtaking

What is accommodation like?

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.

Follow Alice campsite on Kilimanjaro

A Follow Alice camp setup

How many days is the Umbwe?

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.

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

Tent Accommodation Mount Kilimanjaro Umbwe Route

Tented accommodation on Mount Kilimanjaro

Umbwe route overview

The trek starts at Umbwe Gate. You hike to the summit, then descend to finish at Mweka Gate.

6-day Umbwe route overview

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 elevation in metres
Umbwe route elevation in feet

6-day Umbwe route itinerary

The Umbwe route starts 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.


Map showing the Umbwe route

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.

Elevation: 1,600 m to 2,900 m

Distance: 11 km / 7 miles

Hiking time: 6-7 hours

Habitat: Forest

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.

Elevation: 2,940 m to 3,976 m

Distance: 6 km / 4 miles

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Habitat: Heath

Kilimanjaro Barranco Camp view mist

A misty view from Barranco Camp

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.

Elevation: 3,976 m to 3,995 m

Distance: 5 km / 3 miles

Hiking time: 4-5 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Karanga Camp sign with peak behind

Each campsite has a sign with some facts and figures on it

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!

Elevation: 3,995 m to 4,673 m

Distance: 4 km / 2 miles

Hiking time: 3 hours

Habitat: Alpine desert

Man in red jacket standing by Barafu Camp sign on Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Our lovely client Scott at Barafu Camp

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!

Elevation: 4,673 m to 5,895 m

Distance: 5 km / 3 miles

Hiking time: 6-8 hours

Habitat: Arctic

Mount Kilimanjaro Summit

Beautiful scenery from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

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.

Elevation: 5,895 m to 3,068 m

Distance: 12 km / 7 miles

Hiking time: 6-8 hours

Mweka camp Kilimanjaro

Group shot at Mweka Camp

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!

Elevation: 3,068 m to 1,640 m

Distance: 10 km / 6 miles

Hiking time: 3 hours

Habitat: Rainforest

Kilimanjaro forest – enormous tree trunk and climbers

Snap by Eva Uisso of an enormous tree trunk in the rainforest along the Mweka 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?

Mt Meru Tanzania

Some people also like to hike Mt Meru, seen here, as an acclimatisation trek before hitting Mt Kilimanjaro