Route duration: 6 - 7 days on the mountain
Total hiking distance: Approximately 100 kms
This is probably the most beautiful route up Kilimanjaro and commonly referred to as the "Whiskey route. In sharp contrast to the conventional Marangu route accommodation on the Machame is strictly in tents making it better suited to the slightly more adventurous hiker. The route however rewarding the trekker with a scenic splendor such as not seen on the Marangu route - from late afternoon sunsets at Shira, to the misty revelations of Kibo at the great Barranco Wall, the Machame route offers the adventurous hiker a stunning picturesque scenery over 6 days. The Machame route is normally completed in a minimum of 6 days. There is an added benefit to this, it affords the climber the most valuable commodity on the mountain - additional acclimatisation. The Machame route takes you high to Lava Tower (4630m) on the day 3 and brings you down by nearly 700m for an overnight at Barranco camp (3950m) – a secret to successful acclimatisation. NB: This itinerary can be adjusted further to provides ADDITIONAL valuable acclimatisation by having extra, but shorter walking days during the trek - achieved by adding the climbing days to 7 instead of the standard 6.
Trip tips: Accommodation on this trip is in a comfortable Hotel before and after the climb and camping throughout in 3 person mountain tents shared by two people. Guides leading the trek always walk along with the climbers and closely monitor the trekker’s adjustment to altitude. All your equipment will be carried by local porters, you only carry a day-pack with personal gear. When camping you will not have to participate in camp chores. We buy fresh produce locally and to ensure good standards of hygiene all food is prepared by our own staff. We can cater for special dietary requirements and there are no extra food-kitty payments.
8 days Itinerary for the Machame route (ex – Nairobi) - For the 9 days slow paced option we simply include an additional day on the mountain and camp at Karanga valley on day 4 of the trek instead of going past. By so doing it allows us to divide the distance between Shira camp and Barafu camp into 3 shorter daily trekking phases that take 4-5 hours to trek rather than the 2 longer phases of 7-8 hours. This inevitably allows for more acclimatization and better chance to get to the summit. (an alteranative itinerary is available for the 9 day option).
Nairobi – Arusha by road.
Depart from Nairobi in the morning hours and drive for 4-5 hours via Namanga boarder to Arusha. On arrival have lunch then take the rest of the afternoon to sort out your trek gears. Dinner and overnight at Impala Hotel or similar.
Machame Gate (1800m) - Machame camp (2980m)
Hiking time: 6 - 7h Distance: Approximately 18kms Habitat: Montane forest
After breakfast you get a briefing followed by a drive to the Machame Park gate from where we set off climbing gently through the south-western slopes of the mountain. Depending on road conditions, it is possible to drive all the way to the gate (1490m.) but when muddy, the 3kms walk from the village (1500m.) to the gate (1800m.) take about 1 hour. After the registration process at the park gate we ascent through the original montane forest, carpeted with unique "busy lizzie" flowers, begonias and ferns taking us 6 hours and ascending 1,200m. Your porters arrive at campsite ahead and erect tents for you amongst the giant heather at 2,980m. Night temperatures can already drop to freezing point at this first camp.
Machame camp (2980m) - Shira camp (3840m)
Hiking time: 5-6h Distance: Approximately 9 kms Habitat: Moorland
In 3 hours we emerge from the forest into the giant heather zone and out onto fine open moorland. After lunch, continue up a rocky ridge onto the Shira plateau. By now you’re able to see the east the Western Breach with its stunning glaciers. After another 2-3 hour hike we reach the Shira campsite at 3,840m. We've seen herds of eland up here and there are fascinating geological features in the old volcanic caldera which can be viewed during a half hour optional walk in the afternoon. At camp the crew boil drinking and washing water for you before serving dinner. The night at this exposed camp will even be colder than the previous night, with temperatures dropping to well below freezing.
Shira (at 3840m) to Lava Tower (at 4630m) to Barranco camp (at 3950m)
Hiking time: 7h Distance: Approximately 15 kms Habitat: High altitude semi-desert
Gain: +790m / -680m
From Shira the trail now heads due east into high altitude semi desert of rocky landscape surrounding Lava Tower and reach an altitude of 4630m in about 5 hours. (This is definitely the toughest day so far and normally at this altitude some climbers will start to feel the effects of altitude). After lunch we descent almost 680m to the Barranco camping area and having reached a high altitude of over 4600m the true acclimatisation benefit of this day become clear – having climbed much higher and dropped back down greatly assists with acclimatisation. The descent to Barranco camp takes about 2 hours and offers great opportunities to take some beautiful photographs of the Western Breach and Breach Wall. The camp is situated in a valley below the Breach and Great Barranco Wall, which also provides a memorable sunset while we wait for our dinner.
Barranco camp (3950m)- Barafu camp (4550m)
Hiking time: 7h Distance: Approximately 13 kms Habitat: Alpine desert
After Breakfast we make our way up the Great Barranco wall that’s an awesome looking obstacle and emerge out just below the Heim Glacier. The route then heads down through the Karanga Valley (the last water stop on the route) then over out-cropping ridges to join up with Mweka route (the descent route we will follow back down). At the ridge we turn left and after an hour or so we reach Barafu Hut – remember! no water at Barafu camp so carry enough from Karanga valley. “Barafu is “Swahili for ice and this is a bare and savage camping area to spend the night. Totally exposed to the ever-present windy outbursts requiring tents to be pitched on a narrow, stony, and treacherous ridge. The summit is now a further 1345m up from here and we make this final ascent this same night - make sure to familiarise yourself with this ragged terrain before dark to avoid any accidents. Prepare your equipment, ski stick and thermal clothing for your summit attempt. This should include the replacement of your headlamp and camera batteries and make sure you have a spare set available as well. To prevent freezing it will be wise to carry your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed at round about 19h00 and try to get some precious rest and sleep.
(Summit attempt) Barafu camp (4550m) - Uhuru Peak (5895m) - Mweka (3100m)
Hiking time: 8h to reach Uhuru Peak, 7 - 8h to descend to Mweka Distance: Approximately 7 kms ascent - 23 kms descent Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit
Ascent: +1345m Descent: -2795m
We arise at 2330hrs, for some tea and biscuits before we shamble off into the night to climb the steep frozen scree heading in the northwesterly direction to reach Stella Point on the crater rim. After a 6-hour laborious walk we reach Stella Point (5685m.) for a beautiful sunrise (weather permitting) and in another hour we’ll be at the highest point on the continent - Uhuru Peak (5895m) usually in warm sunshine. Time spent at the summit depends on prevailing weather conditions. Advise: Avoid stopping here for too long, as it will be extremely difficult to start again due to cold and fatigue. We return on the Mweka descent route. Walking time today 7 hours and 1,300m ascent to the summit, 5-6 hours and 2,800m descent to Mweka camp (3100m). Mweka camp is in a clearing amongst the giant heather of the upper forest where mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. This is a long and hard day - you'll feel tired but absolutely ecstatic after you've done it.
Mweka camp (3100m) - Mweka Gate (1980m)
Hiking time: 3h
Distance: Approximately 15 kms Habitat: Forest
After breakfast is a 4-5 hours descent through the forest to Mweka Gate to collect our certificates and meet our vehicle. Return to Arusha by road for ovenight and cerebrations at Impala Hotel or similar.
Arusha - Nairobi by road.
After breakfast we commence our journey back into Nairobi and arrive in the afternoon hours.