According to Tanzania National Parks, Mount Kilimanjaro attracts some 50,000 climbers every year. A Bucket List adventure for many, Kilimanjaro is accessible, affordable, and achievable for anyone who is mentally and physically prepared for the challenge ahead, but the increasing number of visitors make for a very crowded climb, particularly during peak travel months, and so you need to plan your route wisely if you are to enjoy a peaceful passage to the Roof of Africa.
The Marangu Route (Coca-Cola) and Machame Route (Whisky) are undoubtedly, the most popular routes on the mountain, and as such, you can expect large crowds, particularly during January, February, September and October, when intrepid travellers flock in their thousands to climb Kilimanjaro.
The longer 8-Day Lemosho Route is also growing in popularity, especially with those who have done their research on Kilimanjaro and understand that the more time they spend on the mountain, the more successful their expedition is likely to be. But more time on the mountain equals higher overall costs, and so this route generally doesn’t appeal to budget travellers, even though it has the highest success rate.
The Rongai Route is widely believed to be the easiest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, and so it attracts a fair share of climbers, and the lesser known Shira Route is fast becoming the number #1 choice for mountain bikers, so you may want to avoid that unless you are planning on cycling Kilimanjaro on 2 wheels!
Finally, we come to the Umbwe Route, which is Kilimanjaro’s steepest and most demanding route. As it is only recommended for experienced climbers, the Umbwe Route attracts much less traffic than the other routes on the mountain, and so one can really break away from the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet as they tackle, what is ultimately, one of the toughest challenges they are every likely to face.
So how difficult is the Umbwe Route? Well, it’s tough! Particularly during the first two days, when you can expect relentless uphill climbs and nothing but tree roots to help you pull yourself up and through the humid forest canopy. On day 1 you will gain almost 1300m altitude, and on day 2 a further 1050m altitude, and so there is little time for acclimatisation, but it is still a non-technical climb, and with the right preparation, it is doable.
Unless you are super fit and highly experienced at hiking at high altitude, the Umbwe Route may not be the best choice for your Kilimanjaro expedition, but if you’ve already reached your personal goals, and are aiming to push your fitness levels to the next level, it could be just the challenge you are looking for!