Trekking – Umbwe Route
The Umbwe Route is widely regarded as the hardest trail, a tough vertical slog through the jungle, in places using the tree roots as makeshift rungs on a ladder. Having reached the Southern Circular Route, trekkers can continue north-west to tackle Kibo from the west and the difficult Arrow Glacier Route; or you can follow the Southern Circular Route east round to Barafu and approach the summit from there. The entire walk up and down takes a minimum of five days if going via the Barafu Campsite (though this is entirely too rapid; take six minimum, with a day at Karanga Valley); or five minimum (six is again better) if going via the Western Breach/Arrow Glacier, with more days if sleeping in the crater
Drive from Moshi to the Umbwe Gate. Commence the climb through the rain forest with packed lunch on route. Dinner and overnight at the first encampment (9,186 ft / 2,800 m).
After breakfast, we leave the glades of the forest and follow an ascending path on the open moorland to the Barranco Hut (12,795 ft / 3,900 m).
After breakfast, we leave Barranco and continue on a steep ridge passing the Barranco Wall, through the Karanga Valley (13,770 ft / 4,200 m), and the junction that connects with the Mweka Trail.
We continue to the Barafu Hut. You have completed the South Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. Here we make camp, rest, enjoy dinner, and prepare for the summit day. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo can be viewed from our camp.
Very early in the morning (midnight to 2 a.m.) we begin our push to the summit. You head in a northwesterly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. At Stella Point (18,652 ft / 5,685 m), you stop for a short rest and will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to experience.
From Stella Point, you will encounter snow all the way on your 2-hour trek to the summit. Once at Uhuru Peak we have reached the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. Faster hikers will see the sunrise from the summit.
It can be very cold at night at these elevations, but you will be quite warm by the end of the hiking day. You will want clothing with you for both extremes.
From the summit we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. You will want gaiters and trekking poles for the loose gravel. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon.
Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned rest. Beer and soda may be available for purchase at the Mweka Hut.
After breakfast we continue the descent to the Mweka Park Gate to receive your summit certificates. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. Gaiters and trekking poles will help. Shorts and t-shirts will probably provide plenty of warmth (keep rain gear and warmer clothing handy).
From the gate, continue another hour to Mweka Village. A vehicle will meet you at Mweka village to drive you back to your hotel in Moshi. Don’t forget to tip your guides and porters. It is time for celebration.