Trek Notes - Tanzania

Mt Kilimanjaro (Machame Route)

Kilimanjaro - Ascent of Africa's Highest Peak

The ascent of Kilimanjaro is a challenge, made difficult by the altitudes involved. The itinerary is carefully planned to climb in a controlled manner to give the best chance of reaching the summit.    

Uhuru peak on the snow-capped rim of volcanic Kilimanjaro stands at almost 6000metres, dominating the surrounding African savannah. The ascent is a non technical six day trek, but it demands stamina and above all care. We have chosen the Machame route for our ascent. Much less used than the Marangu Route, and less demanding than the Shira or Umbwe route. The Machame offers a climatic world tour from the tropics to the Arctic, splendid scenery, and most of all the best chance of success. We emerge from the lush vegetation of the lower slopes on the Shira Plateau (3840m) to enjoy the views of Kibo peak, before crossing the barren slopes to Barranco camp. The next stage to the Barafu hut, shuns more direct routes in the interest of further acclimatisation. The summit attempt demands a start in the early hours and a tough walk across scree and snow to Gillmans point (5685m). From there we circle around the snow fields of the crater rim to Uhuru Peak (5895m), the summit of Kibo, and a glorious sunrise over the African Plains. The descent on the Mweka route provides new panoramas and is easier with each step you take. A final night at our hotel completes the journey.

The Best Time to Visit Kilimanjaro
On tailor made tours you can travel any day that you wish during the season.  The clearest and warmest conditions are December to February.  It is also clear and dry (but cooler) from mid-June to September.

Kilimanjaro at 5895m, the ice - jewelled Crown of Africa, stands proud of the Amboseli plains as the highest mountain of the continent and the easiest of the so-called "Seven Summits." Nearly everyone who comes to East Africa at least dreams of standing on top of the peak, even if they never even aim to climb it! The allure of the mountain arose from the time in the 1850s when the first Europeans saw it at a distance and even believed some of the native rumours that the mountain was encrusted in salt or covered in silver. When explorers suggested that the white deposits might actually be snow and ice, even the Royal Geographical Society laughed. It seemed a contradiction in terms: how could you be standing near the equator and yet can be standing in snow? Simple - by being at nearly 20,000 feet!

Although global warming has meant that there is now a lot less ice around than there used to be even fifty years ago, the views from the top are quite stunning, not only because of the stepped glaciers, rose tinted in the morning sun, but also the distant views over Tanzania and Kenya, to Mount Meru, the Serengeti volcanoes such as Mt. Lengai, and even to Mt. Kenya on a very clear day.

The Set Up
This compact Kili tour can be booked for virtually any date that you want to travel (we advise against April to mid June due to the wet season). As long as there are two or more of you, just tell us the dates that you want. Then all you need to do is get your gear together (list provided in our pre-departure info), get a Tanzanian Visa, Yellow Fever jab (and any others you may need) and take out insurance. You also have to make sure that you have some fitness for this big mountain and to enjoy yourself!

How the Trekking is Organised
On trek you should expect to carry a daypack containing your immediate needs. Porters will carry the main luggage, food, and cooking and camping equipment. Accommodation whilst on trek is in two person tents. Normally you will start fairly early and after breakfast the porters scurry on ahead very rapidly (they are well acclimatised!). You will be given a packed lunch and then you will walk with your guide to the next location, where the tent should already be erected. You then will usually be given soft drinks and soon the main, cooked meal will be served. People normally retire at dusk after the guide has explained what will happen the following day. 

Grade: Challenging Plus
This trek encounters considerable extremes of both altitude and temperature and is thus graded Challenging Plus. Some people who attempt Kilimanjaro fail to reach the summit due either to lack of physical preparation or because they cannot adapt quickly enough to the altitude. This 10-day tour is about the shortest length of time that you really could hope to enjoy the tour and to avoid the more serious effects of altitude. After your long flight into Tanzania there is an acclimatisation day on arrival and then there is an "easy-ish" day to start. However, as on any high altitude trek, there can be no guarantee that you will not have acclimatisation problems. If you experience adverse effects to altitude, you will have to descend and remain at a lower altitude until recovery. In the interests of safety and your well being, you should talk to the guide if you are feeling poorly. This trek is most likely to be enjoyed by those who already have had some high mountain walking experience. You have a much greater chance of success on the mountain by going slowly but steadily!

Our Base
Our safaris and mountain climbs in Northern Tanzania are based at our hotel near Moshi. This is a small modern, family-run hotel located just outside of town. It has pleasant gardens, fine views of Kilimanjaro and a covered dining area in the gardens. There is also an indoor restaurant and small bar. En-suite accommodation is available in the main building with showers, mosquito mesh in the windows, fans and very clean borehole water. A large swimming pool has been recently completed together with a new dining area. If you have some spare time in the hotel we recommend a morning guided walk in the nearby forests where there are many troops of monkeys to be seen including Vervet and the less common Black & White Colobus Monkey. A wide variety of bird life is also to be seen on this walk.

Before you arrive all transport, guides, porters, huts or camping and all food necessary for your climb or safari are arranged by the hotel and are inclusive in the cost (lunches and dinners, except on trek are not included). The hotel staff will brief you before you depart for your trip. All that remains for you to do is enjoy it!

Weather in the high mountains is never totally predictable and East Africa is no exception especially as it has two wet and two dry seasons per year. The best seasons are mid December - February and mid June to September. You can do this tour anytime of year, but we would advise against April to mid June, as this is the period of Long Rains.  October to mid December is the period of short rains and the trail can be slippery under such conditions. The nights on trek will be cool to cold (below freezing higher on the mountain) and days cool to warm. UV is very strong at all times. On the Summit day a very early start can be expected and although this is steep, the traverse between Stella point and the actual summit of Uhuru peak is exposed to winds which are below freezing, often -10 to -25 with wind chill; so good warm walking gear is essential. Driving up towards Kilimanjaro across the plains and in the game parks it can be quite hot (up in the 30s C).

Equipment & Clothing
All communal camping and cooking equipment is provided. People must provide their own sleeping bag (suitable for 3- 4 seasons use) and personal equipment. This should be of high quality, especially the sleeping bag, warm clothing and boots of at least 3-season grade (plastic boots, crampons and Ice axe are not required under normal conditions, but walking poles will be useful and there is no harm in bringing a walking axe if you have one, (but it will normally be of limited use). A detailed list of recommended clothing and equipment will be sent to each member shortly after confirmation of booking. 

What's Included
All road transportation as specified in the itinerary. Bed and breakfast accommodation at the hotel. All meals when on trek; services of guides, cook and porters, when out on trek; transfers to/from the mountain gate. Park and rescue fees are included in the tour price. (The tour price is based on a Land Only package but flights can be arranged on request, prices depend on both the time of year and the airline involved).

Not Included
Drinks, bottled water, clothing or hire of any equipment, tips, personal toiletry requirements, insurance and all items of a personal nature; passport, insurance, visas, immunisation fees, airport taxes (allow $30 for the taxes).

Tipping: Porters and guides on Meru and Kilimanjaro see tipping as a very important part of their income. Although we admit that this situation can be awkward, especially if you do not come from a tipping environment, it has become part of the culture and can lead to awkward scenes if too little is paid. Part of the problem has been expectation fuelled by the excessive one off tips given by some walkers filled with euphoria having completed the climb! Tipping is at your discretion, but the advice is currently $10 (US) per day for each porter per group and more for the guide + cook, about $15 per day. This may seem excessive, but it is not too bad especially if the staff have done a good job. You will have at least the satisfaction of seeing the money hopefully going into the local economy. Most of the porters especially will have ‘shambas', or small peasant holdings, where they will farm during the low season, or when illness or other reasons keeps them away from the mountain. It is sobering to realise that although some of the guides do quite well out of the industry (as long as their health holds) most of the porters do not earn a cash income for long periods during the year and although if they have ‘Shambas' they will be self sufficient to a degree, life is still hard!

This itinerary is intended as a working guide only and may be subject to variation as a result of local conditions, weather and how you make progress. 

We reserve the right to alter (lengthen or shorten) any trek at any time.

Days 1 & 2: Arrival at Kilimanjaro International airport and transfer over to our hotel for two nights irrespective of whether you arrived in the evening of day 1 or the morning of day 2 (depending on the airline), for a rest and an acclimatisation day. There is a pool, restaurant, bar and some woodland walks.

Day 3: A 45 min drive through to Machame village and then on to the National Park Gate. Park formalities dispensed with, it is about 5 hours walking today. Porters will be seen arranging their packs containing food, water, firewood and other equipment. Make sure you have all your daypack items with you because the porters travel fast. The guides will assist with any additional information that you need. From the park gate, there is a wonderful walk up through the rain forest on a winding trail to the first hut, which is located at 3048 m.  Continue onto the Machame hut. Where we make camp, rest, enjoy our dinner and overnight (3100 m). 

Day 4: (About 4 hours walking) after breakfast we leave the last of the rain forest behind and ascend, walking along a steep rocky ridge, covered with heather to the ridge end. We then turn west into a river gorge and onto the Shira Hut campsite, dinner and camp. (3840m).

Day 5: (About 6 hours walking) From the Shira Plateau we continue to the East then our direction changes to South East towards the Lava Tower, called ‘The Shark's Tooth.' Shortly after the tower, we come to a junction, which brings us up to the arrow glacier. We reach an altitude of 4876 m. But to aid acclimatisation we now continue down to the Barranco hut at an altitude of 3950 m. Here we rest, dine and camp.

Day 6: (About 8 hours walking) After breakfast we leave the Barranco hut and continue on a steep ridge passing the Barranco wall, through the Karanga valley and the junction which connects with the Mweka trail. We continue to the Barafu hut which is located at an altitude of (4600 m) Here we make camp, rest, enjoy dinner and overnight.

Day 7: (About 11 hours walking - the hardest day) Early morning start to make the most of walking steeply over frozen volcanic screes. And to get you to the summit for the sunrise; we continue our ascent to Stella Point (5745 m) between the Rebmann and Ratzal glaciers. The last section before the rim can sometimes be snow-covered and a walking pole or an ice axe, is useful for balance, on our way to the summit (Uhuru Peak 5895 m, this part of the climb takes about 6 hours). We have now reached the highest point in Africa, giving fine views of Kilimanjaro's crater, stepped glaciers and Mount Meru. Mount Kenya may appear as a black pimple far to the north. From the summit we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka hut campsite (3100 m). This part of the descent takes about 5 hours. Later in the evening we have our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.

Day 8: After breakfast continue the descent down to the Mweka Park gate and then drive back to Moshi and transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel (you maybe forgiven for drinking too much in celebration!).

Day 9: After Breakfast or lunch (depending on the time of flight departure) transfer to Kilimanjaro International Airport for departure.

Safari Extension
After the climb, there is the opportunity of a wildlife safari tour extension. Here there is the possibility of viewing the big five and many other species. Ask for details.

Health Matters & Documents
You should carry a reasonably comprehensive medical kit with you, as the First Aid supplies on the mountains may be limited. We don't mean things like traction splints, but basic dressings (including burns dressing), Aspirin, Ibuprofen, antihistamine cream or tablets, antiseptic cream, skin closures, Iodine Tincture solution and your Malaria tablets. You do need to have a valid certificate of vaccination for Yellow Fever, but this is rarely checked.

Visas: For Tanzania Australia citizens need a visa bought before departure from the Tanzanian Embassy for £40 (single entry). Details in Pre departure information other nationalities should check for their requirements.

Passports: should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into Tanzania.

Books & Maps
Lonely Planet guide to " Trekking in East Africa", by David Else. A well researched, well written book that includes a wealth of practical information on walking in E. Africa including topographical maps and plenty of background information on the countries. Highly recommended.   

"East African International Mountain Guide", by A. Wielochowski. Though the emphasis is on climbing, this authoritative guidebook contains valuable information for trekkers.

"East Africa", by J.R.Yogerst. An excellent overall guide from Lonely Planet.  

There are also the Climbers "Guide to Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro," by Ian Allen, which contains notes on the walks as well as climbing. This is a neat little memento being pocket sized with a weather resistant cover. This is printed by the Mountain Club Of Kenya. 

You can also purchase the best map of Kilimanjaro, originally by Andrew Wielochowski: Tel: +44 1550 721319 it costs approx £9 including Postage and packing.


Print   To Top