Kilimanjaro spoils you for choice. There are six common routes as well as few less popular ones, all leading to the summit. By stated order of popularity, the traditional routes include the Machame, Marangu, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai and Umbwe routes. Choice is good, but it also adds complexity. How to even start?
This was my thinking process:
- Go for the shortest route, because minimizing my days without shower was my number one priority.
-> Bad idea: The shorter your time to acclimatize, the lower your chances of reaching the summit.
- Go for the toughest route for an extra challenge, which seemed to be ascending via the strenuous Western Breach.
-> Bad idea: The Western Breach is prone to rockfall. The risk of lethal accidents (even if small) always remains.
- Go for the coolest camp, which seemed to be the Crater Camp all the way up right next to the glacier.
-> Bad idea: For high altitude first timers, you don’t know whether sleeping that high up will be fun or horror.
- Go off into the wild, which means staying away from popular routes in order to avoid the crowds.
-> Good idea: Don’t all hikers prefer nature over mass market tourism? Clear winner – the Northern Circuit.
What seems logic and obvious in hindsight actually took me weeks of reading and researching to figure out! For more details and my first-hand account of the Northern Circuit route, please refer to Kilimanjaro Uncovered: An Alternative Path to Bliss.
For comprehensive information on each of the traditional routes, please refer to Henry Stedman’s Climb Mount Kilimanjaro and Mark Whitman’s Climb Kilimanjaro Guide. Both provide excellent information online, no need for me to repeat it here.
The focus of Kilimanjaro Uncovered is on off-the-beaten-track options away from mass tourism. Other then the Northern Circuit, there’s also a longer variant called Grand Traverse, which seems equally intriguing.
Are you aware of other great routes away from the crowds, yet without sacrificing acclimatization time or benign weather in popular seasons? Or have you also hiked a path less traveled? Please leave your comments or review below.