Monday, April 27, 2015

Route Profile: Kilimanjaro - Machame Route

Kilimanjaro - 19,341 ft (5895 m)

Route: Machame

Kilimanjaro from the plains of Africa. AAI Collection

The picturesque Machame Route is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful routes on the Kilimanjaro. Most of the climb is actually trekking on well-formed trails, but there are a few sections of steeper, non-technical terrain. Our camps are at sites established by the Tanzanian National Park Service, and each camp provides outhouses and is staffed by a rescue team in case emergency evacuations are necessary.

Climbing above tree line and in the
clouds on Kilimanjaro.
Shawn Olson.
Five camps are used as we gradually move up the mountain, and their altitude (ranging from 9,843 to 15,100 feet) will help us acclimatize gradually before making our summit bid. A typical day includes three to six hours of climbing. Summit day is typically between five and eight hours, and begins just after midnight with a plan to enjoy the magnificent colors of sunrise near the summit.

Besides its beauty, a benefit of the Machame Route is that it includes two days of "hiking high and sleeping low," a strategy proven to help with successful acclimatization.

Day 1: Arrival/Mbahe Farm House

Your trip leader will pick you up upon your arrival at the Kilimanjaro International Airport. A private car will take you to Mbahe Village, located in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, approximately 2 hours from the airport. Accommodations are in cottages at the beautiful Mbahe Farm House.

Day 2: Mbahe Farm House (6,000’)

You have the morning to rest and relax. You can enjoy delicious “homebrew” coffee, grown and roasted on the farm, and meals made with fruits and vegetables from the garden. Your trip leader will provide an orientation on the climb and do an equipment check. This is also a day to take a guided tour around Mbahe Village, the Mtuy family farm, and to swim in the waterfall on farm’s land. We will all gather together for dinner.

Day 3: Machame Gate (6,000’) to Machame Camp (9,950’)

Entering the national park. Shawn Olson.
After breakfast we will drive to the Machame Gate, where you will meet your other guides and mountain crew and enter the Kilimanjaro National Park. We begin our climb at 6,000 feet, walking for a few hours through thick and undisturbed tropical forest. With luck, we may see the colobus monkeys that live in the forest. Quick Stats: 6.6 miles, 3950’ of elevation gain.

Day 4: Machame Camp (9,950’) to Shira Camp (12,620’)

Today is an easy paced acclimatization day. We will hike over streams, a river gorge, and moorlands. Camp is located on the Shira Plateau, providing expansive views of Kilimanjaro. We will do a conditioning hike in the afternoon on which you can enjoy clusters of giant lobelia and senecios that grow at this elevation. Quick Stats: 3.5 miles, 2670’ of elevation gain.

Day 5: Shira Camp (12,620’) to Lava Tower Camp (15,230’)

Today is another acclimatization day as we have a mostly uphill climb of 5 hours to an elevation over 15,000 feet. We will pass through the alpine moorland zone where plants are extremely hardy and consist of lichens, grasses, and heather, to reach Kilimanjaro’s alpine desert zone. You will have a spectacular view of the steep Western Breach. After an early afternoon rest we will take a two-hour round-trip adventure climb up the Lava Tower. This scramble is fun and will help prepare you for the climb tomorrow. Quick Stats: 4.4 miles, 2690’ of elevation gain.

The upper slopes of Kilimanjaro still have
some receding glaciers. Shawn Olson.

Day 6: Lava Tower Camp (15,230’) to Karanga Valley Camp (13,250’)

Today we will climb the Great Barranco rock wall - not too steep but challenging for some – which our guides make comfortable and accessible for everyone. We will go pole pole (meaning “slowly” in Kiswahili). You will be able to see the breathtaking Heim Glacier. We descend into the Karanga Valley and then to our camp on a ridge above the valley, where you will be able to enjoy a rest and have refreshing a sponge bath with warm water. Quick Stats: 5.9 miles, 1980’ of elevation loss.

The upper mountain provides an incredible
backdrop for our camps. Shawn Olson.

Day 7: Karanga Valley Camp (13,250’) to Barafu Camp (15,360’)

As we begin trekking today the trail turns steadily uphill. The temperature will grow colder and the landscape more sparse as we work our way to Barafu Camp. Barafu means “ice” in Kiswahili. Hiking time is 4 to 5 hours. The Camp is set on an exposed ridge and is the staging point for our push to the summit. After an early dinner we will go to bed for some sleep. At midnight, hopefully under the stars, we will begin the final ascent. We are going to go pole pole and drink plenty of water and tea along the way, refueling with small snacks regularly to keep our energy high and to help us enjoy this final climb to the summit. Quick Stats: 2.4 miles, 2110’ of elevation gain.

Day 8: Barafu Camp (15,360’) to Uhuru Peak (19,340’) to Millennium Camp (12,530’)

The roof of Africa. AAI Collection.
We will reach Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet, around 8am At this early hour, before any possible clouds close in, you will have spectacular views of Africa in all directions. The hiking time is 7 to 8 hours. Tea and snacks will be served on the top. After a stay of about 30 minutes and photos all around, we will descend 2 to 3 hours to our Barafu Camp for lunch, rest, and to pack up belongings. Then we continue downhill 3 to 4 hours to the edge of the Mweka Forest. Tonight’s camp is 7,000 feet below the summit! It is a long descent and trekking poles are recommended. Eat, share your experiences of the climb, and sleep soundly! Congratulations, you made it to the Roof of Africa! Quick Stats: 8.3 miles, 3980’ of elevation gain and 6810’ of elevation

Day 9: Millennium Camp (12,530’) to Mweka Gate (5,380’); Mbahe Farm House

Our last day is another descent of 7,000 feet with 4 to 5 hours of hiking to the trailhead at Mweka Gate. The trail is steep in places and may be slippery if wet; again we recommend that you use trekking poles. At the gate we will temporarily say goodbye to our mountain crew and enjoy a picnic lunch. The trip leaders will take you back to Arusha for a hot shower and a celebration dinner with the whole team. Depart Tanzania after dinner or remain for rest day or remain for safari. Quick Stats: 8.5 miles, 7150’ of elevation loss.

Descending after a successful summit bid.
Shawn Olson.

Day 10: Mbahe Farm House/Departure

Today is a rest and relaxation day at the farmhouse. Optional activities include light hiking, swimming, exploring the village and local school, visiting with the neighbors, drumming, tasting homemade banana beer, and shopping in Moshi Town. For those returning home, you will be transferred to the Kilimanjaro International Airport to catch your flight (most people fly out in the evening on KLM to Amsterdam). Those continuing on safari will pack lightly for the continuation of your African adventure tomorrow. If you are continuing on safari, you will depart in the morning for your first day of safari.

Kilimanjaro is a great way to enter into the world of high altitude trekking and climbing. It also serves as the first mountain for many climbers interested in pursuing the Seven Summits. Combine Kilimanjaro with a climb on Elbrus or Aconcagua in the same year and you'll receive a discount! For the upcoming climbing season in Africa, you can join trips departing every month from June to October.

Climbing the upper slopes of Mount Elbrus, Russia.
AAI Collection.
Morning sunlight on Aconcagua, Argentina.
AAI Collection.

See you in the mountains soon!

Wyatt Evenson
Alaska Programs and 7 Summits Coordinator
AAI Guide

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