The  Kilimanjaro umbwe Route

The Umbwe route is the shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route. It’s not ideal for most trekkers, as it doesn’t give your body much time to acclimatise to the increased elevation. We explain the pros and cons of the Umbwe route.

The Umbwe route has a reputation for being the most challenging route on Kilimanjaro. And rightly so. It’s the shortest and steepest of the Kilimanjaro routes, and accordingly has a poor acclimatisation profile. For this reason its summit success rate is low and its one of the least used trails on the mountain. The Umbwe approaches the summit from the south and camping is the only available accommodation option. Pre-acclimatisation is recommended for those who choose to trek this route.

Quick facts on the Umbwe route

Our Opinion of the Umbwe

The Umbwe route is our least favourite of the Kilimanjaro climb routes. Given its steep ascent, it doesn’t offer much time to acclimatise and so has a low summit success rate. In our view, other Kilimanjaro routes such as the Lemosho route are much better choices. We recommend the Umbwe route only be attempted by strong hikers who are confident in their ability to acclimatise quickly to high altitude.

Umbwe route overview

The 7 day version of the Umbwe Route includes an acclimatisation day at Barranco where guests can walk up and visit Arrow Glacier before heading back to Barranco Camp. Generally recommended for more fit and adventurous types, this route is very steep in the first 2 days. For those that want more of a challenge with less crowds this is a good choice.

Then,  6 day Kilimanjaro hike starting at Umbwe Gate and ascending via Stella Point. Note that it joins the Machame route in the Barranco Valley, and hence has similar levels of people on trail as the Machame Route thereon. There is a night time ascent to the summit and descent is via Mweka Route. 

This route is highly recommended for scenic value and has a medium to high success rate, especially if you choose the 7 day itinerary. 

The six-day options is not recommended for first-time trekkers.

  • It is a good Kilimanjaro route for acclimatization as it has a climb high, sleep low opportunity for trekkers on day three. Here trekkers climb from Shira Camp 2 to Lava Tower at 4,600 meters, where they have lunch and then back down to Barranco Campn(3,900 meters) to sleep.
  • Like all Kilimanjaro routes, the Machame is a challenging trek with stunning scenery through four diverse climatic zones.
  • There is a good opportunity to split pre-summit day climb by adding an extra rest day at Karanga Camp (only available to seven day trekkers) to leave hikers well rested before summiting.
  • The route has however got very popular over the past few years which means it can get busy, especially at Barranco where climbers join up with trekkers from the Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe routes.
  • The Machame route only offers fully catered camping.

Umbwe Route Highlights

Considerations

Umbwe Route Tours

Umbwe route

Kilimanjaro Umbwe Route 6/7 Days

What is the scenery like?

The Umbwe route is less scenic than the other Kilimanjaro routes because of how steeply and quickly it ascends the mountain. That said, the scenery it does have is very beautiful, and includes rainforest, moorland and high-altitude desert.

How hard is the Umbwe route?

The Umbwe route is one of the toughest and steepest Kilimanjaro routes and shouldn't be undertaken by anyone who isn't fit and accustomed to steep trekking. It also has some steep drops, so it should be avoided by those afraid of heights. The route heads directly upward in a northerly direction towards Barranco Wall. At the wall it links up with the Shira, Lemosho and Machame routes. Because of its steep ascent profile, it has a relatively low summit success rate.

What is the route's success rate?

The Umbwe route is one of the shortest, most direct Kilimanjaro routes, which lowers the quality of its acclimatisation profile. Summit success is low. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all Kilimanjaro operators for the five-day Umbwe route is just 50%.

What is the Umbwe route cost?

KIAfrika Adventure does offer the Umbwe route as a six-day group or private climb upon request. This package costs $ 1,750 per person (based on double occupancy). This fee includes six nights on the mountain and one night either side at our beautiful partner lodge in the town of Moshi.

How busy is the Umbwe?

The Umbwe route is the least popular of the seven Kilimanjaro routes because it's the most difficult route up the mountain. It's therefore not very busy.

What is accommodation like?

The Umbwe route offers camping accommodation only. For those who trek with KIAfrika Adventure, our climbing package includes all of your camping equipment: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and pillow. Further, all tents are pitched and taken down each day by our dedicated mountain crew throughout the trek.

How many days is the Umbwe?

The Umbwe route can be completed in five to seven days. If you were to choose this route, we would recommend the six- or seven-day itinerary because the extra time is helpful to your acclimatisation. Climbing Kilimanjaro isn't a race - take your time, enjoy the views and, most importantly, pole pole!