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Kilimanjaro’s Machame Route
Summary This is Kilimanjaro’s longer, more scenic, “Whiskey Route.”
Duration 6 days trekking from Moshi; 4 and a half days ascending, 1 and a half days descending
Length 100 km/62 mi total; 62 km/38 mi to summit; 38 km/24 mi descent from summit
Elevation 4,405 m/14,450 ft net gain; 3,915 m/12,845 ft descent
Machame Gate (1,490 m/4,890 ft) to Uhuru Peak (5,895 m/19,340 ft)
and descent to Mweka Gate (1,980 m/6,500 ft)
Description The Machame is a beautiful route up Kilimanjaro that allows you to experience the southwest and south sides of the mountain, since you go up one way and down another. All your equipment and supplies are carried by porters and a cook prepares all your meals. Unlike the Marangu Route where you sleep in huts, on the Machame you sleep in tents (tents are included), and the porters will pitch your tent for you. Meals are served in a dinner tent or on a blanket outside. This makes the Machame, which is referred to as the “Whiskey Route,” better suited to more adventurous hikers, and it also rewards you with better views than the Marangu Route. From late afternoon sunsets at Shira, to the misty revelations of Kibo’s great Barranco Wall, the Machame Route offers the spunky hiker a continuous scenic slide show. The Machame Route is normally completed in 6 days, and this greatly helps your acclimatization. The Machame Route takes you high to Lava Tower (4,630 m/15,190 ft) on day 3 then brings you down for an overnight at Barranco Camp (3,950 m/12,960 ft). This intermediate ascent and descent is the secret to a successful acclimatization, and is the reason that this route has a high success rate.
Map
Machame Itinerary
Moshi
(915 m/3,000 ft)
Arrive at the Kilimanjaro or Dar es Salaam International Airport. You will be met at the airport and transferred to the Springlands Hotel in Moshi for your overnight. You can start your trek any day of the year!
Day 1
Moshi (915 m/3,000 ft) to Machame Gate
(1,490 m/4,890 ft)
to Machame Camp
(2,980 m/9,780 ft)
18 km, 5-7 hours
Montane Forest
Your day starts early with a briefing, followed by breakfast and a 50-minute drive from Moshi to the Machame Village (1,490 m/4,890 ft) where your guides and porters prepare and pack your equipment and supplies. You will receive a lunch pack, and you can also buy mineral water in the village. If the road is very muddy, it may be impossible to drive from the village to the Machame Gate, and in this case, it will take you an hour to complete the muddy 3 km walk to the gate. After registering at the park office, you start your ascent and enter the rain forest immediately. Heavy rains on this side of the mountain often transform the trail into a soggy, slippery experience, so good footgear, trekking poles, and gaiters are useful. You will enjoy a welcome lunch stop halfway up and will reach the Machame camping area in the late afternoon. Your porters will arrive at camp before you and will erect your tent before you arrive. In the evening, the porters boil drinking and washing water while the cook prepares your dinner. Night temperatures can drop to freezing at the Machame Camp.
Day 2
Machame Camp
(2,980 m/9,780 ft)
to Shira Camp
(3,840 m/12,600 ft)
9 km, 4-6 hours
Moorland
You rise early at Machame camp, and after breakfast, climb for an hour to the top of the forest, then for 2 hours through a gentle moorland. After a short lunch and rest, you continue up a rocky ridge onto the Shira Plateau where you will be able to see Kilimanjaro’s great Western Breach with its stunning glaciers. Sometimes, the walls of the Western Breach are draped with extensive ice curtains. You are now west of Kibo on the opposite side of the mountain from the Marangu Route. After a short hike west, you reach the Shira campsite. The porters will boil drinking and washing water before serving dinner. The night at this exposed camp will be colder, with temperatures dropping below freezing.
Day 3
Shira Camp
(3,840 m/12,600 ft)
to Lava Tower
(4,630 m/15,190 ft)
to Barranco Camp
(3,950 m/12,960 ft)
15 km, 7 hours
Semi-Desert
After breakfast, you will hike east up a steepening path above the highest vegetation toward Kilimanjaro’s looming mass. After several hours, you walk through a rocky landscape to reach the prominent landmark called Lava Tower at 4,630 m/15,190 ft. This chunky remnant of Kilimanjaro’s earlier volcanic activity is several hundred feet high, and the trail passes right below it. For extra credit, the sure-footed can scramble to the top of the tower. After a lunch stop near Lava Tower, descend for 2 hours below the lower cliffs of the Western Breach and Breach Wall to Barranco Camp at 3,950 m/12,960 ft. There are numerous photo opportunities on this hike, especially if the walls are festooned with ice. Barranco Camp is in a valley below the Breach and Great Barranco Walls, which should provide you with a memorable sunset while you wait for your dinner. On this day, be careful to notice any signs of altitude sickness.
Day 4
Barranco Camp
(3,950 m/12,960 ft)
to Barafu Camp
(4,550 m/14,930 ft)
13 km, 8 hours
Alpine Desert
After spending a night under the imposing Great Barranco Wall, you climb this awesome obstacle, which turns out to be easier than it looks. Topping out just below the Heim Glacier, you can now appreciate just how beautiful Kilimanjaro really is. The route then heads down through the Karanga Valley and goes over intervening ridges and valleys to join the Mweka Route, which will be your descent route. You have now completed the South Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. For now, all eyes are still on the summit, so turn left and hike up the ridge for another hour to the Barafu Hut. The last water on the route is in the Karanga Valley; there is no water at Barafu Camp, even though Barafu is the Swahili word for “ice.” The famous snows of Kilimanjaro are far above Barafu Camp near the summit of the mountain. Your tent will be pitched on a narrow, stony, wind-swept ridge, so make sure that you familiarize yourself with the terrain before dark to avoid any accidents. Prepare your equipment and warm clothing for your summit climb. This should include replacing your headlamp and camera batteries, and to prevent freezing, consider carrying your water in a thermal flask. Go to bed by 7 PM, and try to get a few hours of precious sleep.
Day 5 – Summit Day!
Barafu Camp
(4,550 m/14,930 ft)
to Uhuru Peak
(5,895 m/19,340 ft)
to Mweka Camp
(3,100 m/10,170 ft)
7 km up, 23 km down
8 hours up,
7-8 hours down
Scree and seasonal snow
You will rise around 11:30 PM, and after some steaming tea and biscuits, you shuffle off into the night. Your 6-hour climb northwest up through heavy scree between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers to Stella Point on the crater rim is the most challenging part of the route for most climbers. At Stella Point (5,685 m/18,650 ft) you stop for a short rest and a chance to see a supremely sanguine sunrise. At Stella Point you join the top part of the Marangu Route, but do not stop here too long, as it will be extremely difficult to start again due to cold and fatigue. Depending on the season and recent storms, you may encounter snow on your remaining hike along the rim to Uhuru Peak. On the summit, you can enjoy your accomplishment and know that you are creating a day that you will remember for the rest of your life. After your 3-hour descent from the summit back to Barafu Camp, you will have a well-earned but short rest, collect your gear, and hike down a rock and scree path into the moorland and eventually into the forest to Mweka Camp (3,100 m/10,170 ft). This camp is in the upper forest, so you can expect mist or rain in the late afternoon. Dinner, and washing water will be prepared, and the camp office sells drinking water, soft drinks, chocolates, and beer!
Day 6
Mweka Camp
(3,100 m/10,170 ft)
to Mweka Gate
(1,980 m/6,500 ft)
to Moshi
(890 m/2,920 ft)
15 km, 3 hours
Forest
After a well-deserved breakfast, it is a short, scenic, 3-hour hike back to the park gate. Don’t give your porters any tips until you and all your gear have reached the gate safely, but do remember to tip your staff at the gate. At Mweka Gate, you can sign your name and add details in a register. This is also where successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Climbers who reached Stella Point are issued green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak receive gold certificates. From the Mweka Gate, you will continue down to the Mweka Village, possibly a muddy, 3 km, 1 hour hike if the road is too muddy for vehicles. In the Mweka Village you will be served a delicious hot lunch after which you are driven back to Moshi for an overdue hot shower and comfortable night in our Springlands Hotel.
Moshi
Depart for the airport or other destinations in Tanzania or Kenya. A trip to the beaches at Zanzibar is a good way to recuperate. We can arrange many reasonably priced trips and safaris around Moshi and the Kilimanjaro region.
Extra Day for Acclimatization
You can add an extra day by breaking the trek from Barranco Camp to Barafu Camp (Day 4) into two days. If you choose this option, you will hike from Barranco Camp over the Great Barranco Wall, and descend to a camp in the Karanga Valley on Day 4. There is water at this camp. Then, on Day 5 you will hike from the Karanga Valley Camp to the Barafu Camp, summit on Day 6, and finish your descent on Day 7.

 
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