The Shira and Lemosho routes have a lot in common. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity, I will just point out the difference. And that is, while the Lemosho trail takes you through the forest on Day 1, the Shira route bypasses this first leg completely and you will find yourself camping at 3,500m. This is quite a rapid gain and should be avoided unless you have prior acclimatization.
Both routes approach the summit from the west. Both offer pleasant hikes and being the longest route on the mountain, they are loaded with side trips for acclimatization. Getting to the starting point is a bit of an ordeal in itself. You will have to endure a 2-hour drive on the dusty roads, then register your particulars at the Londorosi Gate then back into your 4x4 and head to the starting points. On the Shira Route, you have the option of walking or driving from Lodorosi Gate to the camp. The Lemosho trailhead is way too far to walk so your only option is by 4x4.
From there, you are in paradise. The path is straightforward to Shira Hut then on towards Barranco where you will join the Machame/Umbwe trekkers unless you are planning to summit via Arrow Glacier.
What I really like about this route is it:
- has high success rate
- has plenty of acclimatization trip along the way
- is quite a remote route
- has some of the most spectacular scenery especially sunset
- is the longest route
- suits climbers of all levels
- has optional summit via Arrow Glacier
- minute possibility of seeing wildlife (I have seen footprints and dung on the trail)
The Lemosho route has been gaining popularity as of late as a result of all these attributes. Consider 7-10 days for a trek on this route to allow acclimatization and to enjoy what is on offer. This route is one of the most expensive on the mountain because of the distances both inside and outside the park.
- Londorossi Gate to Forest Camp
- Elevation (ft): 7,800ft to 9,500ft
- Distance: 6 km
- Hiking Time:3-4 hours
- Habitat: Rain Forest
We depart Moshi for Londorossi Gate, which takes about 4 hours, where you will complete entry formalities. Then drive to the Lemosho trailhead (another hour to reach the trailhead). Upon arrival at trailhead, we eat lunch, then commence through undisturbed forest which winds to the first camp site.
- Forest Camp to Shira Camp 1
- Elevation (ft): 9,500ft to 11,500ft
- Distance: 8 km
- Hiking Time 5-6 hours
- Habitat: Moorland
We continue on the trail leading out of the forest and into a savannah of tall grasses, heather, and volcanic rock draped with lichen beards. As we ascend through the lush rolling hills and cross several streams, we reach the Shira Ridge before dropping gently down to Shira 1 camp. The view of Kibo from across the plateau is amazing.
- Shira Camp 1 to Shira 2 to Moir Hut
- Elevation (ft): 11,500ft to 13,800 ft
- Distance: 14 km
- Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
- Habitat: Moorland
We explore the Shira plateau for a full day. It is a gentle walk east toward Kibo’s glaciered peak, across the plateau which leads to Shira 2 camp on moorland meadows by a stream. Then we continue to Moir Hut, a little used site on the base of Lent Hills. A variety of walks are available on Lent Hills making this an excellent acclimatization opportunity. Shira is one of the highest plateaus on earth.
- Moir Hut to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
- Elevation (ft): 13,800ft to 13,000ft
- Distance: 7 km
- Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
- Habitat: Semi Desert
From the Shira Plateau, we continue to the east up a ridge, passing the junction towards the peak of Kibo. As we continue, our direction changes to the South East towards the Lava Tower, called the "Shark's Tooth." Shortly after the tower, we come to the second junction which brings us up to the Arrow Glacier at an altitude of 16,000ft. We now continue down to the Barranco Hut at an altitude of 13,000ft. Here we rest, enjoy dinner, and overnight. Although you end the day at the same elevation as when you started, this day is very important for acclimatization and will help your body prepare for summit day.
- Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp
- Elevation (ft): 13,000ft to 15,000ft
- Distance: 9km
- Hiking Time: 8-10 hours
- Habitat: Alpine Desert
After breakfast, we leave Barranco and continue on a steep ridge passing the Barranco Wall, to the Karanga Valley campsite. Then, we leave Karanga and hit the junction which connects with the Mweka Trail. We continue up to the Barafu Hut. At this point, you have completed the South Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. Here we make camp, rest, enjoy dinner, and prepare for the summit day. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are to be seen from this position.
- Barafu Camp to Summit to Mweka Hut
- Elevation (ft): 15,300ft to 19,345ft (and down to 10,000ft)
- Distance: 5 km ascent / 12 km descent
- Hiking Time: 7-8 hours ascent / 4-6 hours descent
- Habitat: Arctic
Very early in the morning (midnight to 2am), we continue our way to the summit between the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers. You head in a northwesterly direction and ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek.
At Stella Point (18,600 ft), you will stop for a short rest and will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see (weather permitting). From Stella Point, you may encounter snow all they way on your 1-hour ascent to the summit. At Uhuru Peak, you have reached the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa. Faster hikers will see the sunrise from the summit.
From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. You will want gaiters and trekking poles for the loose gravel going down. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.
- Mweka Camp to Moshi
- Elevation (ft): 10,000ft to 5,400ft
- Distance: 10 km
- Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
- Habitat: Rain Forest
After breakfast, we continue the descent down to the Mweka Park Gate to receive your summit certificates. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. Gaiters and trekking poles will help. Shorts and t-shirts will probably be plenty to wear (keep rain gear and warmer clothing handy).
From the gate, you continue another hour to Mweka Village. A vehicle will meet you at Mweka village to drive you back to hotel in Moshi.