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The Machame Route

One of the most popular routes on the mountain, Machame is regarded as one of the more difficult routes because it is steep and is generally hiked on a shorter, 7-day itinerary. Rugged yet beautiful this climb is better suited for the more adventurous and experienced climbers. This climb begins at Machame Gate, and ascends from the south, climbing through the rainforest up to the Shira Plateau where it links up with several other routes. From here the routes diverts to the east, following the Southern Circuit, which passes below the Southern Ice Field on its approach towards Barafu. The route down follows the Mweka Route.


Machame Itinerary (7-Day Option) 

DAY 1 – Machame Gate to Machame Camp

Habitat: Rainforest

Hiking Time:  5-7 hours

Distance: 11 km | 7 miles

Elevation: 5,380 ft to 9,350 ft

From Arusha the drive takes approximately 1 hour. We will pass through the Machame Village on the way to the gate, where we will register with the park service and the porters will divide up weight proportionately before stepping off. The trail begins in the rainforest, climbing a steep ridge line on the way to Machame Camp. Here we will spend our first night and conduct our first medical checks.

DAY 2 – Machame Camp to Shira 2 Camp

Habitat: Moorlands

Hiking Time: 4-6 hours

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Elevation: 9,350 ft to 12,500 ft

Today is a short day. We ascend into the moorlands, leaving the rainforest behind as we climb toward Shira Camp 2. Climbers are rewarded with their first look above the clouds and some of the first views of the higher elevations that they will experience over the course of the upcoming days.


DAY 3 – Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 6-8 hours

Distance: 10 km | 6 miles

Elevation: 12,500 ft to 15,200 ft to 13,000 ft


Today is a scenic climb that brings us along a Southeast ridgeline until we encounter the Lava Tower. The Lava Tower is formed primarily of black obsidian glass, a valuable material used throughout the world from the beginning of time to fashion cutting instruments of all kinds. Rising more than 300 feet above the terrain it is a beautiful site to see.


Today’s route has the group ascend and descend more than 1,000 feet, further enhancing the acclimatization for everyone. The day ends in Barranco Camp, at the foot of the Barranco Wall, an imposing cliff that looms over the camp and beckons to be climbed.


DAY 4 –  Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Elevation: 13,000 ft to 13,100 ft


Today we begin by climbing the Barranco Wall. This portion of the trip is often many people’s favorite part of the entire journey, aside from the summit itself. Prepare to be amazed by the views as the sun rises and casts shadows across the valley below. One thing many climbers repeatedly express is how incredibly capable the support team truly is, as they scamper past the group like mountain goats on the nearly vertical ascent.


Once on top of the wall, we will take a break to acclimatize and take pictures of the summit behind us and the lowlands in front of us, cloud cover permitting. From here we continue to Karanga Camp, which entails another large descent and ascent before the day finishes. For many who don’t read the itinerary, this last push is a bit of a mental challenge, as the camp is visible from a great distance. It can seem to take forever to cross the valley but stick with it!


DAY 5 –  Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 11 km | 2 miles

Elevation: 13,100 ft to 15,300 ft

We leave Karanga and hit the junction which connects with the Mweka Trail. We continue up to the rocky section to Barafu Hut. At this point, you have completed the Southern Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. Here we make camp, rest, and enjoy an early dinner to prepare for the summit day.


The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are viewable from this position. We awake early on Day 6 to depart Karanga Camp for the Mweka Trail and continue upwards to Barafu Hit. We will set camp early here, allowing for the group to rest and prepare for the push for the summit that will begin later the same evening. This location represents the terminus of the Southern Circuit and provides some great views of the surrounding peaks.


DAY 6 – Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 7-8 hours

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Elevation: 15,330 ft to 19,341 ft

Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Habitat: Rainforest

Hiking Time: 4-6 hours

Distance: 12 km | 7 miles

Elevation: 19,341 ft to 10,065 ft


As with most of the other routes on Kilimanjaro, the summit push starts before midnight. This is considered the most demanding portion of the entire adventure! Expect extreme conditions and listen closely to the guide’s advice, as once this portion begins there is no turning back!


Dress more warmly than you would expect, and take extra clothing with you, just in case. Climbers should be prepared to sit comfortably in truly arctic conditions. After hiking for several hours and conquering countless switchbacks and no small amount of slippery scree, we will arrive at Stella Point to watch the sunrise of the eastern savannah from 18,900 feet. This is a spectacular view and makes all the pain worth the effort. After a brief break, we will continue toward Mawenzi Peak, the first summit of Kilimanjaro. Here, a brief rest before pushing up the ridge to Uhuru Peak, the roof of Africa!

From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. The trail is very rocky and can be quite hard on the knees; trekking poles are helpful. 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.

DAY 7 –  Mweka Camp to Mweka Camp

Habitat: Rainforest

Hiking Time: 3-4 hours

Distance: 10 km | 6 miles

Elevation: 10,000 ft to 5,380 ft

Welcome to your final day! Many people feel mixed emotions at this point, the excitement of summitting often offset by the immanent return to reality. This is a normal feeling that is to be expected. We depart Mweka Camp and take a leisurely hike down, descending more than 4,700 feet rather quickly. Prepare for rain on this day, as we re-enter the rain forest rather quickly and spend most of the day there. We will get picked up by a bus at the gate and head to Mweka Village where we will have a final meal together before heading back to the hotel!

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