There are so many Kilimanjaro routes. How do I choose one?
Yes, it can be a bit of an exercise when selecting a route. There are five main routes on Mount Kilimanjaro – Marangu, Machame, Lemsoho/Shira, Rongai and Umbwe.
Marangu: Very popular. Gentle gradients and long sections up to 4700m. Beautiful forests and moorlands, comfortable but basic huts. The 6 day variant provides good time for acclimatisation. 5-6 days, 64 km.
Machame: Second most popular route. Beautiful forest, very good for acclimatisation, scenic traverse to Barafu. 6-7 days, 49km.
Lemosho & Shira: Long access drive, remote, less frequented, beautiful forests, scenic traverse to Barafu, camping. Excellent for acclimatisation. 7-8 days, 56 km.
Rongai: Long access drive, remote, less frequented, some fine, wild, high-altitude mountain scenery, camping. Good for acclimatisation. 6-7 days, 65km.
Umbwe: Shortest and steepest route, tough. Beautiful forest, spectacular ridge, bad for acclimatisation, scenic traverse to Barafu, camping. Dangerous route. 5-6 days, 45 km.
The route you ultimately decide to do should be based upon which route fits your ability.
Most people climb on Machame and Marangu. Both are relatively inexpensive compared to other options. The main reason people climb Machame is that it is a fun, challenging route that has pretty decent acclimatization. The main reason people climb Marangu is that it has hut shelters so you don’t have to sleep on the ground. Between the two, Machame is considered to be better than Marangu for beauty and success.
The various routes on Kilimanjaro can be climbed in as little as five days to as many as eight days. Although it makes financial sense to try to climb Kilimanjaro in as few days as possible, it is not the smart thing to do. The reason for spending a longer time on the mountain is that the more time on the mountain, the better chance your chance of adapting to the high altitude.
If you climb too quickly, it is very likely you will develop acute mountain sickness. Although you can continue to climb with mild cases, moderate and severe cases will force climbers to descend and possibly require further medical treatment. In severe cases, acute mountain sickness can be fatal. Being sick on Kilimanjaro is no fun. So avoid short climbs at all costs!
Climbers should plan on spending seven days (or more) on the mountain. The longer you stay on the mountain, the better your chances of reaching the top, and the lower your chances of becoming sick.