What to Expect for the Lemosho Route on Mt. Kilimanjaro

The Lemosho Route on the Western side of Mt. Kilimanjaro is currently the second most popular route to the summit. As it is such a popular route, we thought it would be helpful to provide more detailed information on the day by day experience using this well-traversed route.

Signing in Mti Mkubwa

Signing in Mti Mkubwa

Day 1 – The Lemosho adventure begins with a drive from your accommodation in Moshi to Londorosi Gate at 2250 m. Once all bags have been weighed and arranged among the porters and all trekkers have officially signed in, the journey begins with a three-hour hike up to Mti Mkubwa Camp at 2650 m, which you should reach by around 6pm. The hike up has a few moderately steep sections but is mostly level or gently sloping upwards in the rain forest where it’s possible to see Colobus monkeys and blue monkeys along with tiny lizards and beautiful native plant life. Plan on a relatively cool night in camp, but temperatures will still be above freezing at 2650 m.

On the way to Shira I camp

On the way to Shira I camp

Day 2 – Mti Mtibwa Camp to Shira II Camp – The 7-day version of the Lemosho route may feel like the second hardest day on the entire trek after summit day by the end of it – so it may be a good idea to have a hearty breakfast and even supplement with some protein powder if possible. You will continue to hike through a bit more of the rain forest before reaching the Shira Plateau, one of the largest high altitude plateaus in the world. After 4-5 hours of continuous uphill, you will reach Shira I camp for lunch (on the 8-day version of Lemosho, you would stay at Shira I camp for the night) and then continue for another 3 hours to sleep at Shira II camp (which is less crowded than Shira I camp) at 3850 meters. About an hour before reaching Shira II camp, you will pass by an area known as the “Garden of Senecios”, consisting of uniquely shaped trees that look a bit like a form of desert palm-tree. You will also get to see more of these on Day 3 and be sure to get a picture with these eye-catching trees.

Getting close to Lava Tower

Getting close to Lava Tower

Day 3 – Shira II Camp to Baranco Camp. Day 3 starts with another early start, but is a good acclimatization day, as we will “climb high and sleep low”. The day begins with another uphill climb (though not as steep as the morning of Day 2) into the alpine moorland region to the very interesting structure of Lava Tower, a large rock formation that can be climbed if trekkers feel the urge, although this is quite dangerous and your guide should be closely consulted with before attempting it, especially at the high altitude of the Lava Tower camp’s location at 4600 meters. Lava Tower is where the Lemosho, Machame, and the Umbwe routes combine continuing on to Barranco and Barafu camps before approaching Uhuru Peak from Stella Point. You will have lunch at Lava Tower and then go back downhill for about 90 minutes to reach Barranco Camp at 3,900 meters. The approach to Baranco Camp is dotted with more beautiful senecio trees. It is perhaps the most beautiful camp on the Lemosho Route unless the clouds coming up to Barafu Camp strike one as more impressive. You should reach camp by around 3pm if you are lucky.

Lava Tower Camp

Lava Tower Camp – we only stopped for lunch here

Day 4 – Baranco Camp to Barafu Camp – One of the most interesting parts of the Kilimanjaro climb takes place as soon as you start hiking out of Baranco Camp after sleeping in for an extra hour. The Baranco Wall is famous for its narrow paths up the rock face while navigating around other trekkers and porters on both sides. Take it slow and watch your footing and you will be fine. Reaching the top of Baranco Wall (where there is a nice plateau for a toilet break and scenic views) should take about two hours depending on the crowds of climbers ascending the wall. After another five hours of up and down, you only end up 100 meters higher than where you started for the day at 3,995 m at Karanga Camp. This additional acclimatization should hopefully help you adjust to the gradually higher altitude, as the push to the summit starts tomorrow night!

Hiking on the Baranco Wall

Hiking on the Baranco Wall

Day 5 – Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp – After sleeping in until 7am again at Karanga Camp, you will begin a 700 m ascent in the alpine desert region out to Barafu Camp, the official base camp for making the summit. This ascent should only take about three hours and you will have lunch in Barafu Camp at 4673 m before being told to go bed for about 3-4 hours before an early dinner at 5pm. This is the infamous summit day that you’ve been waiting for/dreading/fearing, but the time has arrived. After dinner, your guides will ask you to go back to bed and wake you up again at 11pm for a strict 12am push out of Barafu Camp to start climbing towards the summit (note that there is a High Camp about 30 minutes climb above Barafu, but this is not a popular option due to a lack of toilets at the site and difficulty with fetching water. Some groups may opt to stay in High Camp either before or after the summit.

Trail to Karanga Camp

On the trail to Karanga Camp – alpine desert

Day 6 – Barafu to Summit to Barafu to Mweka Hut Camp – This is far and away the most challenging day of the trek and may rank as your most challenging climbing day ever, as it actually begins before midnight and will continue for more than 16 hours before you make it to your final campsite for the night. Most trekking groups summiting on the Lemosho route will wake groups at about 11pm with the intention of leaving right around midnight for potentially reaching the summit by sunrise. It is recommended to get up even earlier, say around 10:30pm, to have enough time to get all warm layers on and supplies that you will need for the 6+ hour continuous uphill push to the summit. Make sure that your headlight has fresh batteries and you have packed adequate snacks and energy gels for the journey and then after a quick round of tea and biscuits, it will be time to push on to the summit.

Beautiful views from Karanga Camp

Beautiful views from Karanga Camp

The summit climb to Stella Point at the top of the continuous uphill section consists of what seems like a never ending series of switchbacks in the dark with occasional rock face that must be scrambled up and over. Unless everyone on your team is facing no health issues between Barafu Camp at 4673 m and the 1000 m+ climb to Stella Point at 5756 m, the sun will likely rise before reaching Uhuru Peak if your team doesn’t leave until 12am, but the warm sun coming up is a welcome respite from the bitter cold. There may also likely be traffic jams along the way up with the other trekkers from the Machame and Umbwe routes, who reach the summit via Stella Point, which is where climbers finally reach the top of the peak and the end of the switchbacks.

On the way to Barafu Camp

On the way to Barafu Camp

What is deceiving, however, is that Stella Point is definitely not the end of the journey. Although the route does get considerably flatter from Stella Point, there is still a full kilometer to go, which can take upwards of one hour for those feeling the every bit of the 5,700+ m. Be careful to stick to the trail and enjoy the views of the glaciers from the top as you head to the famous green sign with yellow writing (which replaced the old sign in 2012) where everyone will be waiting for their chance to get the iconic Kilimanjaro summit photo. Just keep everything “pole pole” (slowly slowly) and the reward will be well worth it, as you reach Uhuru at 5985 m!

Arriving into Barafu Camp

Arriving into Barafu Camp

As soon as you are satisfied with your pictures, it is best to go back down as soon as possible, and the faster that you descend, the quicker your high altitude symptoms will disappear. The road down is, unfortunately, exactly the way that you came up, and can prove very challenging to trekkers not comfortable with constant downhill. There is a lot of volcanic scree in this section, hot dust flying into the air, and climbers sliding down the mountain navigating the switchbacks while trying to stay on their feet. Barafu is easily visible from the outset of the downhill, but it can feel like forever away for a few hours. Expect to spend about 3–4 hours making your way back to Barafu for a 1–2 hour nap in camp before lunch and then packing everything up to head back down to Mweka Hut Camp. It may seem a real struggle to pack everything up after napping and pushing yourself to keep going further down the mountain, but sleeping at 3100 m at Mweka Hut Camp will be much easier than 4673 at Barafu Camp. It should take another 3–4 hours to get down to Mweka Hut Camp on relatively easy downhill sections consisting of mostly wide dirt roads used as the main thoroughfares for porters carrying things back down the mountain. Mweka Hut Camp is lush and green compared to the alpine desert where you’ve spent your last couple of days and is one of the most beautiful camps on Kilimanjaro. Enjoy your final night on the mountain!

Sunrise on Summit Day

Sunrise on Summit Day- I’ll leave the views of Uhuru Peak to you!

Day 7 – If you made it to Mweka Hut Camp the night before, the walk back down to Mweka Gate and the official end for Lemosho and Machame routes is laid back and beautiful, taking less than three hours and finishing in the rainforest at a very comfortable 1640 m. Enjoy the thick air and lush green of your surroundings as you reflect back on your special time in this unique place in the world. There is a real spirit of celebration at Mweka Gate as teams complete their final sign out and your guides pick up official Mt. Kilimanjaro hiking certificates. There may be a brief stop at a large souvenir shop just near the Mweka Gate that does take credit cards and you will later pass robust coffee farms on both sides as you ride 30 minutes back to Moshi to retrieve the rest of your luggage and check back into your hotel.

Back to your final campsite on the Lemosho Route

Back to your final campsite on the Lemosho Route

At around 7pm on your final evening, you will get to have dinner with the guides and fellow trekkers from your Trekking Hero adventure and should get your climbing certificate and official Trekking Hero T-shirt. Savor the beer and the variety of food that you’ve certainly been missing the last several days at camp and reflect back on a job well done on the Lemosho route! Congratulations!