Why Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro. The name itself is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don’t even have a name for the whole massif, only Kipoo (now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer of the continent, the summit of Africa.
Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. When you see it, you understand why. Not only is this the highest peak on the African continent; it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland – elevation around 900 metres – to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet).
Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman’s Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates.
The different climbing options
The Rongai Route is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north. It is one of Kilimanjaro’s easier routes. This route has low crowds and passes through remote wilderness areas. It is probably the only route where seeing wildlife in the first days is possible.
The Machame Route is known as the “Whiskey Route” in comparison to Marangu’s “Coca Cola Route”. This is because Machame is a more difficult route, and does not have sleeping huts for accomodation. Machame is the second most popular route on the mountain.
The Umbwe Route is the least used, least crowded route on the mountain. For good reason, it is also the most difficult route on the mountain. Umbwe is a steep, constant, straight climb to the top.
The Shira Route is a difficult route that begins in the west, at Shira Gate. What is unque about Shira is that the first section of the trail is not hiked, but rather driven. Therefore, climbers using Shira will miss out on hiking up one of Kilimanjaro ecological zones, the rain forest.
The Marangu Route is also known as the “Tourist Route” and the “Coca-Cola Route.” This is because Marangu is the most popular route on the mountain, and thus is considered “touristy”, and because the route is the only one that offers sleeping huts, which serve beverages like Coca-Cola, on the way.
The Lemosho Route is a newer route on Mount Kilimanjaro that approaches from the west. It is a difficult and long route, but one that is favored by most reputable Kilimanjaro outfitters due to its smaller crowds, scenic variety and high success rates.