The Trek

Machame Route

Route duration: 7 days
1-7 October, 2011

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About the Route 

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The Machame route is probably the most beautiful route up Kilimanjaro.
All equipment and supplies are carried by porters and a cook prepares all meals.
Accommodation is strictly tents only, making Machame (also referred to as the “Whiskey route”) better suited to the slightly more adventurous hiker.

From late afternoon sunsets at Shira, to the misty revelations of Kibo at the great Barranco Wall, the Machame route offers a stunning scenic experience. The route is normally completed in a minimum of 6 days but Barnsley Kilimanjaro Charity Trek (BKCT) are taking 7 days to help acclimatisation and boost our chances of reaching the top, hopefully avoiding the worse of altitude sickness.

Day One (1 October)

Machame Gate (1,490m / 5,363ft) – Machame camp (2,980m / 9,300ft)

Hiking time: 7h
Distance: Approximately 18km
Habitat: Mountain Forest

The day starts early with a briefing, followed by breakfast and a 45-minute drive from Moshi (910m) to the Machame village (1,490m). The guides and porters prepare and pack the supplies and equipment in the village. We will receive a lunch pack and can buy mineral water in the village. Depending on the condition of the road, it is possible to drive from the village to the Machame gate, but if not, the muddy 3 km walk will take about 1 hour to complete. After registering at the gate office, we start our ascent and enter the rain forest almost immediately.

There is a strong possibility of rain in the forest, which will transform the trail into a very soggy, muddy and slippery experience. We will have a welcome lunch stop about half way and will reach the Machame camping area in the late afternoon.

Our porters (arriving at the camp site long before us) will have erected our tents on our arrival. In the evening the porters will boil drinking and washing water and the cook will prepare dinner, before we retire to our tents for the night. Night temperatures can already drop to freezing point at this campsite.


Day Two (2 October)

Machame camp (2,980m / 9,300ft) – Shira camp (3,840m / 12,300ft)

Hiking time: 6h
Distance: Approximately 9 km
Habitat: Moorland

We rise early at Machame camp and after breakfast climb an hour or so to the top of the forest and then for 2 hours at a gentler gradient through the moorland zone. After a short lunch and rest, we continue up a rocky ridge onto the Shira plateau. By now we will be able to see in an easterly direction, the Western Breach with its stunning glaciers. Now due west of Kibo and after a short hike we will reach the Shira campsite at 3,840m. The porters will boil drinking and washing water, before serving dinner. The night at this exposed camp will be even colder than the previous night, with temperatures dropping to well below freezing.

Day Three (3 October)

Shira (at 3,840m / 12,300ft) to Lava Tower (at 4,630m) to Barranco camp (at 3,950m / 12,800ft)

Hiking time: 7h
Distance: Approximately 15 km
Habitat: Semi-desert

The route now turns east into a semi desert and rocky landscape surrounding Lava Tower, where we reach an altitude of 4,630m after a steep 5-hour walk. Lunch is served in a designated area before ascending the rocky scree path to Lava Tower.

This is definitely the toughest day so far. It is normally around this point where, for the first time, some climbers will start to feel symptoms of breathlessness, irritability and headaches. After lunch we descend again by almost 680m on the scenic route to the Barranco Camp. This is a great example of the climb high/sleep low rule that helps people acclimatize. The descent to Barranco Camp takes about 2 hours and offers great opportunities to take some beautiful photographs of the Western Breach and Breach Wall. The camp is situated in a valley below the Breach and Great Barranco Wall, which should provide a memorable sunset while we wait for dinner.

Day Four (4 October)

Barranco camp (3,950m / 12,800ft)- Karanga Camp (3,963m / 13,000ft)

Hiking time: 3.5hrs
Distance: Approximately 4 km
Habitat: Alpine desert

After spending a night at the Great Barranco Wall (a very imposing sight at first), we make our way up this awesome looking obstacle, which looks more intimidating than it really is. Topping out just below the Heim Glacier, we now appreciate just how beautiful Kilimanjaro is. This day has many ups and downs and crosses many small streams before crossing the Karanga River just before camp.


Day Five (5 October)

Karanga Camp (3,963m / 13,000ft) – Barafu camp (4,550m / 15,090ft)

Hiking time: 3.5 hrs
Distance: Approximately 4 km

Today the route moves through rocky and otherwise barren terrain on the way to Barafu Camp.

Barafu is the Swahili word for “ice” and it is a bleak and inhospitable camping area. Totally exposed to the ever-present gales the tents are pitched on quite a narrow, stony ridge. The summit is now a further 1,345m up and we will make the final ascent tonight.

Preparing our equipment, ski stick and thermal clothing for the summit attempt, including replacement of head torch and camera batteries (carrying spare sets too).  To prevent freezing it will be wise to carry water in a thermal flask. We’ll go to bed at round 19:00 and try to get some precious rest and sleep.

Day Six (6 October)

*Summit Attempt*

Barafu camp (4,550m / 15,090ft) – Uhuru Peak (5,895m / 19,343ft) – Mweka (3,100m / 10,170ft)
Hiking time: 8h to reach Uhuru Peak, 7h to descend to Mweka
Distance: Approximately 7 km ascent – 12 km descent
Habitat: Stone scree and ice-capped summit

Rise around 23:30 and after some tea and biscuits we shuffle off into the night. Heading in a north-westerly direction we ascend through heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. For many climbers, this 6-hour walk to Stella point is mentally and physically the most challenging on the route.

At Stella Point (5,685m) we will stop for a short rest and, hopefully, will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise we are ever likely to see (weather permitting). From Stella Point we normally encounter snow all the way on the 2-hour ascent to the Uhuru Peak summit.

The time we spend on the summit will depend on the weather conditions. We will not stop here for too long, as it will be extremely difficult to start again due to cold and fatigue. The walk back to Barafu from the summit, takes about 3 hours. Here we will have a well earned but short rest and collect the rest of our gear.

The route is not difficult and will descend a rock and scree path into the moorland and eventually back into the forest. The camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Dinner and washing water will be prepared.

Day Seven (7 October)

Mweka camp (3,100m / 10,170ft) – Mweka Gate (1,980m / 6,000ft) and Moshi

Hiking time: 4h
Distance: Approximately 15 km
Habitat: Forest

After an early and well-deserved breakfast, it is a short 3-hour and scenic hike back to the Park gate.

At Mweka gate we complete the register with our names and details and the successful climbers receive their summit certificates. Those climbers who reached Stella Point (5,685m) are issued with green certificates and those who reached Uhuru Peak (5,895m) receive gold certificates.

From the Mweka Gate we will continue down into the Mweka village, normally a muddy 3 km (1 hour) hike. In the Mweka village we will be served lunch before we drive back to Moshi for a long overdue hot shower, dinner and celebrations!