The Golden Era of the Umbwe Route
The History From Past to Present
This used to be a really adventurous and tough route to the magnificent south face of Kilimanjaro. It was also the fastest and combined with the Heim Glacier or Arrow Glacier (Western Breach) Route it was a world class expedition. It was and still is my favourite. Sadly the Heim Glacier has lost a lot of its ice and the Western Breach has become dangerous due to rockfall (as such we don’t go via the Western Breech now unless under great conditions and with a super strong group). In the olden days it used to be a steep Tarzan course, now the obstacles have been cleared and there is a good path all the way up the ridge.
It is still less popular with bigger tour companies as accommodation on the route is limited and the ascent of the ridge involves some very steep, demanding trails and even some very easy scrambling.
The rewards however are offered by far the most dramatic views of the Southern Icefields and the stunning lichen covered giant heathers.
I recommend any strong individuals or groups who have a desire to climb and tackle Kilimanjaro via this less trodden, more challenging route will be rewarded by the Umbwe route’s breathtaking beauty.
The route initially follows a forestry track winding up through natural rain forest. Then it narrows and steepens to climb the ridge between two deep river valleys. The first campsite is in the forest by some rock overhangs at 2940m, Shortly after leaving the camp the forest ends and the path continues along a narrow spectacular ridge. Above, the sheer 1000m of the Breach Wall appears and disappears as the afternoon mists roll up the Great Barranco.
From the Umbwe ridge the route descends slightly to the Barranco Hut and the Barranco campsites in the valley floor at 3900m, Here you meet up with the main groups coming up the Lemosho, Machame or Shira Routes.
As the ascent to this altitude has been fast it is good to spend a day based at the Barranco Camp or break the journey to the next camp at the Karanga campsite.
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