Lemosho Route: Kilimanjaro's Freshest Route

By Sierd van der Bij

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Lemosho Route: Kilimanjaro's Freshest Route
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Karibu! The Lemosho Route, Kilimanjaro's freshest climbing option. As you may know by now, the Machame Route is our favourite option. But that's not because we don't like the Lemosho Route. When you're looking at climbing Kilimanjaro there is plenty of reason to choose to ascend from the Lemosho side. Besides, there are a lot of similarities with the Machame Route.

In August 2022, my Bookatrekking.com colleague Rintsje and I climbed Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route. Most of the Lemosho Route is the same, with highlights like the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower, the Barranco Wall, and Barafu Camp. The Lemosho Route is just a little bit more fresh. Curious why that is the case? We'll tell you all about after the video. Let’s go!

The Lemosho Route on Kilimanjaro: Numbers First

From gate to gate the Lemosho Route is 64.1 kilometres / 40 miles long. Although the Northern Circuit is still much longer, the Lemosho Route is considered to be one of the longer routes on Kilimanjaro. The route can be done in either eight days or seven days. The hard numbers:

Days: 7 or 8 days

Total Distance: 64.1 kilometres (40 miles)

Ascent: 4,430 metres (14,534 feet)

Descent: 5,230 metres (17,159 feet)

Day-to-day distance on a 8-day climb

Day 1: 8.5 kilometres (5.3 miles)

Day 2: 6.4 kilometres (4.0 miles)

Day 3: 6.5 kilometres (4.0 miles)

Day 4: 9.6 kilometres (6.0 miles)

Day 5: 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles)

Day 6: 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles)

Day 7: 16.6 kilometres (10.3 miles)

Day 8: 8.7 kilometres (5.4 miles)

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What Makes the Lemosho Route So Special?

The Lemosho Route is considered the most beautiful of all routes on Kilimanjaro. It’s probably not the first time you read that sentence and although we don’t want to disagree, we can state that the Machame Route is pretty magic too. So if they’re both beautiful, then what makes the Lemosho Route so special? The Lemosho Route is fresh! It is one of the newer routes on the mountain, and although it shares more than half of the route with the Machame, the start is as fresh as can be. It’s also a bit easier on your legs. The part from Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa Camp and basically all the way to the Shira Plateau is rather gentle and less strenuous than the first two stages on the Machame Route. Also, it’s more remote and the trail is, again, fresher.

The Lemosho Route was designed with acclimitization in mind. A gentler ascent allows your body more time to prepare itself for higher altitudes. This brings us to another good reason for choosing this route: Success rates are sky high and can really be compared to those of the (much longer) Northern Circuit Route. What also helps on the Lemosho Route is the extra day. You typically hike this route in 7 or 8 days, which is longer than for example the Rongai, Machama, and definitely the Marangu Route. More time on the mountain is never a bad idea. Let’s be honest: How often do you climb Kilimanjaro?

What Makes the Lemosho Route So Special?

Lemosho Route Map: From Start to Finish

Wondering what it more or less looks like and what side of the mountain you get to start and end? In the below interactive Komoot map, you can see what you're in for when you hike the Lemosho Route.

How Hard is the Lemosho Route? 

The difficulty of Kilimanjaro climbing routes is hard to gauge and even harder to explain. There are different ways to get up Kilimanjaro and the one route is more technical than the other. However, the difficulty should not be measured in technical aspects but in terms of acclimatization.

When it comes to acclimatization, the Lemosho Route is the easiest route. Especially if you also take distance into consideration and compare this to the much longer Northern Circuit. Yes, the Northern Circuit is best for acclimatization but it also comes with about 40 kilometers of extra hiking than any other route.

If you like hiking, by all means, the Northern Circuit is the better route, but in all other situations, the Lemosho Route beats all the other Kilimanjaro routes. Yes, the Lemosho Route has some technical sections like the Barranco Wall, but it also makes it the better option when it comes to climbing high and sleeping low. Acclimatization is the deciding factor when it boils down to whether or not you will be able to summit Kilimanjaro. In that regard, the Lemosho Route may be considered as one of the easiest routes on Kilimanjaro, especially when tackled in 8 days and 7 nights. 

How Hard is the Lemosho Route? 

The Barranco Wall on the Lemosho Route

The Barranco Wall is a steep and imposing rock formation that trekkers on the Lemosho Route encounter during their ascent. It is known for its challenging terrain, featuring sections of scrambling, climbing, and exposed ridges. Despite its name, the Barranco Wall is not a vertical wall in the traditional sense, but rather a steep incline covered with boulders. As such, it’s not a climb but rather a scramble. When we climbed Kilimanjaro in August 2022, we were actually surprised to see how easy it was. Not that it’s easy, but it’s definitely not worth having sleepless nights about. Having said all that, if you have a fear for heights, the Barranco Wall can be triggering.

Elevation on the Barranco Wall equates to 257 metres (843 feet), and scaling it won't take much more than an hour. There can be a bit of a queue on this section as everyone has to manoeuvre across hurdles like for example Kissing Rock. You can only get around this outcrop if you get very intimate with it, hence the funny name. Again, this section is not really a massive challenge. Another reason for the Barranco Wall being busy is that it is the first thing on the menu for everyone who spends the night in Barranco Camp. This is also why the Barranco Wall is called the Breakfast Wall. Everyone is basically having this challenge for breakfast at around the same time. Groups tend to all start early and voila, it's busy. Want to have a look? Check our video below.

Best Season for the Lemosho Route

There are no seasonal restrictions on Kilimanjaro. The mountain is open to trekking and climbing expeditions all year round. Having said that, there are certain months which are more suitable than others. The rainy season lasts from April to May and November to December.

The dry season includes January to March and June to October. As such, the Lemosho Route is a route which is best enjoyed during the dry season. The dry season is also the busy season. If you are looking for a quieter time to climbing Kilimanjaro, you can actually consider taking the Lemosho Route during the rainy season

Best Season for the Lemosho Route

Lemosho Itinerary: From Day to Day

Because the 8-day version of the Lemosho Route allows for the best acclimatization and the highest success rates, we focus only on this itinerary. Why would you want to cut climbing Kilimanjaro short anyway? It’s not like you spend every month on the Roof of Africa

Day
1

Moshi – Starting Point – Mti Mkubwa Camp (2,780 m)

Duration: 02:25 h
Distance: 4.7 km
Ascent: 400 m

At the break of dawn, our driver will collect you and transport you to Londorossi Gate (2,250 m), an approximately two-and-a-half-hour drive away. Upon gate registration, you'll ascend along a rugged track that winds through the dense rainforest to your trek's starting point. This moderately steep path guides you through a captivating and pristine natural forest, leading to Mkubwa Camp (2,800 m).

Because this region hosts a variety of wildlife, an armed ranger will accompany you during the initial two days of your journey.

Mti Mkubwa Camp

Info
Mti Mkubwa Camp
Day
2

Mount Mkubwa (2,750m) to Shira Camp 1 (3,550m)

Duration: 06:40 h
Distance: 6.35 km
Ascent: 490 m
Descent: 50 m

The trail leading to Shira Camp 1 unveils a striking shift from the lush rainforest to the arid heather moorland, marking Mount Kilimanjaro's third climate zone.

The landscape transforms into a dry expanse adorned with towering lobelias amidst delicate white flora that contrasts the dusty sand dunes. Ascending steep ridges, we arrive at the expansive Shira Plateau, offering sweeping views of Kilimanjaro's grandeur and the sun's descent behind Mount Meru in the west.

Amid the journey, we gracefully cross tranquil streams, while progressing over Shira Ridge (3,600m) and descending to the welcoming embrace of Shira Camp 1.

Shira 1 Camp

Info
Shira 1 Camp
Day
3

Shira Camp 1 (3,550m) to Shira Camp 2 (3,840m)

Duration: 03:20 h
Distance: 7.7 km
Ascent: 320 m
Descent: 60 m

Your day commences with a delightful breakfast, followed by a trek through an open expanse. This less-traveled path grants tranquility and an unspoiled experience. As you ascend to Shira Plateau, the panoramic vistas of Uhuru Peak unfold, providing an exhilarating and almost magical sensation of witnessing the summit's grandeur.

A satisfying hot lunch awaits you at Shira Camp 2 (3,810m). Your guide will arrange a brief break for acclimatization, after which you're welcome to unwind and relax at your leisure.

Shira 2 Camp

Info
Shira 2 Camp
Day
4

Shira Camp 2 (3,840m) to Barranco Camp (3,950m) via Lava Tower

Duration: 05:30 h
Distance: 9.6 km
Ascent: 700 m
Descent: 660 m

The Lemosho route converges with the Machame Route as it approaches the molten Lava Tower. The gradual ascent leading to Barranco Camp is adorned with captivating landscapes and adorned with vibrant desert shrubs (a 6-7 hour hike).

Shark’s Tooth, an immense serrated rock formed by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, serves as a guidepost, signaling our southward journey across light valleys to the expansive Lava Tower (4,600m). Slowly, delicate specks of snow begin to scatter across the scenery, and as we descend to Barranco Camp, the frosted vistas of the Western Breach come into view.

The ashen Barranco Wall showcases intricate grooves and is graced with olive foliage, creating what is referred to as the 'Breakfast Wall'. Rest up, tomorrow is an exciting day!

Barranco Camp

Info
Barranco Camp
Day
5

Barranco Camp (3,950m) to Karanga Camp (3,930m)

Duration: 02:40 h
Distance: 4.45 km
Ascent: 350 m
Descent: 270 m

Today, you face the challenge of conquering the Barranco Wall. While certain sections may demand the use of your hands for improved grip, actual climbing is not required. Your guide will be right alongside you, offering assistance every step of the way. Our video demonstrates that the experience isn't as daunting as some blog posts might suggest.

The route's series of ascents and descents serve as a valuable acclimatization opportunity before reaching the mountain ridge. Walking along this ridge allows you to absorb the stunning landscape, characterized by captivating contrasts between desert and vegetation. Eventually, you'll arrive at the mist-shrouded Karanga Camp, positioned at 4,035 meters (13,240 ft). Even through the clouds, Kibo remains visible, while the call of Uhuru Peak beckons.

Karanga Camp

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Karanga Camp
Day
6

Karanga Camp (3,930m) to Barafu Camp (4,700m)

Duration: 02:25 h
Distance: 3.5 km
Ascent: 570 m

Another day unfolds on the captivating slopes of Kilimanjaro. The meticulous acclimatization efforts you've undertaken are paying off. By maintaining a steady "pole pole" pace, the summit will draw near sooner than you realize. Today's journey leads you through arid desert terrain, with the imposing presence of Kibo on your left side.

Although the distance covered is short, the altitude's effects will be noticeable, adding to the challenge. Embrace the gradual approach and heed the guidance of your knowledgeable guide(s). As this day concludes, anticipation builds for the significant day that lies ahead – an early night awaits for the journey that unfolds tomorrow.

Barafu Camp

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Barafu  Camp
Day
7

Barafu Camp (4,700m) to Summit (5,895m) (midnight start) descent to Mweka Camp (3,100m)

Duration: 10:50 h
Distance: 16.6 km
Ascent: 1220 m
Descent: 2790 m

Your guide will wake you up in the middle of the night. There will be a light breakfast and a warm beverage ready for you. How do you feel? Chances are, you are not feeling that great. The altitude does funny things but food and water will help you get ready. The moon and your headlamps will be your only source of light as you make your way up to Stella Point, reaching the crater rim in about 5 – 7 hours. From Stella Point, it’s another deceiving 1 to 2 hours to Uhuru Peak. Depending on how you feel, this is not easy. But you’ve made it. You are at the highest point. on one of the Seven Summits. Enjoy the sun rising over Africa.

After capturing this incredible view and achievement on film, you will start your descent along the same route back to Barafu Camp, where your team awaits you with some snacks and refreshments. Rested and relaxed you will make your way to Mweka Camp for your last night on the highest mountain in Africa. A massive day, but it all went so quickly. From camp you look up to Kibo and you start to realize that you were up there that same morning. Incredible. One more wishy washy, one last dinner on the mountain.

And, most likely, the tipping ceremony. This is the moment to thank your guides and porters for their share in successfully summiting Kilimanjaro. There’s no need to give cash now, but it is a good moment to let your guide know how much the staff can expect. Get in touch with our Kilimanjaro expert to learn more about tipping and receive a guideline for fair tipping.

Mweka Camp

Info
Mweka Camp
Day
8

Mweka Camp (3,100m) to Mweka Gate (1,800m) to Moshi

Duration: 03:40 h
Distance: 8.7 km
Descent: 1420 m

The more you descend, the better your oxygen intake. The better your oxygen intake, the better your body and mind work. It’s all sinking now. You’ve ascended Kilimanjaro. You will once more trek through the rainforest, giving you another opportunity to spot the cheeky colobus monkeys, finally reaching the Mweka gate in about 2 – 3 hours. In Mweka, after some paperwork, another meal awaits you. You may as well add a Kilimanjaro beer to that. While you’re at it, your guide will present you with your climbing certificate. Well done!

After some good food and a celebration, you will be taken back to your hotel. It’s time to rest those legs. Jump in the pool, eat, drink and sleep.

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Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Lemosho Route with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

Packing List for the Lemosho Route

Trekking in the Kilimanjaro requires decent gear. Especially the basics like an 80-90 L backpack and quality trekking socks. We highly recommend that you read our suggestted packing list to hike the Lemosho Route.

  • Technical clothing

  • Headwear

  • Handwear

  • Footwear

  • Accessories

  • Equipment

  • Other

Gear Checklist for the Lemosho Route

So, above you find a guideline of what you need for your Kilimanjaro ascent, and below we've thrown in a handy checklist for you. Remember, pole pole!
Gear Checklist for the Lemosho Route

How To Get Fit For The Lemosho Route

We’ve said this before and we will say it again. Kilimanjaro is a trekking mountain, not a climbing mountain. Trekking = Hiking, so the best training for Kilimanjaro is to go hiking. Some websites will tell you that you need to cross-train, biking, swimming, weight training, or even go on a diet. No. Again, pole pole. Just become the best version of yourself and start with that process about two months in advance. You can follow a strict training plan or just keep the following things in mind.

We recommend a minimum of three hiking/walking sessions per week, each lasting at least one hour. The specifics of your sessions, such as distance, duration, and elevation gain, will largely depend on the available trails in your area. Ideally, you should look for trails that are a few miles long and include a challenging uphill section that can be completed in approximately one hour. Finding a convenient location for your training will enable you to schedule regular sessions and easily track your progress.

Additionally, try to make time for longer day hikes, as they are excellent training opportunities. A solid day hike typically lasts four to six hours and involves moderate elevation changes of around 1,000 feet (305 meters), all while carrying a 20 lb. (9 kg) pack. If you feel up to the challenge, don't hesitate to tackle harder trails; they will provide even more beneficial training for your Kilimanjaro climb. If you don't have access to outdoor trails, don't worry. Training on stairs can be an excellent alternative to simulate the climbing experience on Kilimanjaro. You can also make use of a stair master machine for productive training sessions.

To mimic the challenge of climbing the mountain, wear your backpack and maintain a slow and steady pace. We suggest dedicating 1-2 hours to climbing stairs or using the StairMaster. What goes up, must come down. Descending Kilimanjaro is harder than climbing Kilimanjaro. Train your downhill walking!

Now, are you feeling confident and do you think you have most of the hiking under the belt? Then you can change it up. Go for a run, do stretching exercises, yoga, maybe even weight. Essentially, anything that can help to improve your overall fitness is a plus. Just make sure your main focus is hiking.

How To Get Fit For The Lemosho Route

Where Can I Book the Lemosho Route?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book this trek and many others. Our guided options come with experts on the ground, and offer you a convenient, stress-free, safe, and educational way to explore the outdoors. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is this not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our blog posts:

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