The Lemosho Route (incorrectly called the Shira Plateau route by some agencies) is our favourite of the official trails on Kilimanjaro, a lengthy yet gentle (by Kilimanjaro’s standards!) trail that offers both exceptional chances of seeing wildlife and a higher than average chance of reaching the summit.
ITINERARY FOR SHIRA/LEMOSHO ROUTE
Day 1: Moshi to MtiMkubwa/Big Tree Camp
Following a fairly lengthy drive we arrive at the strange fortified village of Londorossi, where we register, pay the park fees – and where the porters have their luggage weighed to ensure that they are not carrying more than the specified maximum. We then drive on to the start of the trek, on the edge of the forest.
The whole of the first day’s trek is spent in some of the most pristine and beautiful to be found anywhere on the mountain. Given the rather isolated nature of this route, which sees relatively few tourists, encounters with wildlife on this trail are greater than on most other routes. We will also see some of Kilimanjaro’s more unusual flora, including the beautiful red impatiens Kilimanjarii, one of the great emblems of the mountain.
Our first day ends at MtiMkubwa, the Big Tree Camp (2650m), where, as with every night on the trek, you will arrive to find your tent already erected and a snack awaiting. A full dinner follows before we settle down to sleep to the sounds of the forest, with monkeys calling and the noisy turaco bird in this most blissful of locations, underneath the spreading branches of a beautiful old podocarpus tree.
Day 2: MtiMkubwa/Big Tree Camp to Shira One Campsite
This second day, the most varied on the trek, starts off with a continuation of yesterday’s march through the forest. Before long, however, we leave the trees behind to enter the grasses and wild flowers of the Heath and moorland zone. Note how, already, your guide has started to set a deliberately slow pace, in order to help you acclimatize to the lack of air pressure at this altitude.
Still climbing, we eventually round the northern slopes of the Shira Ridge – Kilimanjaro’s little-known third summit – and pause to admire our glimpse of our destination, the magnificent snow-covered Kibo summit.
Descending a short distance, we arrive at our second campsite, the Shira One Campsite (3480m), on the western edge of the Shira Plateau, with views across the plateau to Kibo.
Day 3: Shira One Campsite to Shira Huts Campsite
For this third day we could just cut a straight path across the plateau towards Kibo, but if you have the energy a wonderful morning can be spent exploring some of the features of the Shira Ridge, including the Cathedral, from where we get great views across the plateau towards Kibo and along the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro. It is also extremely useful for acclimatizion as we climb steadily to 3720m before descending back to the plateau. We then continue east towards Kibo, eventually reaching the Shira Huts Campsite (3840m) at the heart of the plateau.
If there is time, those with the energy can again join me as we explore a bit more of the plateau, including the site of the former Fisher Campsite and on to the Moir Huts, the quietest and most isolated campsite on the mountain.
Day 4: Shira Huts Campsite to Barranco Huts Campsite
The day begins with a slow march directly towards Kibo. The flora becomes more scarce now as we climb ever higher, with only a few everlastings, like living pot pourri, decorating the path. It’s a long walk but a very photogenic one with the snowy summit of Kilimanjaro a constant looming presence ahead.
Lunch this time is taken near the Lava Tower, at the foot of Kibo. We are now heading into some serious altitude, with Lava Tower standing at 4530m above sea level. For this reason, it is normal for people to have a slight headache when they finally reach our campsite for the evening, Barranco Camp, lying at the end of a steep descent to 3985m. This is entirely normal, and only worrying if the symptoms persist. By way of compensation, Barranco is the prettiest campsite on the route, set amongst a grove of senecio hard against the south face of Kibo. Snacks and then dinner is served in the evening.
Day 5: Barranco Huts to Barafu Camp
Another long day as we traverse the southern side of Kibo, walking through a spectacular lunar landscape bereft of life on our way to Barafu Camp (4681m), on the south-eastern shoulder of Kibo. Here we will rest, take lunch and dinner, and try to get some sleep before the rigours of the night ahead….
Night 5 / Day 6: Barafu Camp to summit and descent to Mweka Camp
Arising at around midnight, we begin our slow march up to Stella Point (5752m) on the edge of the Kibo crater. It’s a steep, slow, cold march and a test of your endurance – this is where you’ll earn your Kilimanjaro certificate. Nevertheless, providing you have avoided altitude sickness and have acclimatized well, there is no reason why you shouldn’t make it up to Stella Point. This we reach, all being well, at around 5am, though it can be much later depending on your condition. From Stella Point it is a mere 45 minutes further on, past glaciers and snowfields and with views over the Kibo Crater, to Uhuru Peak – at 5895m the highest point in Africa! Here, if we’re on time, we can watch the sun rise over the African continent, take photos – and take a breather too!
After a rest at the top, we continue back down to Barafu Camp – a walk that is considerably quicker than it was on the way up! At Barafu we take breakfast and relax for an hour, before continuing our march down the mountain, this time on the Mweka Trail. Today’s walk takes us back down through the alpine desert, heath and moorland zones until we once more enter the forest zone. There, amongst the trees, we find the Mweka campsite (c3100m), our final stop on the trek. We shouldarrive there at about 4pm – and you have been walking for around 16 hours, less breaks! Exhausting but, if you made it to the top, you’ll think it was worth it!
Day 7: Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
It’s just a couple of hours further now from the campsite to Mweka Gate (c1980m), where those who made it to the summit or Stella Point will collect their certificates. A car will be waiting to take you back to your hotel, and a land of warm showers and cold beers. Your trek is at an end.