Climb Kilimanjaro Machame Route
The Machame route on Kilimanjaro is a challenging seven day camping route which allows for excellent acclimatisation and particularly diverse scenery. It has been called the Whiskey route in the past and nowadays about 35% of all climbers on the mountain use it.
In a matter of days you’ll climb Kilimanjaro from the equator up to an Arctic zone, moving through grasslands, tropical rainforest, alpine meadows, moorlands and desert uplands to snow and ice.
During the seven days the climber is presented with quite a different environment and ecosystem on every day, with five days ascending through the forest from Machame Gate on the southwest side of the mountain, crossing alpine heath and a high desert before circling the massif on rock and ascending on snow and glaciers on day six. The descent is a direct route back down to the gate and into rainforest on day 7.
Machame is a camping trip using 2 person mountain tents, a mess tent with tables and chairs, a cook tent and staff tents. Generally speaking for every group of ten visitors, there are twenty five staff in total.
We run scheduled dates almost every month of the year, but also organise private dates and groups at no extra cost. Group size is from two up to large groups.
From the start you will be speaking with experienced people who have climbed Kilimanjaro several times and can give an honest appraisal of the Kilimanjaro climb for you. Gavin Bate the company owner has been leading groups on the mountain regularly since 1984 and is always on hand for advice. This personal service extends to Tanzania where Castro Kapela will give a team briefing along with our guides.
We have a core team of seven guides who have been with us for over fifteen years now - Romli, Lipman and Kamanda are the head guides, while Heaven, Hubert, Tumaini and Josphat make up the rest. The main cooks are Deo, Frateri and Dexe, while camp manager is Kichwa.They have all received international first aid training and altitude medical training.
Our ground handler is Adventure Alternative Tanzania and it is a very well established company based in Moshi working under our trademark and run by long time friend Castro Kapela since 2001.
On the Machame route map below you can follow the red line to see the route goes up from Machame Gate and around the mountain, then up to the summit and straight back down the same way and further to Mweka Gate.
Drone footage of climbing Kilimanjaro on the Machame Route (courtesy of friend and mountain film maker Elia Saikaly).
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the Machame route?
The entire climb up and down is approximately 62 km/ 37 miles from gate to gate. The height gain from the gate to the summit is 4157 metres, which is ascended over six days of around 5-7 days walking each day.
What is the altitude profile of the Machame route?
The seven day route on Machame allows for a first night at 3000m, then the following three nights at around 3900m, then the final camp at 4600m at midnight on day 6. Summit day involves ascending 1385m to Uhuru Peak and then descending all the way down to 3800m. Day 7 is then a descent through forest to the gate.
Day Start Level Daily High Point Sleep Level Camp name
Day One 1830m 3000m 3000m Machame
Day Two 3000m 3850m 3850m Shira
Day Three 3850m 4560m 3950m Barranco
Day Four 3950m 4200m 3950m Karanga
Day Five 3950m 4600m 4600m Barafu
Day Six 4600m 5985m 3800m Millennium
Day Seven 3800m 3800m 1830m
What are the camps on the Machame route?
The camps for the seven day Machame route are Machame, Shira, Barranco, Karanga Valley, Barafu and Millennium (or sometimes Mweka). A full description of each camp is below.
Machame and Millennium Camp are on the tree line and have a number of campsites set in small clearings in the forest. The whole site can accommodate probably a hundred tents. You will see a central ranger station and a number of brick toilets and long drop latrines. The air is quite humid and it's not too cold; being right in the trees you won't see lots of other people round the site.
Shira Camp is situated on the vast Shira plateau which is a volcanic spill-off from the last explosion some 100,000 years ago. Open and exposed and often dusty with smaller, you will find more fragile plants among the rocks. Brick toilets and latrines and Ranger huts are around and the area is so huge it is easy to spread out and have some privacy. Shira could accommodate hundreds of tents fairly easily. Expect it to be colder here, more windy potentially. The views of the summit massif are really amazing, especially at dawn and dusk, and it's worth getting up in the night if there is a full moon to see it rise behind the summit.
Barranco Camp is at the head of the steep valley which drops down into the Umbwe route that goes all the way down to Moshi. Tucked up underneath the summit massif there are huge dramatic cliffs to see, some remains of hanging glaciers and often the whole of Kibo will be plastered in snow. Meanwhile looking down the valley you can see the lights of Moshi. The campsite has brick toilets and latrines (long drops), a Rangers hut of course, and there is a lot of plant life here so it's green and verdant, especially the giant groundsels which can grow several metres tall. The camp can take over a hundred tents quite easily but space is limited so you can sometimes expect to walk a distance to find your tent.
Karanga Camp is very open and situated somewhat on a slope so make sure your tent is on a flat piece of ground. There are great views of the summit massif again and you can see the route to the summit quite easily. Looking downhill you can see the lights of Moshi. Brick toilets and pit latrines again, a Rangers Hut and space for at least a hundred tents. It can be cold and windy here, and the cloud can come and go very fast. Water is a problem at this camp, the porters have to walk forty minutes back down the trail to the nearest stream.
Many people go direct from Barranco to the next camp Barafu in one day in order to climb Kilimanjaro in six days, so Karanga is a half-way stop, but it's well worth the additional acclimatisation.
Barafu, meaning ‘ice’ in Swahili, is the final camp at 4600m. It is no longer covered in permanent snow but it is cold and rocky and exposed. People definitely feel the altitude here and you can expect snow and often wind. The campsites are dotted among nooks and crannies in the rocks, running the length of the ridge. Some camps are far below the Rangers hut and the start of the summit climb, so it can add more than half an hour to the ascent. With brick toilets and latrines, the facilities are now good but water is in short supply so the porters are forced to travel back downhill to the nearest stream. The Rangers here have large heavy duty stretchers at hand which have a single wheel underneath, so it's possible to get people down quickly. There is also a helipad at the camp.
What is the summit success rate on Machame route?
We have averaged 88% success on the seven day Machame climb, which is higher than the Park average of around 70%. Our higher rate is mainly because we don't condone six day ascents; as a mountain guiding company we follow mountaineering principles of good acclimatisation and the advice of the UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation).
Despite easy access, relatively reliable weather and excellent resources on the mountain itself, Kilimanjaro is a dangerous mountain for the 25,000 or so visitors who try to climb it each year, mainly because many people try to do the trip in less than seven days. Between 50% and 75% turn back before reaching the top and the main reasons are cold temperatures, exhaustion, dehydration and of course acute mountain sickness, which is greatly influenced by the speed of ascent.
Our seven day trek on the Machame route allows good opportunity for acclimatisation, especially since three of the camps are more or less at the same altitude.
When should I climb the Machame route?
It's possible to climb the Machame route all year, but April, May, October and November are the rainy seaons, but nowadays climate change has made the rainy seasons less predictable. Broadly speaking January and February are the warmest months, April and May are the wettest months, June and July are the coolest months, and August and September are the driest months.
Consider also the moon cycles, summitting on a full moon generally means it will be busy and the route can get clogged. It is nice to climb by the light of the moon and stars but you might find yourself negotiating other people all the time.
Flight costs are also worth mentioning. During the high season at the start of the year flights can be 30% more than low season. Also consider if you want to go on a safari afterwards or visit Zanzibar, the best time of year to see animals is probably around August time (also the most expensive for flights again).
What is the weather like on Machame Route?
Expect warm early days to be 18 - 20 degrees Celsius, cooler days up higher around 14 degrees C and summit day to be as cold as minus 5 with a windchill of minus 15 degrees C. The mountain doesn't experience a wide temperature range from season to season, so it's much the same throughout the year. However, temperatures are determined by the altitude and the time of the day.
It can be wet and cold, hot and dry and sunny all in one day, and don't forget the intensity of the sun at altitude means it's important to protect your skin and eyes. Of course the rainforest (or cloudforest) around the base is warm and humid, the moorland and alpine desert is drier and cooler, while the arctic zone is of course very cold and it's very possible to experience snow and strong winds.
Kilimanjaro stands alone as a huge volcano on the plains so it tends to have quite predictable weather patterns with the cloud coming in during the day and then clearing at night.
High mountains create their own micro-climates, which are areas in which the climate differs from the prevailing - or main - climate. On Kilimanjaro this is a common feature; it has several micro-climates from hot at the bottom to freezing arctic at the summit. The flow of air masses over Kilimanjaro influences these micro-climates which causes wet (or snowy) weather on one side and a dry, clear climate on the other. Machame is on the wetter side, while Rongai is on the drier side.
What kind of mountain is Kilimanjaro?
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest peak in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It is a strato volcano situated in a fork off the Great Rift Valley, right on the border with Kenya and Tanzania. At 5895 metres, to climb Kilimanjaro is a great challenge, not to be underestimated, but entirely feasible for the hill walker looking to combine a high mountain adventure with going to Africa. It is also one of the great Seven Summits peaks, being the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.
The name Kilimanjaro traditionally means “mountain of the springs” for the local Chagga tribe that live on its slopes. 'Kilima' means 'hill' and 'njara' means 'shining' because of the way the snow and ice would have reflected off the sun many years ago.
What will you carry in your daypack for the Machame route?
A day pack of about 40 litres is perfect to carry on the Machame route and each day will be a little bit different as to what goes inside it. Water bottles, rain gear, a few spare clothes, gloves and hat, sunscreen and lipsalve, snacks and camera equipment are all usual things to carry.
You may want an umbrella for showers and to keep off the sun on a still day. Trekking poles are also useful but you don't need to use them all the time. A flask for hot drinks is very useful on summit night, as is a headtorch. Also a rucksack cover or even a poncho to cover yourself and your bag. Some people bring mini spikes to put on their boots for summit night when it can be very slippy, but this is optional.
The weight of your day pack should not be more than about 5-6 kgs; as you go higher, the weight will seem heavier and harder to carry. Meanwhile your main duffle bag will be carried by the porters.
What clothing will you need for climbing Kilimanjaro?
There is nothing technical required to climb the mountain but it is important to be able to stay warm and dry and have good boots and a good sleeping bag. We provide tents with covered foam mattresses and all the campsite equipment, but you will have to bring your own clothing for seven days camping.
You can read the full packing list for Kilimanjaro and also you can hire a lot of the items through this website when you book. We can also obtain items for you in-country when you arrive. There is more information on this blog about what to wear on Kilimanjaro and something on preparing for a trip to Kilimanjaro, and more advice on kit for Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.
Why us for climbing Kilimanjaro?
Adventure Alternative Tanzania has been based in Moshi at the foot of Kilimanjaro since 2001 and we are well known locally for looking after staff well, paying good salaries on time and being fair employers. The company has been managed by Castro Kapela since the start and he has worked with us for many years to create a very ethically minded outfit.
- We are a mountain company run by mountaineers and founded by Gavin Bate who is an International Mountain Leader and has been organising and leading expeditions since 1982.
- We take safety on Kilimanjaro seriously and our staff are first aid trained and qualified, and certified every three years for the REC Outdoor First Aid level 3.
- We have a 90% success rate to the summit because of a seven day minimum policy which assists proper acclimatisation.
- All the staff in our UK office have climbed Kilimanjaro so you can chat to people who understand what it is like to go up for the first time, before you go. We spend time on the phone and we are happy to make personal visits to meet groups or individuals where possible. We provide all the Kilimanjaro facts, under the gloss!
- We are passionate about responsible tourism and our company supports sustainable development in Tanzania and Kenya in a real way. We have won the World Responsible Tourism Awards twice now. Since 2010 we have been building Ngaroni School near Marangu on the slopes of the mountain. Our work has been supported by the Kilimanjaro National Park who helped by funding an administration block. The school supports teachers in employment and has 80 children in education.
- Financial security is guaranteed as we are fully financially bonded so your money is secure
Is Kilimanjaro right for me?
Climbing Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience. However, like with any challenge, there will be some bumps along the way. One thing to remember is that things in Africa happen at a different pace. You may feel like things are a bit chaotic, but it is the normal way of life here. Things do not always work and conditions might not be what you would expect at home. However, the people are very friendly and keen to help.
It is not surprising to see people begging. Please do not give in and perpetuate this damaging practice. Tips are customary but should be given to Castro at the gate on the last day for distribution. This is much better than giving individuals money privately or secretly, which some people do because they think they're doing it 'right', but this is never the case and it always causes problems long after you have left. We have a system in the company which the staff understand and recognise and like, and Castro is a good and honest boss who will not exploit the staff.
If you would like to learn more about some of the difficulties of spending many days in a mountain camp, see our Mountain Realities page.
Mawenzi Peak on Kilimanjaro peaking out above the morning clouds.
Machame route day by day programme
- Day one is arrival in Tanzania as advertised on the booking page (or your custom dates)
- Day two is resting, hydrating and briefing day, with time to pick up rental items
- Days three to nine is the climb period (arriving back in hotel by mid afternoon).
- Day ten is departure day or starting the 4D3N safari tour of Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and Manyara Parks.
|1||Arrive into Tanzania. Most people fly into Kilimanjaro airport either directly or via Kenya. Overnight in Keys Annexe Hotel in Moshi Town.|
|2||900m||Day in Moshi, meet the AA Tanzania staff and have time for hiring equipment or relaxing in the hotel. This is a good day to hydrate fully for the start the next day.|
|3||900m - 1790m - 2580m||5 hours, 10 kms||Transport to Machame Gate (1 hour up to 1790m). Registration (sometimes it can take a few hours or so for this process). Trek to Machame Camp through beautiful montane forest on good path. Camp overnight at the edge of the forest.|
|4||2980m - 3840m||6-7 hours, 7 kms||Machame Camp to Shira Plateau uphill through thinning forest and onto a huge volcanic plateau. Camping is more exposed here with great views of the summit massif.|
|5||3840m - 3950m||7-8 hours, 10 kms||Shira Camp to Barranco Camp traversing two valleys skirting the base of the summit massif. High desert environment with amazing rock formations, quite exposed to the weather, dropping into the Barranco Valley right beneath the Western Breach. This day ascends a maximum of 700 metres but the net height gain is only about 100 metres.|
|6||3950m - 3950m||5 hours, 4 kms||Barranco Camp to Karanga Valley, starting with a scramble over the Barranco Wall and over a further two valleys to get to this open campsite with great views of the Heim Glacier. Another up and down day but no net gain in height, which is all good for acclimatisation.|
|7||3950m - 4550m||4-5 hours, 4 kms||Karanga Valley to Barafu Camp, heading upwards towards the open rock and colder temperatures. Barafu means 'ice' in Swahili and the camping is amongst the rocks. Early dinner.|
|8||4550m - 5895m - 2800m||7 hours up, 6 hours down, 18 kms||Summit day. Night-time ascent on rock and scree, snow and ice, to the crater rim and the summit. Expect cold temperatures with windchill. The final slope to the crater rim and Stella Point has loose scree and is very slow. From Stella Point it is a further 45 minutes up the escarpment to the summit of Uhuru.
Descend in sunlight to Barafu for early lunch, and then walk down to Millennium Camp, normally arriving mid-afternoon.
|9||2800m - 900m||4-6 hours, 11 kms||Millennium to Mweka Gate. Descend through the lush forest to Mweka Gate where you sign out and pick up the summit certificate. Legs will be tired! Meet Castro at the gate for transport back to the hotel, arriving normally at about 2pm.
The gate is where tips are handed out and you say goodbye to the mountain staff, although sometimes this is done at the hotel. A hot shower and an afternoon relaxing.
|10||Either start the safari or depart home.|
When is the full moon on Kilimanjaro? 2019/2020
Choose your dates to coincide with full or new moons. Kilimanjaro is on the equator so star gazing is particularly beautiful with both north and south constellations visible on a moonless night. On the night of a full moon, you don't need a head torch to ascend.
|Month||2020 New Moon||2020 Full Moon||2019 New Moon||2019 Full Moon|
|10||6||21 Super FM|
|Feb||23||9||5||19 Super FM|
|July||20||5||12||17 Lunar Eclipse|
|Aug||19||3||1 & 30||15|
|Oct||16||2 & 31||28||14|
Other notable dates:
Valentines Day Summit 2021 on Sunday 14th February: Start climb on Tuesday 9th Feb
New Years Eve / Day Summit Friday 1st January 2020: Start climb on Sunday 27th December
Kilimanjaro Machame route cost £1895.00
- Accommodation in Moshi for 3 nights in the Keys Annexe Hotel (twin, B&B)
- Jeep or coach transport to the mountain gate from and to Moshi
- Park fees, camping fees and park rescue fees
- Park certified guides (ratio of 1:2 or 1:3 depending on team size) who are outdoor first aid qualified
- Porters and cooks, plus equipment and tents for them
- All camping equipment including sleeping tents with mattresses
- Trip administrator, translator
- Meals on the mountain - fresh food, 3 meals per day
- Oxygen bottles and masks, mountain shelter and portable stretcher on every trip
- UK correspondence and advice and pre-trip organisation
- International airfare to Kilimanjaro Airport
- Airport transfers (£40/$50 per vehicle one way) must be requested in advance through the office
- Tanzanian Visa ($50 for most passports & $100 for USA citizens, purchased on arrival)
- Vaccinations and anti malaria tablets
- Personal expenses, eg taxis into town, bottled water in Moshi, local rentals
- Travel insurance
- Lunch and dinners in Moshi (~£30)
- Tips (~£90 paid in local Tanzanian Shillings for distribution at the exit gate)
We do not operate kitties and we use a very good hotel in town with which we have built up a strong relationship for the past twenty years.
Travel Insurance - We advise you to take out your insurance as soon as possible to cover potential events that might cause you to cancel your trip. You need to ensure that you have a policy which covers trekking to 5895m, helicopter rescue and cancellation, but it does not need to cover technical climbing. You should bring with you a copy of your policy and ensure your tent mate knows where you keep it. Many of our clients use Sports Cover Direct - link to them by clicking the banner below:
Local Providers for this trip is Adventure Alternative Tanzania which is licensed under the Adventure Alternative trademark. We provide full employment for our subsidiary company alongside excellent rates of pay, equipment, training and career development.
Choose a scheduled date or contact us to set up private dates or a bespoke itinerary. The minimum deposit is £100.00 and the balance is due six weeks before travel.
- Duration 10 days
- Numbers 3 - 20
- Altitude 5895m
- Distance 64 kms
- Challenge Moderate
- Comfort Camping