Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on the Lemosho Route

To climb Mt. Kilimanjaro on the Lemosho Route is a comparatively newer option, one that quickly became popular once established.

Strictly speaking not all of Lemosho is new. It is a variation of the Shira route. Many trekking agencies even call the Lemosho Shira, to stress that you walk across the Shira Plateu.

Read the detailed route description you have been given to find out which route exactly you will be on.

Only the first two to three days of the two routes are different. But what a difference!

The Lemosho Route is the most scenic Kilimanjaro route, from the first day to the last.

Lemoshi GladesTrekking through the Lemoshio Glades, photo by mitchpa1984.

The trail begins north of Shira, also on the western side of the mountain. But unlike the Shira Route, where for the first day you walk on a wide 4 WD road, Lemosho is a narrow wilderness trail right from the beginning, passing through pristine and remote rainforest with good chances of seeing wildlife.

It then crosses the Shira Plateau before joining the Machame Route near the Lava Tower.

Luckily, despite its growing popularity (especially with second time Kilimanjaro climbers), Lemosho sees a very low number of people. It's all relative. There is still a massive gap between Marangu Route and the theMachame Route, the two really crowded routes, and all the others.

There is an obvious reason why the numbers on Lemosho will always remain much lower than on Marangu or Machame: it's not the cheapest option.

  • Starting your climb on the western side means paying for extra transport.

  • Using a longer trail means paying for an extra day or several on the mountain.

  • And climbing a less trafficked route means higher prices due to less competition from budget tour operators.

Lemosho is also a fairly demanding route, due to both the nature of the terrain and the duration of the trail.

On the plus side Lemosho offers the best chances of any route to acclimatize to the altitude and with that much better summit chances. The fact that you are likely to climb this route with a quality Kilimanjaro tour operator also means your success chances are much better than average.

And if your operator has developed your itinerary in a way that avoids the big traffic surges on the Machame trail (some operators do) you will have a great climb all the way, on the most scenic route, without the crowds that plague the popular trails.

Below are some more detailed notes about what to expect during aKilimanjaro climb on the Lemosho Route.

Londorosi GateLondorosi Gate, the registration point for the Lemosho Route, photo by mitchpa1984.

Lemosho Route Itinerary

There are several possible variations to the Kilimanjaro Lemosho route, so don't be surprised if you see an intinerary that mentions different camps and different heights.

The itinerary below describes a seven night/eight day Kilimanjaro climb on the Lemosho Route.

Like Machame this trek can be shortened if you skip the night in the Karanga Valley and instead walk straight from the Barranco Huts to the Barafu Huts in one day.

Some operators also skip the second night at Shira One, making it a VERY strenuous six day trek.

The trek can be extended by adding an extra night at Moir Huts for acclimatisation.

For experienced mountaineers there is also a challenging and dangerous specialist version via the Western Breach.

(Note: altitudes and distances are approximations. Different sources will give you different numbers.)

Starting Point: Londorossi Gate (2100 m/6900 ft)

Duration: 7-8 days

Day 1 - Londorosi Gate/Lemosho trail head - Big Tree Camp (Mti Mkubwa) (2650 m/8695 ft)
Walking distance: 6 km/3.7 miles
Walking time: 2-3 hours
Altitude gain: 550 m/1795 ft

Day 2 - Big Tree Camp - Shira I (3480 m/11420 ft)
Walking distance: 8 km/5 miles
Walking time: 4-5 hours
Altitude gain: 830 m/2725 ft

Day 3 - Shira I - Shira Huts (3850 m/12630 ft) via Shira Cathedral
Walking distance: 11 km/6.8 miles
Walking time: 6-8 hours
Altitude gain: 370 m/1210 ft

Day 4 - Shira Huts - via Lava Tower (4640 m/15220 ft) - Barranco Huts (3985 m/13070 ft)
Walking distance: 9 km/5.6 miles
Walking time: 6-8 hours
Altitude gain: 135 m/440 ft (790 m/2590 ft to Lava Tower)

Day 5 - Barranco Huts - Karanga Camp (4040 m/13255 ft)
Walking distance: 5.5 km/3.5 miles
Walking time: 4-5 hours
Altitude gain: 55 m/185 ft

Day 6 - Karanga Camp - Barafu Huts (4680 m/15360 ft)
Walking distance: 3.5 km/ 2.2 miles
Walking time: 4-5 hours
Altitude gain: 640 m/2105 ft

Day 7 - Summit attempt via Stella Point (5752 m/18871 ft) to Uhuru Peak (5895 m/19340 ft) and descent to Millenium Camp (3820 m/12530 ft) (or to Mweka Hut)
Walking distance: 5 km/3 miles ascent + 10 km/6.2 miles descent
Walking time: 5-6 hrs + 1-2 hours up, 5-6 hours down (the overall walking time may vary from 10 - 16 hours)
Altitude gain: 1072 m/ 3511 ft (Stella Point) or 1215 m/3980 ft (Uhuru Peak)
Descent: 2075 m/6810 ft

Day 8 - Millenium Camp - Lemosho Gate
Walking distance: 20 km/12.5 miles
Walking time: 5 hours
Descent: 1990 m/6530 ft

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro - Lemosho Route - Day 1

Colobus MonkeyColobus monkey, photo by mitchpa1984.

The starting point for the Lemosho Route is the Londorossi Gate. It is a two to three hour drive to get there and on this first day you may well spend more time driving and waiting around at the gate than you will be walking.

Londorossi (name for the village and the park gate) looks like something pulled out of a cheap Western. The place is entirely made out of wood. The high timber fences you see are supposed to keep the wildlife out.

That already indicates the advantage of taking this less trafficked route. You do indeed have a better chance to see some wildlife on the first days.

In fact, you very well may right then and there: a troop of the beautiful black and white Colobus monkeys have taken up residence in the trees right next to the park ranger quarters. Check them out while you are waiting for the registration and permits to be organised - the usual start of a Kilimanjaro climb!

After the registration at the gate you have to return the way you came, about ten minutes through some fields and cypress plantations, to get to the trail head. Some call it Londorossi, some Lemosho Glades, some Simba.

Another gate, another feeā€”paid to the forest authority for maintainig the road.

You follow the muddy road for another 20 minutes until you finally get to the real trail head.

Your trek begins in dense, misty rainforest. The forest is beautiful, like out of a fairy tale. It is full of smaller wildlife, colobus and blue monkeys being the most conspicuous. In the early days, shortly after the route was established, you had to be accompanied by an armed ranger here because of the water buffaloes. The much larger number of climbers these days means bigger animals are are rarely seen.

This very first day on the Lemosho Route has several steep sections to get the pump pumping, but it only takes two to three hours to reach your fist campsite, the Big Tree Camp or Mti Mkubwa. (The official name is Forest Camp but nobody calls it that.)

It's a lovely camp, located, as the name says, under a big tree and with plenty of monkeys and birds around. Even if you don't see them, you should hear them in the evenings and mornings.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro - Lemosho Route - Day 2

Shira PlateauReaching the edge of the Shira Plateau, photo by Antonin Remond.

The second day may be "only" four to five hours worth of walking, but it won't be a short day. The trail is very steep today and you will take many breaks.

Once you reach the first major ridge, you leave the forest behind and enter the moorland with its giant heathers as you work your way up towards the Shira Plateau.

There are a couple more steep ridges, offering great views, a well deserved break, and a descent in the valley on the other side.

Eventually, some time after lunch, the path flattens out. (Did I mention the path is steep?) Before you know it you are standing on the edge of the Shira Plateau at 3612 m (11840 ft): Kibo is straight ahead of you, the Shira Ridge to your right and you are overlooking the plateau below.

Yes, below. It's all downhill from here. Your next camp, Shira I, is at 3480 m (11420 ft).

If all this sounds strenuous don't be put off. You have all the time in the world. Many climbers name this as their favourite day of the walk.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro - Lemosho Route - Day 3

Second Shira Camp on Lemoshio RouteNear the second Shira campsite on the Lemosho Route, photo by Antonin Remond.

There are many different possibilities on day three, many variations to the route. The more common version takes you directly across the plateau. The walk leads steadily uphill but is nowhere near as steep as yesterday.

After one to one and a half hours you reach the junction of the Lemosho Route and the four wheel drive track that is the beginning of the Shira Route. This is the location of the Simba Cave Campsite (3590 m/11780 ft) on the side of the Simba River.

Another hour to hour and a half, and you reach your most likely final destination, the Shira Huts camps.

People trekking with a higher end operator may instead take the turn off half way between the route junction and the Shira Huts, and spend the night at the quieter Fischer Campsite(3885 m/12745 ft), which is some way off the main trail.

Some companies may even use Fischer as a lunch stop only and continue to Moir Huts (4140 m/13579 ft).

There is also the option to stay at Shira Huts and make the detour to Moir Huts tomorrow.

This was the more common straight route. There is another, much more interesting and longer option for day 3: a detour to the southern edge of the rim and the Shira Cathedral, including a climb to its summit (3720 m/12200 ft).

Yes, it makes for a much longer day, but it is a very scenic and varied walk, with great views all the way, and don't forget the benefits of the additional acclimatisation you get by climbing to the top of the Cathedral.

Find an operator who takes the detour. It's worth it.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro - Lemosho Route - Day 4

Barranco CampBarranco Camp. © Uta Philipp.

Assuming you camped at Shira Huts, the fourth day starts with a good two and half hours of walking mostly gently uphill (and scrambling a bit for two short sections). Following the slope of the Lemosho Plateau you gradually leave the heather and moorland behind and enter the mostly barren alpine desert region, enjoying breathtaking views all the way.

Soon you come across the first junction. One option is to add an acclimatization day here and continue your trek to Moir Huts (4140 m/13579 ft), thirty minutes off the main trail. This is a scenic and quiet campsite in a valley surrounded by steep slopes, possibly the quietest camp on the mountain. If your operator takes you here you will arrive around lunch time and spend the afternoon exploring the Lent Hills, including an acclimatization walk to 4700 m.

The other climbers continue on the main trail. After some bends and ups and downs you reach the junction with the busy Machame Route. Shortly after you come to another junction. You have the options to either head towards the Lava Tower as a detour or even for another extra night, or to continue straight on towards Barranco.

(Climbers tackling the summit via the difficult and dangerous Western Breach route will turn off towards the Lava Tower Camp.)

The Lava Tower is a 100 m/300 ft volcanic plug, left over from times when Kilimanjaro was volcanic. The path towards it is a gentle slope and as you climb towards it even the short heather disappears altogether to reveal the rocky ground of the lava ridges.

The climb is often experienced as strenuous. After all, you'll be climbing up to over 4500 m and your body will sure notice the the lack of oxygen!

After a much deserved lunch break near the Lava Tower you descend into the beautiful Barranco Valley, the result of a massive landslide some 100,000 years ago. The valley is sheltered by towering cliffs and is much greener. There is vegetation again, most notably the giant senecios and lobelias. You have great views across the plains way below and you also get your first glimpse of the Barranco Wall. You will climb that tomorrow...

The Barranco Camp is without a doubt the most spectacular campsite of this route, with fantastic views of Kibo, the Western Breach and the first of the southern glaciers, a fitting reward after a strenuous day.

Don't be surprised if you have slight symptoms of altitude sickness. You have been quite high today, but by climbing high and sleeping low you are giving your body the best chances to adapt. Don't be disheartened about the loss of hard earned altitude. This was an important day for acclimatisation.

Whether climbers reached the Barranco Camp via Machame, Shira, Lemosho, or even on a special route around the northern circuit, from this point onwards all climbers follow the same trail...

You can read the detailed description of this part of the Lemosho/Shira/Machame routes here.

(Note that this version of the Lemosho route is one day longer, so day 4 on that page becomes day 5 for Lemosho etc.)

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