Alternative Lemosho itinerary
The following is a typical 8-day itinerary for the 69.5km Alternative Lemosho Route – my favourite route on the mountain. It encompasses the best forest on Kili’s western slopes, the vast Shira Plateau, the tranquillity of the Northern Circuit, views over the dusty Saddle to Mawenzi and, of course, the final push up the snowy slopes of Kibo to the highest point in Africa.
Day 1: Lemosho Glades to Mti Mkubwa
Distance: 4.8km/3 miles
Altitude Gained: 396m/1299ft
Breakfast at your hotel is typically served from 07.00. Please ensure that you have packed your bags before breakfast, have signed over your extra luggage that will not be required on the mountain to reception, and have deposited your valuables into the hotel’s safe.
Transfer and Registration. You will normally be collected at 7.30-8am from your hotel. In the event that climbers have to be collected from other hotels before they collect you, this may need to be amended to a later time. We’ll do our best to warn you if this is the case.
Your driver will transfer you 111km/69 miles and some 2 hours 10 minutes from Arusha to Londorossi Gate (it’s even further from Moshi) where you complete registration formalities. Climbers should have their passport numbers for their registry entries, and are advised to have kept their passports and valuables in the hotel safe (excluding the amount they will budget for tipping their crew). Note that under-16s who are looking for the discount off the park fees should take their passport, and not a copy.
Following registration you continue a further 12km by vehicle to the route’s start point. This final drive can take anywhere between 45 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on road conditions. Please be very careful in wet weather or following a spell of recent rains as the road can become badly damaged and there is risk of being jolted inside the vehicle. When the road is in poor condition it is sometimes not safe or even possible for the vehicle to reach all the way to the roadhead. In this event there will be an additional walk of a mile or two to the ‘proper’ start of the trek.
The whole of the first day’s trek is spent in some of the most pristine and beautiful forest 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. (Indeed, when I first walked the Lemosho Route, I had to be accompanied by an armed guide to ward off any wildlife that got too close.) You 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 Mti Mkubwa, the Big Tree Camp (2785m/9137ft), 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 you 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: Mti Mkubwa to Shira One
Distance: 7.9km/5 miles
Altitude Gained: 719m/2359ft
This second day, the most varied on the trek, starts off with a continuation of yesterday’s march through the forest. Before long, however, you 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, you 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, you arrive at your second campsite of the trek, the Shira One Campsite (3504m/1,496ft), on the western edge of the Shira Plateau, with views across the plateau to Kibo.
Though most people will feel too tired after today’s trek, there is an optional afternoon acclimatisation ascent of Shira Ridge 3959m/12,988ft, Kilimanjaro’s 3rd volcanic summit, for arguably the best views of Kibo (clear weather permitting). The excursion distance is 7.6km/4.75 miles.
Day 3: Shira One to Moir Huts
Distance: 9.4km/5.8 miles
Altitude Gained: 657m/2155ft
The trek from Shira 1 Camp to Moir Huts takes you across the moorland and, eventually desert of the Shira Plateau. Separating from the Official Lemosho Route, the path now aims more for the northern slopes of Kibo. On the way you pass Fischer Camp – an abandoned campsite named after a renowned mountaineer more famous for his exploits on Everest. The scenery is fairly uniform though the views ahead to Kibo keep you reaching for your camera. You’ll probably also notice it getting considerably colder as the day wears on, and you may well find yourself wearing your summit coat for the first time.
You should arrive for a late lunch at Moir Huts. You can then rest and relax in this chilly campsite before, if you’re feeling OK, heading off for a sunset acclimatisation trip to the top of the nearby 4402m/14,442ft ridgeline before dinner. The excursion distance is 1.9km/1.2 miles.