Machame Route is one of the most popular routes on Mount Kilimanjaro.
According to statistics from Kilimanjaro National Park approximately 50% of trekkers use the Machame Route to ascend Kilimanjaro. The route is very scenic, providing hikers with incredible views and varying landscapes.
The Machame route is relatively difficult as climbers need to be able to ascend the Barranco Wall on day four and contend with a steep incline up Kibo on summit night. That being said, there are no parts on the route that require any technical climbing skills.
The total Machame route distance is approximately 62 kilometers from gate to gate.
One can complete the Machame route on a 6 or 7 day itinerary. Both options include a climb high, sleep low acclimatisation day.
Day 1 – Machame Gate (1,640 meters) to Machame Camp (2,835 meters)
Distance: ~11km / 7 miles
Trekking time: 5-7 hours
The first day trekking begins at Machame Gate (1,640 meters). Typically you will drive from the town of Moshi or Arusha to the gate, which takes approximately an hour for the former and two hours for the latter. On the way you will get to see subsistence farming and the town of Machame. At the Gate you will meet your trekking crew – your guide, porters and cook. There will be a flurry of activity as porters assemble gear for the trek; weighing packs to ensure they don’t exceed 20 kilograms. You, your guide and climbing team will in the meantime begin the ascent through the stunning rainforest that covers the South-West of the mountain. The first day trek on the Machame Route is a long one (~11km / 7miles) and takes approximately 5-7 hours to complete. Most tour operators will provide a packed lunch on route and 2-3 litres of bottled water. This is the only bottled water you will receive. From here on porters will collect water from mountain streams. The day’s trekking ends at Machame Camp (2,835 meters) which sits near the border of the rainforest zone and the low alpine zone. By the time you arrive your porters will have already setup your camp and tents, and dinner will be served.
Day 2 – Machame Camp (2,835 meters) to Shira Camp 2 (3,850 meters)
Distance: ~5km / 3 miles
Trekking time: 4-6 hours
Zone: Rainforest / Low Alpine Zone
On day two you will rise early, pack your gear and prepare for the trek from Machame Camp to Shira Camp 2 (3,850 meters). The trek is relatively steep as you enter the low alpine zone which is characterised by moorlands and grasslands. Shira Camp 2 sits on a plateau which provides you with the first views of Kibo in the North-West and Mount Meru in the East. Day two takes approximately 4-6 hours and covers a distance of 5km / 3miles.
Day 3 – Shira Camp 2 (3,850 meters) to Lava Tower (4,600 meters) and then Barranco Camp (3,900 meters)
Distance: ~11km / 7 miles
Trekking time: 5-7 hours
Zone: Low alpine zone / High alpine zone
Day three is a long and tough trek East off the Shira Plateau through the ‘Garden of the Senecios’, up to Lava Tower and the Shark’s Tooth rock formation at 4,600 meters and then back down via the Southern Circuit (see map above) to Barranco Camp (3,900 meters). The route is approximately 11km / 7 miles in length and takes 5-7 hours to complete. Although you end the day at a very similar elevation to when you started from Shira Camp, it is arguably one of the most important days on your trek as it gives you a chance to climb high and sleep low which is important for proper acclimatisation.
Day 4 – Barranco Camp (3,900 meters) to Karanga Camp (3,960 meters) (and then Barafu Camp – 4,680 meters)
Distance: ~9.5km / 6 miles
Trekking time: 8-10 hours
Zone: High alpine zone
Day four on the Machame Route begins with a steep traverse up the Barranco Wall; a 257 meter rock face that requires basic scrambling skills to the top of the Karanga Valley. The path then follows a series of inclines and declines to Karanga Camp (3,960 meters). If you are on a six day trek you will stop for lunch at Karanga Camp and then continue on along the Southern Circuit until it joins the Mweka Trail up to Barafu Camp (4,680 meters). For six day trekkers, day 4 takes approximately 8-10 hours to complete and covers 9.5km / 6 miles. When you arrive at Barafu around mid-afternoon you will be served an early dinner and encouraged to get some shut-eye as the summit trek commences around 24:00 that night. Note: Trekkers on the seven day route spend the night at Karanga Camp before continuing on to Barafu. This additional day is beneficial in terms of acclimatisation.
Day 5 – Barafu Camp (4,680 meters) to Uhuru Peak (5,895 meters) and then Mweka Camp (3,100 meters)
Distance: ~4.5km / 3 miles ascent and then 11km / 7 mile descent
Trekking time: 6-8 hours to the summit and then 5-8 hours to Mweka
Zone: Glacial zone and the all preceding zones
Day five is summit night (and day)! You will be awoken around 23:30 with hot tea and biscuits. Hopefully you have managed to get a few hours’ sleep; don’t worry if you haven’t as most people struggle to sleep before summit night. Do however make sure that all your kit, including warm clothes, headlamp, insulated water reserves and snacks are ready for a sharp departure at 24:00. The trek up Kibo is steep and slow. The trick is to keep your momentum moving forward, one step at a time. It takes about 6-8 hours to reach the top of the crater rim where you will see the sign for Stella Point (5,739 meters). This is not the summit of Kilimanjaro. You still have another 156 meters of altitude to walk around the crater rim to Uhuru Peak (5,895 meters). We recommend resting briefly at Stella Point and potentially having some hot tea or hot chocolate. Dawn should be approaching. Take a moment to savour where you have got to and then dig deep for the energy to push for the summit. Over 60% of climbers stop at Stella Point but most can make it to the summit if they muster the metal strength to push through. Obviously if you are experiencing severe AMS symptoms you should descend immediately. After reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, a 4.5km / 3 mile ascent, you still have an 11km / 7 mile descent to Mweka Camp (3,100 meters)! The descent can be very gruelling on your joints. It is recommend you use trekking poles and potentially wear gaiters to avoid fine glacial scree getting into your boots. Mweka is situated in the upper part of the rainforest zone. The richness of oxygen and moisture in the air will be a very welcome surprise.
Day 6 – Mweka Camp (3,100 meters) to Mweka Gate (1,640 meters)
Distance: ~9km / 5.5 miles
Trekking time: 3-5 hours
Day six is the final day of trekking on the Machame Route. By now you will be exhausted and probably only thinking about a hot shower. The trek is a pleasant one through the lower rain-forested slopes and down to Mweka Gate (1,640 meters). Although you cover 9km / 5.5 miles, the trek only takes 3-4 hours. Assuming you successfully reach Stella Point or Uhuru Peak you will be presented with official certificates – a green certificate for the former and a gold certificate for the latter. It is customary to tip your trekking crew before being transported back to your hotel in Moshi or Arusha.
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References: Machame Route on Mount Kilimanjaro
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