The Umbwe route is not technical, but it is a very direct, very steep, very tough, and in parts very exposed route.
The Umbwe route joins the Machame route near the Barranco Camp on the second night. On the other routes, Barranco Camp is reached on the third or fourth night. Goes to show how much steeper Umbwe is…
Parts of the trail on the first day are so steep, that they can only be negotiated because the tree roots provide something like steps. The tree roots also serve as handlebars to haul yourself up where needed…
The second day is also steep and uphill all the way. The exposed ridge is not for people uncomfortable at heights… And have a guess why the “Rope Rock” (Jiwe Kamba) is called “Rope Rock”…
This is the most difficult and demanding of all Kilimanjaro climb routes. Don’t even think about it unless you have experience climbing mountains.
Having said that, it is a spectacular route!
To get the most out of this climb, trekkers are encouraged to be as fit and ready as possible, as this is a steady march uphill for the first few days, which is in contrast to some of the other routes that make slow, steady ascents or wander up and down to aid in acclimatization.
That said, the intense challenge of trekking the Umbwe Route is made up for by the spectacular views. At times, there are stunning vistas to be seen to both the left and the right as trekkers as they make their way up the trail.
The early days of this path have arguably the best views of any part of the mountain, save perhaps the summit itself.
Umbwe also happens to be one of the quietest routes up Mount Kilimanjaro too. Because of its reputation as a difficult climb, very few people walk this trail, leaving it open and relatively untouched.
This helps to give trekkers the feeling that they are the only ones on the mountain until the route merges with the Machame route near the Barranco Camp a few days into the hike. From there, it follows the familiar Southern Circuit below the Southern Ice Field before turning up towards the summit from Barafu Camp. As with most Kilimanjaro climbs, the descent is made along the Mweka Route.
If you’re looking for the best views on the way up Mount Kilimanjaro, and you enjoy testing yourself in the wilderness, the Umbwe route will provide you with everything you seek, and then some. It is the closest thing you’ll find to a true mountaineering expedition on Kilimanjaro.