Mount Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Also labeled as the Arrow Glacier Route and the Great Western Arch Route, the Western Breach Route on Kilimanjaro climbs west of the stunning Breach Wall, the home of Reinhold Messner’s Breach Wall Route, which he later called “the most dangerous wall I’ve ever done.” The views on the route are fabulous, and the route is nothing like the other “walk-ups” on Kili-indeed, it feels more like you’re on an Andean or minor Himalayan peak.

From the village of Moshi below Kilimanjaro, hire an outfitter (Kilimanjaro National Park rules require a guide, see below) to take you to the park’s Machame Gate, near the village of the same name. From there, wander through lush forests (stopping overnight at the Machame Huts) before emerging onto the Shira Plateau. The Shira Plateau is a great shelf at roughly 12,000 feet, sitting west of Kibo, the main summit on Kili. After another overnight stop at the Shira Hut, make your way east, towards Kibo on the Shira Plateau Trail to Lava Hut (ruined), near a rock formation called Lava Tower.

From here, the Shira Plateau Trail splits into two trails. The Shira Plateau Trail descends right (southeast) towards Barranco Hut, while the Arrow Glacier Trail climbs up and to the left, towards the Arrow Glacier Hut and toward the massive Breach Wall. After an overnight stop at the Arrow Glacier Hut (ruined), climb up into the huge amphitheater above the hut, aiming for a rock rib, which is followed through easy ground to the summit plateau. The climbing is only scrambling, but it is exposed and steep. (A rope is unnecessary.) After gaining the summit plateau, head slightly left, passing a summit icefield on its right and gaining a low angled hill with many switchbacks. Continue northeast, to the true summit.

Descent is by the same route. Because this route combination gains elevation so quickly, it is recommended that a couple of extra nights be taken on this ascent, either at Shira Hut or Arrow Glacier Hut.

Special Considerations: Climbers entering Kilimanjaro National Park are required to hire a guide, whether you need one or not. The guides, in turn, can bring their own porter (which you pay for). Because of the rules and the costs of putting together a climb, it’s easiest to find an outfitter in Moshi and arrange the climb through them (prices range from $600 and up).

Permits: Each climber must pay a park entrance fee, as well as an entrance fee for any porters that go with the group, as well as camping and/or hut fees and several other smaller fees. These will be arranged by your outfitter, who will travel to Moshi to do so while you begin your climb.

GuidebookKilimanjaro & Mt. Kenya: A Climbing & Trekking Guide, First Edition, by Cameron M. Burns. The Mountaineers, Seattle, 1998, $18.95.

Contact: Tanzanian Tourist Board,

Trending on Backpacker