Kilimanjaro Trek – Shira Route

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  • Shira Route starts at 3,600 meters and is therefore not ideal for trekkers who have little or no experience of high altitude trekking. The Shira Route is practically identical to the Lemosho Route. In fact, Shira was the original route before Lemosho was created to improve the route start point. Whereas Lemosho Route starts at the Londorossi Gates, the Shira Route bypasses this and begins further north and higher up at the Shira Gate. On the first day hikers trek from Shira Gate to Simba Camp which is at a very similar same altitude, allowing trekkers to acclimatize before joining the Lemosho Route on day two at Shira Camp 2. After Shira Camp 2 the route joins the Machame Route via Lava Tower, and then descends to the Barranco Camp via the Southern Circuit. Like the Machame, Umbwe and Lemosho Route, ascent to Uhuru Peak is made via Barafu Camp and up the southern slopes of Kibo. Descent is via the Mweka Route. The Shira Route can be completed in six or seven days.

    The high starting point is however a major negative for this route and some trekkers experience altitude sickness from day one as their bodies haven’t had enough time to acclimatize. If your sole reason for setting foot on the mountain is to get to the summit, the Shira Plateau Route may be a better route for you. But if you have any interest in the more complete experience, one that includes both ascending and descending via all the vegetation zones, then opt for Lemosho.

Additional Information

Trek Duration

More Than Five days


Mount Kilimanjaro

Tour Languages


Trek Difficulty



Kilimanjaro Centre for Trekking and Eco-tourism

Suitable For

< 18 year olds, 18-39 year olds, 40-49 year olds, 50-59 year olds, 60+ year olds, Families

Guiding Method


Kilimanjaro Centre for Trekking and Ecotourism

Your chances to reach the summit depend on your Kilimanjaro Tour Operator more than on anything else. Yes, your operator is more important than your fitness level! We not only have the best safety record, we also have the best client success rates.

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    Day 1: Morum Barrier to Shira 1/Simba Cave

    Distance: 3.75km to Shira 1, 6.5km to Simba Cave
    Altitude Gained: 99m to Shira 1, 215m to Simba Cave

    The trek begins in the far north-western corner of the Shirt Plateau by what looks like an old concrete gatepost – the remnants of the old Morum Barrier (3405m). It’s a lonely place: the landscape windswept, the flora dry and scrubby, the fauna virtually non-existent. You’ll be spending the next couple of days on this plateau.

    Occasionally, groups turning up late are forced to camp here though if everything has gone smoothly thus far it’s more usual to walk to one of the campsites on the plateau, with Shira 1 or Simba Cave Campsite being the only realistic choices. Shira 1 (3504m) is reached via a narrow trail that heads south from the information boards. The trail crosses several streams but the whole walk takes only 70 minutes or so; from Shira 1 you then continue along the Lemosho Route to Shira 2 (possibly via the Cathedral) and Lava Tower; or your trekking company may have opted to head towards Moir Huts and possibly continue from there round the Northern Circuit.

    Those who instead opted to stay at Simba Cave Campsite (3640m) – reached by walking along the road for an hour – have essentially the same options. The campsite, adorned with several weatherbeaten old wooden toilets as well as the cave, marks the main junction between the road and the Lemosho Route.

    Day 2: Shira One Campsite to Shira Huts Campsite

    Distance: 6.9km (10.1km via the Cathedral); Altitude Gained: 391m

    For this third day we could just cut a straight path across the plateau towards Kibo, but if you have the energy a wonderful morning can be spent exploring some of the features of the Shira Ridge, including the Cathedral, from where we get great views across the plateau towards Kibo and along the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro. It is also extremely useful for acclimatizion as we climb steadily to 3720m before descending back to the plateau. We then continue east towards Kibo, eventually reaching the Shira Huts Campsite (3895m) at the heart of the plateau.

    Day 3: Shira Huts Campsite to Lava Tower

    Distance: 6.7km to Lava Tower (10.1km to Barranco Huts)
    Altitude Gained: 732m to Lava Tower Campsite; just 91m to Barranco Huts (732m ascent followed by 641m descent)

    The day begins with a slow march directly towards Kibo. The flora becomes more scarce now as we climb ever higher, with only a few everlastings, like living pot pourri, decorating the path. It’s a long walk but a very photogenic one with the snowy summit of Kilimanjaro a constant looming presence ahead.

    We are now heading into some serious altitude, with Lava Tower, at the foot of Kibo, our next destination, standing at 4530m above sea level. If we were planning on continuing onto Barranco this evening in all probability we would take lunch near the Lava Tower. For us who plan to climb via the Western Breach, we will camp at Lava Tower, and maybe enjoy a little excursion up it before dinner if we feel up to it. Hopefully, any altitude sickness we may be feeling now is relatively minor – because from now on it’s all uphill.

    Day 4: Lava Tower to Arrow Glacier

    Distance: 2.5km; Altitude Gained: 244m

    By our reckoning this particular leg, even if taken pole pole, lasts little longer than 75 minutes, yet it’s not unusual for trekking agencies to set aside an entire day for it. In one respect this seems a little over-cautious and does lead to a situation where, that hour aside, you’ll be spending the rest of your day freezing your butt off inside your tent. On the other hand, it’s a good idea to take your time at this altitude. After all, save for the Crater Camp this is the highest place where we can pitch your tent on the mountain (the altitude of Arrow Glacier Campsite being 4871m); and that kind of altitude should always be taken seriously.

    Furthermore, the walk, though only 75 minutes or so in duration, is still quite exhausting, it being uphill all the way. You begin by crossing a stream or two (one of which, Bastions Stream, runs below Lava Tower) before climbing steeply in a south-easterly direction to Arrow Glacier.

    Engulfed by avalanches and often subject to the vagaries of the extreme conditions up here, this place has always been a bit of a mess and little has changed. Let’s console ourselves with the thought that, assuming that we’re not spending a night on the summit, we probably won’t be spending a full night here but should be away by 2am. Happy Camping!

    Day 5: Arrow Glacier Campsite to Uhuru Peak

    Distance: 4km; Altitude Gained: 1024m

    Though we’ve talked as if there is one set path from campsite to crater rim, this isn’t actually the case; the path changes as snow and rockfalls dictate. Whatever route we take, rest assured it will be steep, and it will be exhausting. Our guide will doubtless aim for the rocky ridge that you can see from Arrow Glacier Campsite which runs from the rock towers near the crater down towards the camp (and is often called the ‘Stone Train’). From there we hit the Rock Stairs – natural steps that, after the shifting scree and rocks that we’ve just walked on, come as something of a relief. These stairs are also viewed as a ‘Point of No Return’ by the porters who, once they see that you’ve reached here, consider there’s no turning back and thus break camp and march off to Mweka (unless you’re planning to sleep at Crater Camp, of course, in which case they’ll be right behind you).

    The trail now picks its way between the rocky towers crater before finally gaining the crater rim (5729m), with Furtwangler Glacier on our left the first of many spectacular sights up here. Walking on level ground for a change, Crater Campsite (also 5729m), set amongst boulders at the foot of the climb up to Uhuru, is just 10 minutes away. From here, the stiff switchback climb up to Uhuru Peak takes 50 minutes, the path clearly etched into the crater wall. It’s a hard climb and you’ll be cursing every zigzag and switchback on the way. But keep going: the sense of achievement at the top is beyond compare. And it’s a feeling that will stay with you all the way down, and all the way back to your home country. Because if you get to the summit, you’ll believe you can do anything.

    After a rest at the top, we continue to Barafu Camp, take breakfast and relax for an hour then continue our march down the mountain on the Mweka Trail. Today’s walk takes us back down through the alpine desert, heath and moorland zones until we once more enter the forest zone via Millennium Camp (3827m).

    There, amongst the trees, we find the Mweka Campsite (3106m), our final stop on the trek. We should arrive there at about 4pm – and you have been walking for around 16 hours, less breaks! Exhausting but, if you made it to the top, you’ll think it was worth it!

    Day 6: Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate

    Distance: 9.1km; Altitude Gained: 1473m

    It’s just a couple of hours further now from the campsite to Mweka Gate (c1633m), where those who made it to the summit or Stella Point will collect their certificates.

    A car will be waiting to take you back to your hotel, and a land of warm showers and cold beers.


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what’s included

  • Airport Pick-up and Drop-off (Transport from Kilimanjaro air port and back after tour)
  • All park entrance, camping, hut and rescue fees
  • All meals and drinking water while on the mountain
  • Accommodation 2 nights before and after Kilimanjaro Climb
  • Camping equipment including mountaineering mess and sleeping tents, table & chairs, sleeping mattresses & pillows
  • Transport to/from national park gate
  • Kilimanjaro climbing certificate
  • what’s excluded

    • Flight Ticket
    • Visa fees
    • All personal needs such as drinks soda, alcohol, Bites etc
    • Any extra night at the hotel or while on the mountain
    • Tipping for your mountain guides & cook and porters

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    Company Information

    Your chances to reach the summit depend on your Kilimanjaro Tour Operator more than on anything else. Yes, your operator is more important than your fitness level! We not only have the best safety record, we also have the best client success rates.

    Tour Details

    • Availability
      Available Daily
    • Booking Type
      Instant Booking
    • Duration
      6 Days
    • Guiding method
    • Guide Language
    • Meeting/Starts Point
      Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO)
    • Maximum Altitude
      5895 Meters
    • Trek Difficulty

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