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Western Breach and Crater Camp

An alternative route to the summit approaches Uhuru Peak from the west, called the Western Breach. The strenuous Western Breach ascends 2,800 ft (850 m) in about 1.25 miles (2 km), and requires some scrambling (climbing on hands and feet) at certain points. This path is very beautiful but also very challenging due to its rocky, steep slope. The Western Breach was gaining popularity by climbers using the Umbwe, Lemosho, Shira and Machame routes until rockfall claimed the lives of three climbers in January 2006. In response, Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) closed the Western Breach.The Western Breach re-opened in December 2007. However, the route is still considered by prominent Kilimanjaro operators to be unsafe and to carry an unreasonable degree of risk. Ultimate Kilimanjaro no longer utilizes the Western Breach approach due to safety concerns for clients and staff.

Kilimanjaro Uhuru Crater

Near Uhuru Peak is Kibo’s crater, called Reutsch Crater (19,140 ft/5,800 m), and one of Mount Kilimanjaro’s last remaining glaciers, Furtwangler Glacier. The magnificent crater is almost perfectly circular, and the ash pit measures 400 feet (120 m) deep and 1,300 feet (400 m) wide. There is a campsite here, commonly called Crater Camp (18,800 feet/5,750 m), that some operators use the night prior to the summit attempt (see Should We Sleep at Crater Camp?).

Sleeping at this high altitude is very dangerous. Serious AMS can develop if adequate altitude acclimatization has not been achieved. Ultimate Kilimanjaro no longer utilizes Crater Camp due to safety concerns for clients and staff.


Should you consider sleeping at Crater Camp?

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Crater Camp is a campsite that is located near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, around 18,800 feet above sea level. (Uhuru Peak is 19,345 feet above sea level.)  It is utilized by some climb operators during eight or nine day climbs, usually via the Lemosho or Shira route and Western Breach approach.The campsite sits in between Uhuru and the Furtwangler Glacier. Understandably, clients are intrigued at the opportunity to sleep next to the disappearing glacier. Additonally, they like the idea of having a short walk to the summit.

We are occasionally asked whether we use Crater Camp on our routes.  We do not. Here’s why. Sleeping at such a high altitude is the most dangerous thing you can do on Mount Kilimanjaro. The previous night’s altitude is about 15,000-16,000 feet in elevation, whether you stayed at Arrow Glacier or Barafu. A gain of 3,000-4,000 feet is simply too much of an adjustment for most people. The result is that there is a high likelihood to be stricken by altitude sickness, especially during sleep.  And once that occurs, a evacuation from near the top of Kilimanjaro in the middle of the night, though possible, is a burdensome task.

It is far easier on the body to climb from 15,000-16,000 feet to the summit (19,345 feet), then descend down to Mweka (10,065 feet).  Clients who are affected by altitude sickness on the way up will usually recover very quickly as they descend.  That is a stark contrast to what would happen if they were required to sleep at almost 19,000 feet.

Therefore, we do not use Crater Camp because of the risk involved for both clients and staff (the porters do not want to sleep up there either due to altitude sickness, extreme weather conditions, and lack of toilets).


Please Note: If you would like to see a sample itinerary that incorporates the Crater Camp, please contact us so that we can provide you the various ways of including a crater tour to one of the routes on Kilimanjaro.

Western Breach Sample Itineraries:

Western Breach via Machame Route

7 Day Machame Via Western Breach (& optional Village Tour) Itinerary:Highlights include:

Challenge yourself with the most challenging route up Mt. Kilimanjaro, following the second most popular route up with the very challenging final ascent up the Western Breach.  Spend a day learning about and interacting with the Chagga tribe, Tanzania’s third largest ethnic group.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is for many a travel dream; something for the bucket list! The Machame Route with Western Breach is a challenging climb, but a great option for fit travelers as it’s less crowded than other routes and offers spectacular landscape and flora along the way. With plenty of time built in for acclimatization, the pacing of this trip helps to ensure the greatest chances of a successful summit.

Day 1: Moshi After arrival into Kilimanjaro airport in the evening, head to your hotel for overnight in Moshi.

Day 2: Marangu Village  After a leisurely morning and brief orientation, including equipment check, spend the day exploring the history and culture of the Chagga tribe, Tanzania’s third largest ethnic group.  Your guide, Fredrick Chikima, will share with you his Chagga village where he grew up – an amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in African culture as a warmly invited guest. Visit a local market and the Chagga cultural museum. Enjoy sundowners overlooking the stunning waterfall in Marangu and overnight at the Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort.

Day 3: Machame Camp (3010m) Today starts your journey to the throne of Africa! After breakfast drive to the Machame gate where you will meet the crew of guides and porters that will take you to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Today’s hike is about 5-7 hours, and a gain of about 3000 meters through lush tropical forest. Arrive at camp in time for dinner and overnight.

Day 4: Shira Camp (3845) Today is an easy day, hiking about 4-5 hours at an intentionally relaxed pace so you have a chance to acclimatize. You will walk over streams, a river gorge and moorlands. Tonight’s camp is located on the Shira Plateau, providing views of Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru to the West.

Day 5: Shira 2 Camp (3900m) Today is another an acclimatization day, with about 4-5 hours hiking. You will enjoy a gentle walk across the Shira Plateau into the Moorland of Kilimanjaro.

Day 6: Lava Tower (4640m) Today is a mostly uphill climb of about 5 hours to the alpine moorland zone where plants are extremely hardy and consist of lichens, grasses and heather. After an early afternoon rest we will take a 2 hour round trip acclimatization climb up the Lava Tower. This scramble will help prepare us for the ascent up the Western Breach.

Day 7: Arrow Glacer Camp (4830m) Today you will continue the climb towards the Western Breach ascent route. Rather than traversing farther around the southern slopes of the mountain we ascend up and slightly westward, climbing easy terrain through scree and rocky ridges. The ascent gives us stunning views of the Western Breach wall and the Breach Icicle. As we near Arrow Glacer and our campsite, the views open towards the west and the entire Shira plateau lies below.

Day 8: Uhuru Peak (5895m)/ Mweka High Camp (3790m) The past four days of acclimatization and hiking will be put to the test this morning as you ascend the Great Western Breach of Mt. Kilimanjaro! This is an imposing, steep wall of rock leading to the edge of Kibo’s Crater on your way to Uhuru peak. You will reach Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet, around 8am. At this early hour, before the clouds set in, we have spectacular views of Africa in all directions. The hiking time is 7-8 hours. You then head back down, via the Mweka route for your last night on the mountain. Mweka is located on the edge of a rainforest area; at 3100 meters it’s nice to have some “air” to breath!

Day 9: Moshi This morning leave camp and an easy 3-4 hour hike will bring you to the park gate where you will bid farewell to your mountain crew, enjoy a picnic lunch and transfer back to the hotel in Moshi for a well deserved shower and dinner. Overnight Bristol Cottages or similar.

Day 10: This morning you’ll have a chance to sleep in and relax, before transferring to the airport for your international departure or continuing on your safari in Africa.

Western Breach via Shira Route

9 Day Shira via Western Breach sample Itinerary:Day 1: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Road The Western breach route ascends mt kilimanjaro from the western side of the mountain. route Pickup from the Kilimanjaro airport and transfer to Arusha or Moshi for dinner and overnight as well as preparations.

Day 2: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Trail Londorossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa

Drive from Arusha to Boma Ng ombe to Londorossi Gate on the western side of Kilimanjaro; continue driving to the Lemosho Glades, from there start trekking through the rain forest to Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree) Campsite accompanied by armed ranger. Overnight at Mti Mkubwa Campsite

Day 3: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Path Mti Mkubwa to Shira Cave

After breakfast, continue with ascending across the dense rain forest, climbing is gradually become steeper before reaching a wide moorland zone. Proceed toward Gane & Marshall One Valley for Lunch Break. Then cross a high altitude desert plateau Shire Caldera to Shire Cave (on request this can be omitted). Dinner and overnight camping at Shire

Day 4: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Trek Shira Cave to Shira Hut

After breakfast at Shire Cave proceeds gently east across the Shira Plateau and the Shira Cathedral towards Shira Hut on the moorland meadow; it is an excellent place in this route for acclimatization, while gaining the altitude slowly. Dinner and overnight camping at Shira Hut.

Day 5: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Track Shire Hut to Lava Tower

After breakfast continue with trekking through moorlands for a short while before reaching a rocky path that lead among outcrops directly to Lava tower. We do not rush, overnight stay at Lava Tower.

Day 6: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Passage/Way Lava Tower – Arrow Glacier

With a steep scramble through scree and rocky outcrops climb-up towards Arrow Glacier; camping at Arrow Glacier

Day 7: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Direction Arrow Glacier to Crater Floor

Wind up the Western Breach non -technical climbing route about 6 hours to the crater rim. Explore the inner crater and ash pit before pitching the camp on the crater floor

Day 8: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Climb Uhuru Peak 5895m – Mweka Hut

It should be within 2 hours from crater floor to conquer the Great Kilimanjaro and reach its UHURU PEAK, the highest point in Africa at 5895m above sea level; after a little ceremony and memorable photographs, start descending towards Barafu Hut for Lunch, then Mweka Hut for overnight camping.

Day 9: Western Breach Route Mt Kilimanjaro Course Mweka Hut to Mweka Get

After breakfast, descend to Mweka gate, meet the driver and drive back to Arusha for dinner and overnight.