Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on the Shira Route

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Climbing Kilimanjaro on the Shira Route means to invest some time and money.
The Shira trail is one of the two longer Kilimanjaro climb routes that start on the western side. (The other route starting here is the Lemosho Route.)

Those routes both cross the Shira Plateau before joining the Machame Route near the “Lava Tower”.

Shira is not the cheapest option…

  • Starting your climb on the western side means paying for extra transport.
  • Using a longer trail means paying for an extra day on the mountain.
  • And climbing a less trafficked route means higher prices due to less competition from budget tour operators.

On the plus side a longer route means a better chance to acclimatize to the altitude and better summit chances. The fact that you are likely to climb this route with a quality Kilimanjaro tour operator also means your success chances are much better than average.

And if your operator has developed your itinerary in a way that avoids the big traffic surges on the Machame trail (some operators do) you should have a great climb all the way, on one of the most scenic routes, without the crowds that plague the popular trails.

View of Kibo from Shira Plateau, photo by blhphotography.

There is one thing about the Shira Route that sets it apart from all other Kilimanjaro climb routes: the first section of it is a 4WD track. It is possible to drive up a fair way and begin your trek at a considerable altitude.

If you are someone who lives at sea level and tries to squeeze in a Kili climb, taking only one week off from the the office, then this could trip you up.

Shira certainly allows plenty of time for acclimatization during the later stages, but some people can develop altitude sickness symptoms at those lower altitudes already. And catapulting yourself from sea level to a height above 3500 m/11500 ft the day after arriving in Tanzania may not be the smartest thing to do.


But for most people it won’t be an issue at all. If you had a day or two in Marangu, or have done some other trekking and acclimatization beforehand (for example climbing Mt. Meru), then you won’t have any problems even with this rapid start.

Just thought I point it out, because I know people DO try to squeeze climbs into one week and to cut costs where possible (i.e. the cost for another night in Marangu or Moshi). Also, the itinerary I describe below is the slower version where you walk all the way.

Below are some more detailed notes about what to expect during a Kilimanjaro climb on the Shira Route.

Shira Route Itinerary

There are many possible slight variations to the Shira route, so don’t be surprised if you see an intinerary that mentions different camps and different heights.
In fact, many agencies call the Lemosho Route Shira Route, because it also crosses the Shira Plateau.)

The itinerary below describes a six night/seven day Kilimanjaro climb on the Shira Route.

Like Machame this trek can be shortened if you skip the night in the Karanga Valley and instead walk straight from the Barranco Huts to the Barafu Huts in one day. It can be shortened more by driving instead of walking the first day and skipping the first camp.

The trek can be extended by adding an extra night at Moir Huts for acclimatisation.

For experienced mountaineers there is also a challenging and dangerous specialist version via the Western Breach.

(Note: altitudes and distances are approximations. Different sources will give you different numbers.)

Starting Point: Londorossi Gate (2100 m/6900 ft)

Duration: 6-7 days


Day 1: Londorossi Gate/Shira trail head – River Camp (~3050 m/~10000 ft)

Walking distance: 7 km/4.4 miles
Walking time: 4 hours
Altitude gain: ~950 m/~3100 ft


Day 2 : River Camp – Shira Huts (3850 m/12630 ft) via Shira Cathedral

Walking distance: 12 km/7.5 miles
Walking time: 6-8 hours
Altitude gain: 800 m/2630 ft


Day 3: Shira Huts – via Lava Tower (4640 m/15220 ft) – Barranco Huts (3985 m/13070 ft)

Walking distance: 9 km/5.6 miles
Walking time: 6-8 hours
Altitude gain: 135 m/440 ft (790 m/2590 ft to Lava Tower)


Day 4:  Barranco Huts – Karanga Camp (4040 m/13255 ft)

Walking distance: 5.5 km/3.5 miles
Walking time: 4-5 hours
Altitude gain: 55 m/185 ft


Day 5: Karanga Camp – Barafu Huts (4680 m/15360 ft)

Walking distance: 3.5 km/ 2.2 miles
Walking time: 4-5 hours
Altitude gain: 640 m/2105 ft


Day 6: – Summit attempt via Stella Point (5752 m/18871 ft) to Uhuru Peak (5895 m/19340 ft) and descent to Millenium Camp (3820 m/12530 ft) (or to Mweka Hut)

Walking distance: 5 km/3 miles ascent + 10 km/6.2 miles descent
Walking time: 5-6 hrs + 1-2 hours up, 5-6 hours down (the overall walking time may vary from 10 – 16 hours)
Altitude gain: 1072 m/ 3511 ft (Stella Point) or 1215 m/3980 ft (Uhuru Peak)
Descent: 2075 m/6810 ft


Day 7: Millenium Camp – Shira Gate

Walking distance: 20 km/12.5 miles
Walking time: 5 hours
Descent: 1990 m/6530 ft




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