The Shira route is one of the least used initial ascent routes on Kilimanjaro, partly because of its remote location. The trailhead is at high elevation,at Morum Barrier Gate at nearly 12,000 ft. (3600 m). Thus, we start slow and easy on this route. We begin our trek in the heather zone, bypassing the wet forest behind, and immediately find ourselves on the first day of the trek on the Shira Plateau. The first day is a short, to begin the acclimitization process. The next two days are spent hiking across the plateau, which is said to be one of the most stunningly beautiful hikes in Africa. The plateau itself is grassland, heath and moor, and is home to especially large senecias (up to 10 meters high). On the plateau, one can often see elands, sometimes buffaloes, leopards and other animals. The Shira Cone, the ancient crater, rises about 200 meters above the plateau. Along the southern ridge of the Shira Plateau there are two dramatic peaks, Cathedral and the Needle. All of these create phantastic scenery to enjoy on this route.
The trail merges on day three with the Machame Route. From this point all the trails continue to Lava Tower, and then down into the Great Barranco Valley, where the Umbwe route joins steeply from the south.
Note: The road to the trailhead on this route is only accessible by 4-WD vehicles and can become impassable during the wet seasons (when it might be necessary to start from a lower point). But the drive itself to the trailhead offers magnificent views of the Great Rift Valley and the surrounding mountains including Mt. Meru and Longido. It follows the ancient Shira rift zone, an array of parasitic cones on the flank of the volcano. The vegetation changes dramatically along the way are striking.
Itinerary (6 days / 5 nights on Kili):
Briefing Your guides will meet you at your hotel in Arusha or Moshi for a detailed briefing of the climb. Accommodation: hotel in Arusha or Moshi (D)
Transfer to gate - hike to Shira 1 camp (3505 m) Departure from Arusha will be at around 7:30 am for Londorossi gate (ca. 4 hrs transfer), where you will complete the entry formalities. Then you continue by car to Morum Barrier Gate (ca. 1 hr). where you have lunch. Then you start trekking through heather and moorland to the first camp (ca. 1-2 hrs). The views over to Kibo across the Plateau are breathtaking. Accommodation: Shira 1 camp (B, L, D)
Shira 1 - Shira 2 (Fischer's) camp (3900 m) You have a full day to explore the Shira plateau, trekking slowly eastward towards Kibo's glaciered peak. The Shira plateau is one of the highest plateaus on earth, averaging 12,500 ft. If you feel like, you could visit the ancient collapsed cone of Shira volcano (the oldest of Kilimanjaro's 3 volcanic centers). Total trekking time: ca. 3 hrs.
Accommodation: Shira 2 camp (B, L, D)
Shira 2 - Barranco camp (3976 m) You proceed steadily upwards over vast rigdes to "Lava Tower" for lunch (ca. 4 hrs). Lava Tower, a 300 ft volcanic plug, marks an exposed pass at 15,000 ft. In the afternoon, you descend the steep trail into the Great Barranco Valley. Barranco Camp is set in a valley enclosed on 3 sides with the massive walls of the valley itself and the massif of Kibo. Hanging glaciers glint in the sunshine above,- an eerie landscape known for its rare plants such as the Giant Groundsels (Seneciao Kilimanjari) and the uniquely endemic Giant Lobelia. Total trekking time: 6-7 hrs.
Accommodation: Barranco camp (B, L, D)
Barranco camp - Barafu camp (4673 m) If you opt for the 6-day itinerary, we trek 3-4 hours and stop in the Karanga Valley for a hot lunch. Then, in the afternoon, the trail turns steadily uphill. The temperature will grow colder and the landscape more sparse as we approach Barafu Camp. Barafu Camp is set on a small, explosed flat area on a ridge and is the usual base camp from which you will make the summit attempt at midnight tonight. It's essential to eat and especially drink as much as possible before retiring to your tent for rest and sleep.
Accommodation: Barafu camp (B, L, D)
Barafu camp - Stella Point (5790 m) - Uhuru Peak (5895 m) - descend to Mweka camp (3068 m) A hot drink will arrive very early this morning. A midmight wake-up call will be the start of a juggernaut (12-17 hrs of trekking). At around 1 am, you start trekking; temperatures usually range from just below freezing at midnight to seomwhere between -12 deg. C (10 deg. F) to -23 deg. C (-10 F.) on the summit just before dawn. The winding path of endless switchbacks will slowly take form and shape in the shadows of the Ratzel and Rebman glaciers at early dawn, and behind you the spires of Mawenzi are silouhetted against the red glow of the sun rising behind the clouds. After about 6 hrs of slowly walking uphill, you arrive at the edge of the crater: Stella Point, at 19,000 ft (5790 m) on the crater rim, is the end of the steep part of the hike. From here, it's a gentle slope to Uhuru Peak (ca. 1 hr), the true summit of Kili at 19,340 ft (5896 m). The strength it takes to ascend this final piece is for many monumental. After a short time at the summit, we start descending. The path goes down a steep scree slope back to Barafu Camp for some rest, before you have to summon your strength again to descend further to Mweka Camp for the last night on the mountain.
Accommodation: Mweka camp (B, L, D)
Final descend - Transfer to Arusha It's an easy 2-3 hours trek through rain forest to go down the final parts of the trail back to the Mweka Gate. After receiving your certificates, lunch and saying goodby to many of your crew, we'll bring you to the KIA lodge, where you can use day rooms for a shower, change cloths etc. In the afternoon, return to Arusha (or Moshi).
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