Mount Kilimanjaro Climb shira route

Shira route location

  • Location: The Shira route can be accessed from Moshi to Shira Ridge, where the trail starts on the western side of the mountain. 
  • Height: The Shira route reaches the summit of Kilimanjaro at the Uhuru peak, reaching a height of 5,895 metres (19,341 feet). 
  • Duration: The Shira route can take anywhere between 6-7 days. An extra day on the mountain will, of course, cost more, but this means your chances of success in reaching the summit will be much greater. 
  • Trail conditions: The trail itself offers a diverse route with varied terrain and starts at a relatively high altitude. During your hike, you will cross through grassy moorlands and volcanic rocky sections.  
     

If you’re an accomplished hiker or trekker and looking to make this year one to remember, a hike to Kilimanjaro along the Shira Route should fulfil your bucket list. The Shira route starts at 3,600 metres and is not ideal for trekkers who have minimal experience with high altitude trekking. For this reason, most travellers will opt for the Lemosho route, as it’s very similar.

The Lemosho route starts at the Londorossi Gates whereas the Shira route starts further north (and much higher) at the Shira Gate. Trekkers that do travel along on the Shira route are almost certain to experience some altitude related symptoms on the first day while camping at a high elevation. 

On the plus side, the route itself offers a diverse range of scenery, as the trail travels through varied ecosystems as it makes its way to the top.  Previous trekking experience is highly recommended, as the days will feature 6-8 hours hiking with daily ascents of 900m to 1000m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 1,100m to 1,200m. Depending on the route, you may be trekking at an altitude of over 3,500m.

You need complete confidence in your ability to trek for many days over difficult terrain. Extremes of altitude and weather may be encountered, as may the use of ice axes and crampons. A degree of physical and mental stamina will be essential to complete the hike as the days will be tiring. 

Shira climb route success rate

Shira route is very similar to Lemosho route, and the success rate of reaching the summit is equally high. As Shira route starts at a much higher point, it is highly recommended that only experienced hikers or those with ability to quickly acclimate follow it.

Shira route tips

  • Make sure you consider the right route for you – not just what your friends or family have suggested. One of the most concerning elements of hiking Kilimanjaro is having travellers race to the top and not allowing enough time to complete the route based on time or budget. Where possible, weigh the options of each route and allow for an extra acclimatisation day. 
  • Train, train and train some more. The level and amount you prepare will be different for all travellers, however, the fitter you are, the more enjoyable the experience. 
  • Depending on your comfort levels with the great outdoors, you might want to mentally prepare by completing a few short camping trips to become familiar with your surroundings. 
  • Don’t skimp on investing in a high-quality pair of hiking boots, as this might make or break your journey. Wear them in before your hike so you don’t need to contend with painful blisters on the mountain. 
  • Hydration is a critical part of reducing symptoms of altitude sickness. 
  • It’s likely you will experience a headache, however, note that this is a normal occurrence. If it becomes unbearable, pay attention to how your body is feeling and make sure you take it easy. 
  • Make your way to the top of the summit slowly, and don’t forget to take in the incredible views. 

Shira Plateau

If you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro without wishing to summit, you can hike to the spectacular Shira Plateau. The plateau stretches out over 13 kilometres to the west of Kibo, at an elevation of 3, 962 metres.

The Shira Plateau shows a volcanic crater that expired around half a million years ago. Here, you will have the chance to encounter wildlife from the neighbouring Amboseli National Park, across the border in Kenya. Walk along paths treaded by herds of elephant, antelope, buffalo, and lions.

8 DAY SHIRA ITINERARY

DAY 1 – Shira Gate to Simba Camp

Elevation: 11,800 ft to 11,800 ft

Hiking Time:  1-2 hours

Distance: 4 km | 2 miles

Habitat: Health

We depart Moshi for Londorossi Gate, which takes about 4 hours; here we will complete entry formalities while guides and porters prepare equipment. We then continue to drive up a steep path to the Shira Gate where we will begin the hike. The trek starts through shrubs and giant heather until we reach Simba Camp.

DAY 2 – Simba Camp to Shira 2 Camp

Elevation: 11,800 ft to 12,500 ft

Hiking Time: 2 hours

Distance: 6 km | 4 miles

Habitat: Health

Today is a fairly easy day to help with acclimatization. We begin by exploring the grassy moorland and volcanic rock formations on the plateau. Then we take a scenic path to the Shira Cathedral, a huge buttress of rock surrounded by steep spires and pinnacles, before settling at Shira 2 Camp.

DAY 3 –  Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp

Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower

Elevation: 12,500 ft to 15,190 ft

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Lava Tower to Barranco Camp

Elevation: 15,190 ft to 13,044 ft

Hiking Time: 2-3 hours.

Distance: 7 km | 4 miles

Habitat: Alpine Desert.

Distance: 3 km | 2 miles

Habitat: Alpine Desert

We continue to the east up a ridge and then head southeast towards the Lava Tower – a 300 ft tall volcanic rock formation. We descend down to Barranco Camp through the strange but beautiful Senecio Forest to an altitude of 13,000 ft. Although you begin and end the day at the same elevation, the time spent at higher altitude is very beneficial for acclimatization.

DAY 4 – Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp

Elevation: 13,044 ft to 13,106 ft

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Habitat: Alpine Desert

We begin the day by descending into a ravine to the base of the Great Barranco Wall. Then we climb the non-technical but steep, nearly 900 ft cliff. From the top of the Barranco Wall we cross a series of hills and valleys until we descend sharply into Karanga Valley. One more steep climb up leads us to Karanga Camp. This is a shorter day meant for acclimatization.

DAY 5 – Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp

Elevation: 13,106 ft to 15,331 ft

Hiking Time: 4-5 hours

Distance: 4 km | 2 miles

Habitat: Alpine Desert

We leave Karanga and hit the junction which connects with the Mweka Trail. We continue up to the rocky section to Barafu Hut. At this point, you have completed the Southern Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. Here we make camp, rest and enjoy an early dinner to prepare for the summit day. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are viewable from this position.

DAY 6 –  Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak

Elevation: 15,331 ft to 19,341 ft

Hiking Time: 7-8 hours

Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp

Elevation: 19,341 ft to 10,065 ft

Hiking Time: 4-6 hours.

Distance: 5 km | 3 miles

Habitat: Arctic.

Distance: 12 km | 7 miles

Habitat: Rain Forest

Very early in the morning (around midnight), we begin our push to the summit. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The wind and cold at this elevation and time of day can be extreme. We ascend in the darkness for several hours while taking frequent, but short, breaks. Near Stella Point (18,900 ft), you will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see coming over Mawenzi Peak. Finally, we arrive at Uhuru Peak- the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa.

From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. The trail is very rocky and can be quite hard on the knees; trekking poles are helpful. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.

DAY 7 – Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate

Elevation: 10,065 ft to 5,380 ft

Hiking Time: 3-4 hours

Distance: 10 km | 6 miles

Habitat: Rain Forest

On our last day, we continue the descent to Mweka Gate and collect the summit certificates. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. From the gate, we continue another hour to Mweka Village. A vehicle will meet us at Mweka Village to drive us back to the hotel in Moshi.