The Shira route to Kilimanjaro

by Kshaunish Jaini

The Shira Route on Mt. Kilimanjaro starts on the west side of the mountain just like that of the Lemosho route. It is almost identical to Lemosho and was actually once the original route. Lemosho was developed later on for some adjustments.

With the Lemosho route one starts at Londorossi’s Gate and hikes through a luscious rainforest before starting sections of Shira. During the Kilimanjaro climb via the Shira route you essentially bypass this whole forest by taking private transport slightly more north where you arrive at Shira Gate.

Entrance to the Kilimanjaro National Park. Photo by Mitch

By taking this transport you start hiking on your first day at an elevation of 3,600 meters. You also spend your first night, at Simba Camp, at this same elevation.The difficulty with the Shira route is the fact that you are starting the climb at such a high elevation. It is possible that you experience mild levels of altitude sickness on the first day. However during the rest of the route your body typically is capable of acclimatizing. The major shock to your system will be that first day.
Make sure that you already have some type of experience with altitude before trying this route. You should already have a good understanding of how your body will acclimatize otherwise your body might be in for a shock for that first day.
Keep in mind that by the second night you already meet the point in the trail where the Machame and Lemosho route join. Therefore if you have any worries in regards to altitude, these would be more gradual alternatives.

Shira Camp at Dawn - Kilimanjaro route. Photo by Mouser

However, if deciding to do the Shira Route just make sure to spend some time in Marangu beforehand and do some acclimatization treks. The 4x4 road you take in order to get to Shira Gate gives you the feeling that you are on an African Safari before you start your journey on the mountain.

Shira Route Itinerary

It is very difficult to represent one specific itinerary for the Shira Route. In many instances some tour agencies call the Lemosho Route the Shira Route because they both cross over the Shira Plateau. What we will represent to you is the Shira Route to Kilimanjaro from a standpoint that you do take the 4x4 private vehicle to the Shira Gate. From this standpoint the trek then takes seven days (six nights).

Day 1 – Shira Gate (3,600m) – Simba Camp (3,600m)

Hike Distance: 5 km
Hike Time: 3 hours

Day 2 – Simba Camp (3,600m) – Shira Camp 2 (3,850m)

Hike Distance: 10 km
Hike Time: 5-6 hours

Day 3 –Shira Camp 2 (3,850m) – Barranco Huts (3,985m)

Hike Distance: 9 km
Hike Time: 6-8 hours

Day 4 – Barranco Huts (3,985m) – Karanga Camp (4,040m)

Hike Distance: 5.5 km

Day 5 – Karanga Camp (4,040m) – Barafu Huts (4,680m)

Day 6 – Summit Attempt from Barafu Huts to Uhuru Peak (5,895m) with descent to Millennium Camp (3,820m)

Hike Distance: 5km ascent + 10km descent
Hike Time: With ascent a descent included approximate 10-16 hours

Day 7 –Millennium Camp (3,820m) – Shira Gate

Detailed Itinerary for the Shira Route

To go into more detail with the Shira Gate itinerary let’s take a more in depth look at what occurs day by day.

Shira Route Day 1

During the first day you start by traveling to the trailhead. You will have to drive around two to three hours to Londorossi gate before you get to the trailhead. Londorossi is the name of the gate that leads access to the trail but it is also the name of the village that you will be visiting.
You will immediately notice that this route is less prone to traffic than other trails. The town is surrounded by a wooden fence where the idea is to keep wildlife out. As you are doing the final registration for your permits to get on the trail make a note to keep your eyes open as the surrounding trees bear home to various Colobus monkeys.
If you have been reading descriptions on some of the other routes you may have noticed that this is exactly how the Lemosho Route starts. However at this point once you have completed the registration process for the trail you will hop back into the car and keep driving.

Kilimanjaro climb from Simba Camp Shira route. Photo by David

This is the only route on Mt. Kilimanjaro where you can make serious headway on the first part of the trail via an automobile. The car will drop you off at Shira gate which is at an astonishing 3,600 meters. You then start a short hike that will get you to Simba Camp to complete your first day on the Shira Route of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Shira Route Day 2

On the second day you slowly climb towards Morum Hill and Morum Barrier. This is where the Shira Plateau begins and you meet up with the Lemosho Trail. For the rest of the Shira Route the itinerary will represent that of the Lemosho and Machame Route.
Read more about the Lemosho Route and Machame Route here.

Trekkers to Kilimanjaro on Shira Plateau. Photo by Stig

Shira Route Day 3

During this day you will truly start to feel the altitude as you ascend to Lava Tower just over 4,500 meters. You will be hiking over lava type ridges and almost all of the vegetation has now disappeared.
Once you reach Lava Tower you will begin to descend into Barranco Valley where you will camp this evening. Barranco Valley has fantastic views where you get your first glimpses of some of the southern glaciers as well as the Barranco Wall which you will climb tomorrow.
One of the great things about this third day is that you ascend to over 4,500 meters yet you will be sleeping below 4,000. This provides an excellent opportunity to acclimatize efficiently using the method of climbing high but sleeping low.
For the rest of the route you will join up with hikers from Lemosho as well as Machame.

Shira Route Day 4

Day four is the day of the Barranco Wall. Rumors are stated by many that the Barranco Wall is the equivalent of climbing a sheer face, perilous and/or life threatening. These are all rumors and may have been made by some that have never seen a mountain before.
The Barranco Wall does have some steeper inclines where you may have to use both your hands and feet to “scramble” up some points. However, rock climbing or previous mountaineering experience is by no means necessary. For the most part it is a steeper walk with points where you may need your hands to steady yourself.
The climb will take approximately 90 minutes where you will then get absolutely amazing views of the famous Kibo.
The remainder of the day will consist of a gradual incline over volcanic rock before reaching the Karanga Valley Camp.

Shira Route Day 5

The fifth day of the Shira Route is a short and sweet one. The day is shorter as to give you a little bit of a rest before the following summit day. You will leave the Karanga Valley where you come across more and more volcanic landscape where there is almost no sign of life.
As you see southern glaciers encroaching on your left you eventually reach Barafu Camp where you can have lunch and spend the rest of the day preparing yourself for the summit attempt.

Shira Route Day 6

On summit day you will wake up at 2 am. Your first objective will be to arrive at Stella Point at 5752 meters where you have the opportunity to see an absolutely gorgeous sun rise.  From there you will have a final hour push to the summit where you will finally be on the highest point in Africa.
After summiting you have a long descent of almost 2,000 meters to Millennium Camp where you will spend your final night on the mountain.

Shira Route Day 7 (Final Day)

On this day you will continue your descent of almost 20 more km until you arrive at Shira Gate. Although the distance seems very far the hike is not all that strenuous being that it is all downhill. You will find the vegetation and scenery change dramatically during your quick descent and before you know it you will be back at Shira Gate.

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