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Climbing Kilimanjaro

The Western Breach on Kilimanjaro – Technical Summit Route

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. The Western Breach re-opened in December 2007. Due to its high risk profile other tour operators do not offer treks using the Western Breach to the summit.

Dispelling the Rumours about Mount Kilimanjaro’s Western Breach route

The Western Breach has had some bad press lately after an accident on it in January 2006 where 3 climbers lost their lives during a massive landslide. The park authorities set up a team of both local and international climbers to investigate what happened and to help prevent it from happening again. The investigation came up with a different route up the breach, reducing time spent in the dangerous section from 1 hour to 5 minutes, a really impressive job. Too much bad press has been written about this summit route and people have been put off it because of erroneous or exaggerated reports. We would never offer it if we didn’t deem it safe for our clients.


As its name suggests, the Western Breach is a gap, formed by lava flow, on the western outer rim of Mount Kilimanjaro’s main summit, Kibo. The Western Breach offers one of the shortest climbing routes to the summit. The core of this route, stretching from Arrow Glacier Camp to Crater Camp, involves several short non-exposed simple scrambling sections (grade I on the UIAA scale, or equivalently YDS class 2). Despite its moderate inherent risks, among experienced climbers the Western Breach is still a popular ascent route because it is very direct and more interesting than the two heavily frequented standard routes on the southeast face of Kibo. Alternatively, it is possible for trekkers on most other routes to stay one night in the crater at the Crater Camp, allowing for extended time to explore the peak without the added risk of an assault via the Western Breach

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro via the Western Breach Route

The Western Breach can be approached from many of Kilimanjaro’s routes, including the Lemosho and Shira Route in the West, and the Machame and Umbwe Route in the South. The Umbwe Route is the most popular and demanding approach.

    • The Western Breach approach usually starts from Umbwe Gate at 1,600 meters and rapidly ascends to Barranco Camp at 3,900 meters, via Umbwe Camp (2,850 meters)
    • From here most trekkers would usually take the Southern Circuit to Karanga and then onto Barafu to approach Kilimanjaro’s summit from the South East.
    • Instead, the Western Breach route continues north up to Lava Tower for the night and then onto Arrow’s Glacier to join the Western Breach approach (see Western Breach map above).
    • The fourth day is a steep scramble up to the Reutsch Crater (5,800 meters) where trekkers spend the night near one of Kilimanjaro’s last remaining glaciers, Furtwangler Glacier.
    • Day five is a short trek from the Reutsch Crater to the summit of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak (5,895 meters). Trekkers typically return down the southern slopes of Kibo to Barafu Camp (4,680 meters) and then onto Mweka Camp (3,100 meters) for their last night on Kilimanjaro.
    • The route is usually completed in six days and does not provide much time for trekkers to acclimatise. For this reason, the Western Breach should only be considered by trekkers with high altitude trekking experience.
    • If you’re climbing the Western Breach, you need to spend an extra night lower on the mountain for acclimatization as the Breach take 1 day less than the normal summit approach from Barafu Camp. We recommend taking an extra day exploring the beautiful Shira Plateau or trekking up to the Moir Huts just north of the Lava Tower.

To plan a Private Kilimanjaro Climb via the Western Breach you can complete our on-line Private Trip Planner click here. Alternatively, please give us a call/Whatsapp on +255 753 700700 or send us an email to and we will be happy to help.