Western Breach Now OpenDue to a tragic rock slide in the Western Breach in January 2006 that killed several climbers, this route was closed until further notice. I have received word that the route has been modified to reduce expose to rock slides and is now open.
ApproachAt first we had booked the climb to climb Machame route with an extra acclimatization day at Karanga. I had tried Kilimanjaro in 1996 by Marangu route with an extra acclimatization day at Horombu Hut, but failed to summit. I would say the main reason I (as well as most) don't summit on Marangu is because of a failure to adequately acclimatize. I figured Machame with the extra day would provide the acclimatization necessary to summit.
Our guide, however, suggested we do the Western Breach. I had reservations, because I thought it was too fast of an ascent and I wouldn't get the acclimatization I needed. He assured me "Hakuna Matata" Dont worry... I would summit with Western Breach. I knew the route was shorter, but wondered if the guide just wanted to do it because it was shorter. I knew the Western Breach had the advantage of being able to summit in the day time and not have the long 12- 16 hour day with the cold, windy night time summit bid from the Barafu camp from the Machame route. The other two hikers in my group wanted to go the Western Breach...and I did remember my Marangu summit attempt, and I did not relish the idea of a long, cold, windy summit bid. So I somewhat reluctantly agreed to go the Western Breach. I think it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Day 1- We went from Machambe Gate to Machame Camp-2980 meters.
Day 2- Machame Camp to Shira Plateau Camp-3840 meters.
Day 3- Shira Plateau Camp to Lava Tower Camp-4630 meters. Also climbed Lava Tower.
Day 4- Lava Tower Camp to Arrow Glacier Camp- 4908 meters.
Day 5- Arrow Glacier Camp to crater rim and Crater Camp-5790 meters. After a brief rest at Crater Camp we went on to summit this day. Slept at Crater Camp.
Day 6- Crater Camp via Stella Point to Mweka Camp-3100 meters.
Day 7- Mweka Camp to Mweka exit.
THE WESTERN BREACH
Route DescriptionThe route is as described in the previous section. Every day after reaching camp from Shira Camp and above, we would also do an acclimatization hike and gain about another 600- 1000 feet before going back down to camp. We used the old slogan, " Hike High, Sleep Low." After being on this mountain twice now and seeing most all of the most popular routes I am convinced that there is really only one secret to success on this mountain: Acclimatization. I believe anybody with reasonable perserverance and good training can make this mountain IF they take the time to approach it slowly and acclimatize properly.
From my own experience and from seeing others, I think the Marangu Route is a chancey proposition to reach the summit- even with an extra acclimatization day at Horombu. Machame Route gives better hope for the summit- especially with an extra day at Karanga. The Western Breach is billed as more difficult, but with a slow proper ascent I think it is really easy. By going the way we did we had the choice to either summit from Arrow Glacier Camp or have a second summit attempt possibility the following morning from Crater Camp. We chose to summit directly from Arrow Camp as we were feeling strong when we got to the crater rim. Some groups elected to just camp that night and summit the next morning. Either way, of the 21 climbers that day at Crater Camp, we all made the summit. We summited at 3PM in the afternoon and had the entire summit to ourselves. We were fresh and didn't have any of that "take 10 steps and rest" feeling. I think it was due to the slow ascent and proper acclimatization. We also drank tons of water everyday and did our best to eat all the high carbohydrate food the cook made up for us. I truly believe our guide did us a valuable service by recommending we go the Western Breach.
The only part of the climb that was "difficult" was the actual climb from Arrow Glacier to the crater rim. It was steep, and there was a bit of class 3 scrambling. But our guide reminded us "pole, pole" there was no rush. We just took our time, acclimatized slowly- climbed so as not to get into any oxygen debt and enjoyed ourselves.
Essential GearWe climbed in February 2005- the dry season. No ropes or crampons were required. Just good hiking boots and a sleeping bag rated at 15 degrees or better were the main items. The prevailing winds are from the Indian Ocean to the East and are felt on the climb up to the summit rim from Kibo Hut or Barafu Hut. We had virtually no wind as the mountain blocked it out as we climbed the Western Breach. We had a parka and rain gear and such, but never encountered rain or cold winds.
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