Choosing between Lemosho Route and the Northern Circuit route is the ultimate debate for climbers seeking to conquer the roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. So what sets the two scenic and favoured routes on the mountain so much apart? In this article, we are going to compare both the Lemosho and Northern Circuit Routes, to see their differences and similarities, before we make a sound judgment on which is the better route on Kilimanjaro. On Mount Kilimanjaro, the Lemosho and Northern Circuit routes diverge most in how they go around the mountain’s top. Both begin at the Lemosho Gate in the west of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park and are identical for the first two to four days (depending on the variation).
The Lemosho Route continues along the popular and most scenic southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to connect with the Machame Route, while the Northern Circuit branches off to avoid the busy southern circuit and circumnavigates the peak on the infrequently traveled northern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, close to Kenya. They split on the Shira plateau, or most recently at Lava Tower.
We estimate the difficulty of both routes to be about equal. Lemosho is a bit shorter than Kilimanjaro’s longest trail, the Northern Circuit, at a total length of 72 km (44 mi).
The Northern Circuit ranges in length from 80km (49mi) to 94km, depending on its variation (8 or 9 days, including or without an acclimatization detour to Lava Tower) (58mi).
As a result, the Northern Circuit requires one additional day to complete: Lemosho takes 7 or 8 days to complete, whereas the Northern Circuit takes 8 or 9 days.
Two of the greatest Kilimanjaro routes are the Lemosho and the Northern Circuit (or Grand Traverse), since both are stunning and have high success rates. They also differ in a few ways. To assist you in choosing which is ideal for you, we go through all of these specifics.
Related: Machame vs Lemosho Route.
Map of the Lemosho and Northern Circuit
Look at the map below to see the Northern Circuit and the Lemosho, two ascension routes for Kilimanjaro. Climbers on both routes utilize the Mweka descending trail.
Lemosho and Northern Circuit facts
Here are some quick facts about each route, starting with the Lemosho route.
About Lemosho route – Read more about the Lemosho Route here
The new variation of the Shira route, known as the Lemosho Route, is more difficult and steep than the Marangu and Rongai Routes. It begins in the west and merges with the Machame route before descending through the Mweka Route. Since this trail is long, it gives the trekkers more time to acclimatize.
The success rate is high since the acclimatization profile is favorable. The initial days of the walk require you to pass through the stunning and far-off jungle. You will get the chance to take in the most breathtaking panoramic view of huge species in the lush foliage and imposing canyons of Mount Kilimanjaro’s western flank. In Mt. Kilimanjaro’s tropical rainforest and cultivated area, you may see Impala, Buffaloes, and elephants.
Hikers may enjoy beautiful views of the Shira Plateau, Lava Tower, and valleys while at a high height.
There is a medium level of difficulty along this course. The trail with the least severe gradient makes it challenging.
Summit Success Rate
Lemosho trail, which has an 80% success rate, is the lengthier route, therefore trekkers must be in good physical condition. The lengthy trail allows the hikers to acclimatize with plenty of time. There are opportunities to “climb high and sleep low” along this route. For a summit to be successful, 7 to 8 days are advised.
Because of the longer routes and duration, there is hardly any traffic along this Kilimanjaro trail.
And now here are some basic Northern Circuit facts …
Northern Circuit (or Grand Traverse) – Read more about the Northern Circuit Route
The Northern Circuit Route, which is the newest and longest route, provides the most breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, mountains, and animals. The Northern Circuit route approaches the mountain from the west side. The success percentage for this route is 95%. There is plenty of time for acclimatization on this longest route. Excellent acclimatization profile. This is the best way to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in the event that you reach the peak.
This longest route on the mountain offers an excellent opportunity to “Climb High and Sleep Low” and time for acclimatization. There is no easier trail than this one.
Summit Success Rate
The Northern Circuit Route has the highest success rate of any Kilimanjaro Climbing Route at 95%.
This road has low to moderate traffic. This route is particularly costly for its itineraries since it is the longest. However, you should take this route at least once to witness Mount Kilimanjaro’s breathtaking magnificence.
- Total distance: 98 km / 61 miles
- Starting point: Lemosho Gate
- End point: Mweka Gate
- Duration: 9 days Northern Circuit itinerary
- Summit success rate: Very high
- Busyness: Low
Related: Machame vs Marangu Route
The Lemosho and Northern Circuit are quite similar, as shown in the following map. They really begin on the same course and only split at about 4,000 meters. They reunite around Uhuru Peak and then proceed to descend using the same trail . Lemosho and Northern Circuit climbers thus share the same track for a few days of the ascent.
The Lemosho veers to the right to follow the mountain’s southern slope, while the Northern Circuit veers to the left to follow, as its name implies, the mountain’s northern slope. This is where the two routes diverge from one another.
Distance and Duration
It takes seven to eight days to climb the Lemosho route. The eight-day route is a little further than the seven-day route since we make a little detour to Moir Hut for a night, which isn’t on the former’s schedule.
A nine-day tour is the Northern Circuit. It is significantly longer than the Lemosho at 98 km (61 miles). The fact that it is Kilimanjaro’s longest ascent route helps to explain why it has the highest summit success rate. But I’ll get to that later.
Slope and Trail Conditions
Given that route climbs the mountain more quickly, the Lemosho is occasionally a little steeper than the Northern Circuit. However, neither is unreasonably steep. Because Kilimanjaro is a non-technical mountain, you may climb it without special equipment.
You pass through this area of the jungle on both the Lemosho and the Northern Circuit.
Barranco Wall is the only location where some people might find the steepness problematic.
Traffic & Crowds
After the Machame, the Lemosho is the busiest of the seven Kilimanjaro routes. Contrarily, one of the more peaceful roads is the Northern Circuit. Do you prefer a climb that is always calm or one that occasionally has a lot of activity? For some people, this may well be the decisive factor.
Only in the midst of each climb, where the two routes divide, are the campsites along the two routes different. Shira 2 Camp, one of the most gorgeous campsites on the mountain, is where you stay on the seven-day Lemosho. On the eight-day Lemosho, however, you remain at Moir Hut, where climbers of the Northern Circuit also lodge.
Climbers on the Northern Circuit lodge at POFU Camp, Third Cave, and Kibo Hut. POFU Camp is actually one of the quietest campsites on the entire mountain because it is only used by climbers on the Northern Circuit.
On the other hand, all Lemosho climbers lodge at the more well-known Barranco, Karanga, and Barafu Camps.
Base camps for both routes are Barafu Camp and Kibo Hut. Following these, the two routes once more share the same (and last) campsite on the descent, which is Mweka Camp.
You have a better chance of seeing some animals because the campsites on Kilimanjaro’s northern slope are modest and quiet. On the other hand, the campsites on the Lemosho can occasionally be very big and crowded. Some people enjoy the bustling camp atmosphere and the chance to interact with more campers from different groups.
Let’s start out by saying that both the Lemosho and Northern Circuits provide breathtaking landscapes. In fact, of all the trails, both provide what is likely the greatest sight. While the Lemosho is renowned as being the most picturesque of all Kilimanjaro routes, the Northern Circuit is just as stunning and has much of the same genetic makeup as the Lemosho.
Many people consider the mountain’s moorland segment to be the most beautiful part of the entire trek.
The mountain’s four upper ecosystems—the rainforest, moorland, alpine desert, and arctic summit—are traversed by both routes. Please read Mount Kilimanjaro climate if you’re interested in learning more and viewing more images.
Acclimatization and summit success rate
One of the most crucial subjects when it comes to Kilimanjaro is acclimatization. This is because it’s essential to your health and safety as well as the success of your climb.
The process by which your body adjusts to the thinner air found at a greater altitude is known as acclimatization. Your body will become altitude-sick if you ask it to acclimate too rapidly. Altitude sickness frequently causes headaches, nausea, insomnia, and vertigo. Altitude sickness can be fatal in its worst cases.
We frequently observe people underestimating Kilimanjaro and attempting to climb the mountain too rapidly. We advise giving yourself seven to eight days to complete the ascent—some people can do it in six days, but not everyone. Kilimanjaro is a journey, not a race. And one that deserves to be enjoyed. Since the climb itself is a hardship, give your body the time it needs to acclimate.
The most effective strategy to avoid altitude sickness is to give yourself ample time to climb Kilimanjaro. However, there are some additional tactics that can aid in effective acclimatization.
The acclimatization guide of “climb high and sleep low”
Climb high, and sleep low is a highly efficient acclimatization technique for preventing the onset of altitude sickness. It simply means moving up to a new elevation before descending for the night to a somewhat lower level.
On the Lemosho route, you only do this once: on Day 3 or 4 (depending on your schedule), you ascend to Lava Tower (4,630 m) for lunch before descending to Barranco Camp (3,976 m) for the night.
On the Lemosho route, Lava Tower is an excellent place to stop for lunch.
A high and then a low campsite
Barranco Camp on the eight-day Lemosho is really at a lower height than Moir Hut, where you would have slept the night before.
Another method of acclimatization is to have you spend the night sleeping at a lower elevation than you did the night before.
In contrast to other Kilimanjaro routes, the Northern Circuit actually involves two nights of height decline during the ascent. For example, after sleeping at Moir Hut (4,206 m) on Day 4, you next spend the night at POFU Camp (4,033 m) on Day 5, and on Day 6 at Third Cave. Although it may seem a little counterintuitive, these slight drops in altitude actually aid in acclimatization and get your body ready for the significant ascent that will occur on Day 7 at the base camp known as Kibo Hut.
The finest Kilimanjaro acclimatization plan is the Northern Circuit
The elevation of POFU Camp is actually lower than Moir Hut, where you spent the previous night.
Which route has a higher summit success rate?
Out of all the Kilimanjaro routes, the Northern Circuit has the greatest summit success rate, at almost 90%. This is due to the fact that it provides the most gradual ascent, which lowers the likelihood of altitude sickness. If you’ve never engaged in high-altitude trekking, this is unquestionably your best option for making it to the summit!
The biggest reason why so many climbers fail to reach the top of Kilimanjaro is by far altitude sickness. Avoid being one of them!
Around 80% of climbers who attempt the eight-day Lemosho successfully reach the summit. Although it is obviously lesser than that of its eight-day sibling, the seven-day Lemosho has a respectable peak success rate. We advocate the eight-day Lemosho over the seven-day alternative because of this. Do the additional day to improve your chances of summiting Kilimanjaro if you’re going to spend the time, money, and effort necessary.
Similarities between Lemosho & Northern Circuit
There are some similarities between these routes on the mountain.
- Both routes begin at Lemosho Gate (2,100 m).
- Both trails meet at the summit’s Stella Point before masking way to the summit, Uhuru Peak
- Both Routes descend via the Mweka Route before you exit using the Mweka Gate
- Both routes offer a high summit success rate
- Both routes are scenic and long
The Barranco Wall
The toughest part of the climb up Kilimanjaro is the Barranco Wall, which you must occasionally ascend on your hands and knees. On the Lemosho, you may climb Barranco Wall, but not on the Northern Circuit.
This is an important distinction that can make a difference for someone who is afraid of heights. Barranco Wall is quite doable, as you can see in the video on the how to climb the Barranco Wall page. However, if you’re afraid of heights, the Northern Circuit may be the right choice for you. You can climb Kilimanjaro with confidence knowing there won’t be any steep sections.
Our two preferred Kilimanjaro itineraries are the Lemosho and the Northern Circuit. Because both are exceptionally attractive and have the highest peak success percentages, we state this. After all, the goal of every Kilimanjaro climber is to reach the top!
We advise anyone who is somewhat new to high-altitude hiking to choose the Northern Circuit if they can afford it out of the two (the extra day on the mountain means the route costs a little more). Since altitude sickness has no regard for age, fitness level, or general health, there is no way for a beginner to predict with certainty how the altitude will impact them.
On the other hand, if you are accustomed to high altitudes, have a limited budget, are eager to climb Barranco Wall, or simply like the Lemosho for whatever reason, we advise going with the eight-day Lemosho route. We favor the eight-day Lemosho over the seven-day Lemosho since the latter doesn’t often offer enough time for appropriate acclimatization, as was previously mentioned.
Whatever route you decide to take, we hope you’ll think about climbing with Tranquil Kilimanjaro; we’d love to show you around our favorite mountain!