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Part VI: Descent via Barafu / Mweka Routes
courtesy PChen
Starting descent
This route is the most direct route down from the summit. The upper part of the route is known as the Barafu Route, and the lower part as the Mweka Route. The Mweka portion of the route is rarely used as an ascent route.
Day 7 - Summit to Mweka Camp Map
From the summit, follow the broad ridge to the southeast. You'll have ice cliffs to your right and the steep slope leading down to the crater floor to your left. The ridge gradually curves to your left as it descends - keep on its crest. Ahead of you, a panorama of the eastern side of the mountain, including the jagged peak of Mawenzi and the broad saddle between it and the main summit you are on.

At about 18,900 feet, and about 1.1km downhill from the summit, the top of the Barafu Descent route is reached. Essentially, the route descends a very broad scree filled couliour that heads downhill in a southeasterly direction. It is known as the "Southeast Valley" (gee, how imaginative!). If you have a GPS, this is a useful waypoint to have to make sure you go down the right way: The waypoint is:

S03.078113 E037.362834 (Datum = WGS84)
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
Barafu Descent Route
Barafu descent
The upper part of the route (the section from the top down to the Barafu encampment) is bo-o-o-ring. It is a mindless trudge down an endless scree slope. Unfortunately, this is not the nice deep scree that you can plunge-step into willy-nilly, but rather an annoying mid-depth scree that has a hard layer not far underneath. You can indeed go pretty fast, but it is tiring on the legs and there is always that annoying tendency for your legs to slip out from under you. You can see the Barafu encampment far, far below, at 15,000+ feet, but it seems to take forever to get there! It must be a seriously tedious trudge to actually climb up this way.
Barafu Camp
The terrain surrounding you is very desert-like. Rocky, dusty, and barren. If it is clear, you can see of to the east towards "the saddle" and Mawenzi. As you get close to the Barafu camp, you must make sure to veer right out of the bottom of the valley. The Barafu route continues down on the ridge itself for a short bit before arriving at the bustling Barafu encampment. Total distance from rim is about 3km, and the descent is about 3,000 feet. Altitude at Barafu Camp is 15,800 feet.

From the Barafu camp, the trail heads straight down-ridge, and the way is a pretty obvious track. Gradually, a few shrubs and plants appear, signalling the return to the world of the living.
Kili as seen from Mweka Camp
The next stop is the Millenium camp, another four kilometres downhill at an elevation of 13,000 feet. You can buy pop and other goodies here, and there are also campsites. This camp is not marked at all on the topo map that I own. Low trees start to grow at this point.

The "hiker-highway" continues downhill to the next and last camp on the mountain on this route: The Mweka Camp. This is another three or so kilometers downhill, at an elevation of 10,100 feet. You are fully in the forest at this altitude. The Mweka Camp is big, very busy, and has an abundance of campsites, but many of them are small and uneven little spots in the trees.
Summit to Mweka Camp
Elevation profile over distance
Summit to Mweka Camp
Distance:11.7 km
Start Altitude:19,340 feet
End Altitude:10,100 feet
Ascent:-9,240 feet
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Summit to Mweka Camp - click map to view
From the Mweka camp, the trail continues straight downhill through some very nice lush forest, to the Mweka Gate trailhead. Total distance from Mweka Camp to gate: 8.7 kilometres.
courtesy PChen
Lush lower Mweka
Nearing the Mweka Gate
Day 8
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate Map
Day 8 - Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
Elevation Profile over Distance
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
Distance:8.7 km
Start Altitude:10,100 feet
End Altitude:5,500 feet
Ascent:-4,600 feet
Interactive trackmap - Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate - click map to view
I Hope you've enjoyed my description of these routes. Here's one final set of data describing the entire climb, from start to finish:
Entire Kilimanjaro Climb
Elevation Profile over Distance
Data for Complete Climb
Distance:47 km
Start Altitude:5,300 feet
Maximum Altitude:19,340 feet
End Altitude:5,500 feet
Ascent:+15,640 feet
Descent:-15,440 feet
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Complete Climb - click map to view
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