The Shira route is one of the older Kilimanjaro routes and is very similar to the Lemosho route. The only differences between them are the trail walked on the first couple of days, and that the starting point of the Shira is higher. In fact, the Lemosho route can be considered the ‘new-and-improved version of the Shira route. The Shira route approaches the summit of Kilimanjaro from the west, starting at Morum Barrier. It starts relatively high above sea level and is, therefore, a less frequented route as it offers a poorer acclimatization profile. The route requires you to camp.
Along with the Lemosho route, the Shira route has all the qualities you could ask for in a Kilimanjaro climb, including beautiful views and varied terrain throughout. The Shira route, however, starts at an elevation that’s roughly a kilometer higher than the Lemosho route! This means that climbers tackling the Shira route are at a higher risk of developing altitude-related symptoms from the first day.
Shira route is known for being one of the most beautiful Kilimanjaro routes. The spectacular western approach offers trekkers the experience of hiking across the Shira Plateau, which is one of the largest high-altitude plateaus in the world. It also offers fantastic views of Shira Cathedral, a dramatic buttress of rock.
The Shira route offers some of the best sunrises and sunsets on Kilimanjaro. One of the downsides is that you miss out on hiking through the truly beautiful rainforest band on the mountain as you start your climb above the forest. No Kilimanjaro climb is easy, but the Shira route is one of the harder climbs given it starts at a much higher altitude. This means that a relatively high number of trekkers fall victim to the effects of altitude right from the start. From Day 3 the route offers opportunities to ‘climb high, sleep low, which help you to acclimatize.
The Shira route is undoubtedly a beautiful climb, and with the right Kilimanjaro preparation, it’s definitely achievable. We do however recommend opting for the Lemosho route as it offers a better acclimatization profile while not robbing you of any of the scenery offered along the Shira route. The Shira route doesn’t have the best acclimatization profile given it starts at such a high altitude. Whilst there are no official statistics, the average success rate across all Kilimanjaro operators for the seven-day Shira route is around 85%.
The Shira route is generally less busy than other Kilimanjaro routes such as the Machame route. You’re free from big crowds during the first couple of days on the Shira route. You then join trekkers hiking the Lemosho route on the evening of Day 2 at Shira 2 Camp, and then those hiking the Machame route near Lava Tower. This is when the crowds can get a little bigger in peak season.