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Barranco Wall Mt Kilimanjaro Guide: Difficulty, Climb Tips

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Barranco Wall Mt Kilimanjaro Guide: Difficulty, Climb Tips

Barranco Wall is a steep ridge approximately halfway up Mount Kilimanjaro, at the southern base of Kilimanjaro’s smaller peak, Kibo. The highest mountain in Africa should offer climbers some challenges fitting for an adventurous climb, and often Barranco Wall is considered just that.

From afar, Barranco Wall certainly looks like a formidable cliff that needs to be scaled or climbed with special equipment or climbing techniques, but don’t worry; as you trek closer you will see there is a stair-like path zig-zagging up the steep wall.

Barranco Wall rises 257 meters (or 843 feet) from the Barranco Valley. Some portions of the trek are a regular hike, while a few places require hikers to ‘scramble’ with the use of all fours or be a bit more careful with foot placement if the narrow path cuts between large boulders or rocks.

Barranco Wall is a unique challenge climbers face on day three or four (depending on the number of days of your trek) of Machame, Umbwe or Lemosho Treks.

Facts you need to know before the climb

For some reason, the Barranco Wall has been given the reputation as being a dangerous part of Kilimanjaro climbs. A quick internet search even reveals some calling it the “Terrifying Barranco Wall”.

We believe word-choice matters and a potential climber could make themselves afraid because of such rumors, so we would like to remind all Kilimanjaro climbers that Barranco Wall is also nicknamed the “Breakfast Wall” (now, that’s not intimidating at all, right?).

We prefer to call Barranco Wall a challenge. Climbing the Barranco Wall requires persistence and focus. It does not require special skills or even that climbers are exceptionally fit; instead, slow and steady is the way to successfully climb Barranco Wall. And as with all challenges, there is a special feeling of elation and pride when climbers reach the top and are awarded with a truly magnificent view. 

Location

It sits on the southern face of Mt Kilimanjaro. You will face Barranco Wall when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro through Lemosho, Machame or Umwbe route. It lies on the way from Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp. 

It is possible to get around this place?

For those with a fear of heights, we recognize that climbing Barranco Wall may be an added emotional or mental challenge and we encourage trekkers to chat with their guide if they are feeling exceptionally nervous.

This part of the trek is unique in that various climbing teams converge together and climb Barranco Wall at the same time. Often, a feeling of camaraderie builds up and climbers may find complete strangers shouting encouragement or their team bonds in a special way as they face Barranco Wall together. Sometimes, groups have a giant multi-group photo to commemorate the new friends they made while climbing Barranco Wall.

If the prospect of Barranco Wall discourages you, never fear - just choose a different route up Kilimanjaro! No need to give up your dream of climbing Kilimanjaro over the challenge of Barranco Wall.
There are other routes to reach Kilimanjaro Summit that do not pass Barranco Wall, so if it was a very dangerous endeavor another route would be taken and avoid ‘such a treacherous undertaking’. As it is, Barranco Wall is often considered the one of the highlights of the climb to many Kilimanjaro climbers, yes, right up there with reaching the summit!

In all, no, Barranco Wall is not exceptionally dangerous. However, there are portions of the climb where one should be cautious. We encourage climbers to trek slowly, taking time to place their feet and find their balance and not rush to reach the top.

In addition to that, the routes with best acclimatization profile - Lemosho and Machame - traverse the Wall. It is not as challenging as it might look at first sight, and it has never stopped a single our climber from reaching the summit camp. We unreservedly recommend everyone visiting this iconic spot on Mount Kilimanjaro! 



Altitude 

Barranco Wall is 257 meters or 847 feet high (from base to the final point). Although it looks rocky and intimidating from a distance, as soon as one gets closer, it becomes obvious that a well-trodden path leads to its top, and that it is in fact both doable and exciting. No special equipment is needed to climb it, and, a mesmerizing panoramic view opens from atop! 

Difficulty

Barranco Wall looks formidable, but, as we said above, it is not that much difficult - as any other portion of your Kilimanjaro trek it is challenging though. At some points, Kilimanjaro conquerors need to clamber over the rocks, but our guiding team is always there to give support. We haven't had a single situation a climber (and most of our travellers are ordinary people with zero athletic background) turning down because of the Wall. 

Angela Vorobeva climbed Barranco Wall at 87 during her epic journey to the Roof of Africa

Which Routes Climb Barranco Wall?

The routes which climb Barranco Wall, on either day three or day four of the trek are Lemosho, Machame and the challenging Umbwe Routes.
 
Altezza Travel recommends the Lemosho Route and Machame Routes; Lemosho for a quiet, scenic route and Machame as the popular “Whiskey Route”.

Check these routes in the list of our group departures.


Which Routes Do Not Climb Barranco Wall?

If you’re interested in avoiding Barranco Wall altogether, there is the option of Northern Circuit, Marangu or Rongai Routes to choose from.

The Marangu Route is one of the busiest, while Northern Circuit and Rongai are highly recommended by Altezza Travel.


Which Routes Descend Via Barranco Wall?

No route on Kilimanjaro descends the mountain via Barranco Wall.

Almost all routes descend Kilimanjaro by a different trail than the ascent (except, in the case of Marangu Route, which uses the same trail to descend). In this way, no route descends by Barranco Wall, so teams will not climb down Barranco Wall - only up.


What is the Kissing Wall and Do Climbers Have to Really Kiss it?

The “Kissing Wall” is a narrow portion of the trek on Barranco Wall, requiring that hikers be very close to the wall as they slowly move forward. Some call it “hugging” the wall, others jokingly call it “kissing” the wall because of how physically close, even intimate, climbers should be to the wall in order to safely pass through. Hence, the name Kissing Wall has stuck and some climbers really do kiss the wall as they go, either in gratitude for safe passage, for luck, or just in pure fun and a great photo opportunity during the climb of Barranco Wall.

No, you don’t have to kiss the Kissing Wall, but you might decide you want to! Just for a fun memory of climbing Barranco Wall.

Tips for Climbing Barranco Wall

We have prepared several tips for you to keep in mind while climbing the Barranco Wall:
● Don’t rush or try to over-exert yourself. Slow and steady is the best approach, or as they say in Swahilil “pole-pole”.

● Listen to your guide. Your professional Altezza guide has climbed Barranco Wall many times, and can give advice about balance, if it’s best to put a hand on a rock, etc.

● Don’t use your trekking poles, tie them on your pack and be free to use your hands as needed.

● “Scrambling” is the official term for using hands and even knees to climb a steep incline. There are even various grades of scrambling, but Barranco Wall is a low-grade, not requiring any special equipment or safety protocols.

● During busy seasons the climb may feel ‘crowded’ as you wait for a team ahead to maneuver through a narrow part. Try to motivate and encourage, and keep spirits up for yourself and others climbing Barranco Wall.

● Take time to enjoy the vistas - the views all along Barranco Wall are absolutely stunning!

● Feel proud of yourself for having successfully overcome this challenge. Have a photo of yourself (or your team, or even some new friends) when you reach the top.

● Don’t feel nervous about this climb - it looks much more intimidating from afar, and many climbers report that they actually found it one of the most fun adventures of their entire Kilimanjaro climb!


FAQ

What is the best time to climb the Barranco Wall? 
Barranco Wall is the part of Lemosho, Machame and Umbwe route. Usually, we recommend choosing the dry seasons (from late December to early March and early June to late September) to plan your adventure. 

Consider Marangu or Rongai routes if you plan to climb Kilimanjaro in April, May, October of November. 


How long will it take to cross the wall?
For most hikers it take from one to two hours to reach the top of Barranco Wall, from where opens a thrilling panoramic vista.


Published on 5 April 2021

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