Let me save you some time: The Shira Route is the same as the Lemosho route, but starts at a higher elevation. Consider it if you are already acclimatized after climbing Mt Meru or Mt Kenya. If not, then read about the Lemosho Route instead!
Recommended: Lemosho Route
Is the “Shira Route” even available any more? If your operator is offering you this route, do read on before clicking the “buy now” button.
Shira Route? Don’t Bother
Shira was the original route on the western side of the mountain before the Lemosho route was available. Setting off from Shira Gate, before Londorossi Gate was opened. Starting at 3,600m, you are taken to your starting point by 4WD vehicle along what is now used as the “rescue road”.
Starting your trek on the Shira Plateau, you miss the wonderful hike through the montagne forest. Which on this side of the mountain is nothing short of spectacular. Starting at the Shira Gate, you essentially follow the emergency road across the plateau to your first campsite. This takes you through the scrubby heath and moorland zone.
Apart from the first day, this route is exactly the same as Lemosho.Your first campsite will effectively be the same as your second campsite if you had taken the Lemosho route. You simply miss the first day’s hike and start higher up. I can’t see much advantage in this.
See Lemosho here from Day 2 onwards for an in-depth look at the Shira Route.
A major problem with this route is that it’s start point is around 3,600m. This is too high an altitude for all but the most experienced altitude trekkers. If you are well acclimatized – perhaps by climbing Mt Meru first – then you could consider using this route as it’s shorter than Lemosho.
But for the rest of us who want to acclimatize and not feel sick on the first day, I don’t recommend it. Most operators now offer the Lemosho route in place of this one. Assuming you are fit enough to even attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, acclimatization is the biggest obstacle to a successful summit(1). Every year, fitter, stronger people fail to reach the summit due to poor acclimatization. On the other hand, less fit, less strong people who are well-acclimatized are often successful.
Read more about the acclimatization process: Altitude
Essentially by cutting out the first day’s hiking through the rainforest, you lose valuable acclimatization time, reducing your likelihood of reaching the summit. But you also miss the experience of the rainforest. Part of the fascination of climbing Kilimanjaro is seeing the different climate zones and how they differ from one another.
Mostly this route is not offered any more, possibly some operators will offer it by request. Those that advertise the “Shira Route”, often actually start at Londorossi gate and follow the Lemosho route.
I Opine: Why bother? Just book the Lemosho route. Unless you are short of time, want to see the western side of the mountain without the forest, and – crucially – have had experience at altitude and are confident of your ability to begin trekking at 3600m – quite a gain in elevation from Moshi or Arusha.
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Other, better Routes: