The Shira Route itinerary
This is the older of the two trails that cross the Shira Plateau and, in our opinion, is definitely the inferior. Our problems with this route are twofold. Firstly, and in our opinion most importantly, walkers miss out on the forest zone on the way up (it’s a very rare trekker who, these days, begins their walk before Morum Barrier which lies at the start of the Shira Plateau); and it’s not just any old forest either, for the jungle on this western side of Kili is the best on the mountain. That, in our opinion, is little short of unforgivable.
The second problem we have is that the Official Shira Route is actually a 4WD track used by emergency vehicles. In other words, you’ll be walking on a track that’s been designed with vehicles in mind – which can never be as fun as walking on a trail made for pedestrians; though to be fair to the companies that do offer this route, most of them these days seem to turn off the ‘road’ as soon as they can in favour of one of the many other paths that criss-cross the plateau – in effect ending up on one of the Lemosho Route variants – and some don’t actually walk on the road at all.
So I guess it comes down to a matter of opinion and taste: if your sole reason for setting foot on the mountain is to get to the summit, the Shira Plateau Route may be a better route for you. But if you have any interest in the more complete experience, one that includes both ascending and descending via all the vegetation zones, then opt for Lemosho.
Day 1: Morum Barrier to Shira 1/Simba Cave
Distance: 3.75km to Shira 1, 6.5km to Simba Cave
Altitude Gained: 99m to Shira 1, 215m to Simba Cave
The trek begins in the far north-western corner of the Shirt Plateau by what looks like an old concrete gatepost – the remnants of the old Morum Barrier (3405m). It’s a lonely place: the landscape windswept, the flora dry and scrubby, the fauna virtually non-existent. You’ll be spending the next couple of days on this plateau. Occasionally, groups turning up late are forced to camp here though if everything has gone smoothly thus far it’s more usual to walk to one of the campsites on the plateau, with Shira 1 or Simba Cave Campsite being the only realistic choices. Shira 1 (3504m) is reached via a narrow trail that heads south from the information boards. The trail crosses several streams but the whole walk takes only 70 minutes or so; from Shira 1 you then continue along the Lemosho Route to Shira 2 (possibly via the Cathedral) and Lava Tower; or your trekking company may have opted to head towards Moir Huts and possibly continue from there round the Northern Circuit.
Those who instead opted to stay at Simba Cave Campsite (3640m) – reached by walking along the road for an hour – have essentially the same options. The campsite, adorned with several weatherbeaten old wooden toilets as well as the cave, marks the main junction between the road and the Lemosho Route.
For details of your walk from either of these two campsites, please see Day 3 of the Lemosho Route itinerary >>