Kiliwarrior Expeditions Completes its First Season on Kilimanjaro's Western Breach After the Re-opening

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In January 2006 three American tourists were killed and an unknown number of support staff were seriously injured after a rock fall above Arrow Glacier Camp on the western slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro. The Western Breach route remained closed until it was reopened by the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority (KINAPA) in December 2007.

It has a very high summit success rate

Every year more than 25,000 adventure seekers travel to Tanzania to challenge Mount Kilimanjaro - at 19340 feet it's the world's highest free-standing mountain.

Of the seven main routes to the summit, the Marangu Route on the east side of the mountain attracts the most interest because it is the cheapest trail to the summit. Trekkers sleep in huts instead of tents resulting in smaller support teams and lower costs. But despite its popularity the Marangu route has several drawbacks:

  • The eastern slopes of Kilimanjaro are not as dramatic as the scenic western side.
  • The locations of the huts encourage shorter treks of 5 or 6 days - not enough for proper acclimatization as evident in an estimated 50% or lower summit success rate.
  • It is impossible to avoid the crowds and the long lines of people on the steeper sections of the route.
  • The highest camp (Kibo Hut) is at 15480 feet. This means an altitude gain of almost 4000 feet during the final approach to the summit which can be dangerous!
  • The push to the summit starts at 11pm and can take 8 hours or longer in the bitter cold of night where temperatures often dip below 20 degrees F!

It is not surprising that more people are looking for alternative routes to the summit!

The Rongai, Machame, Umbwe, Lemosho and Shira routes are becoming more popular for different reasons. The Rongai route suffers from many of the same drawbacks as Marangu. Umbwe is scenic but very steep and the daily altitude gains make for a very challenging climb. Machame is the second most popular route but the big crowds and a very tough night-time summit approach are two good reasons to reconsider this route.

The Lemosho and Shira routes approach the mountain from the west and offer remoteness and beautiful scenery with fewer people and a steady, gentle gain in altitude allowing for proper acclimatization. Unfortunately both routes meet up with the popular Machame and steep Umbwe routes after the 3rd or 4th day and the advantage of fewer people is lost.

The Western Breach route is best known for remoteness, breathtaking scenery, fewer people, a sensible daily altitude gain and a summit approach during day-time hours!

Since January 2008, Kiliwarrior Expeditions successfully completed 8 expeditions to the summit via the Western Breach Route.

"We are delighted to once again offer this stunning route to our clients", says Eben Schoeman (Managing Partner of the Arusha-based Kiliwarrior Expeditions). "It has always been our favorite route to the summit and despite the tragedy of 2006 we continued to receive requests to offer the Western Breach while it was closed."

It is a risky route due to a higher potential for rock falls on the morning when trekkers have to make their way up the face of the Western Breach to the cater rim area. To minimize this risk, outfitters must adopt several safety recommendations by Tanzania National Park authorities. Trekkers should discuss these recommendations with their outfitters and avoid companies who are not experienced with the Western Breach. Here is a summary of the most important guidelines:

  • Mountain helmets are required for the whole team from Arrow Glacier camp until they reach the crater rim.
  • Teams should depart Arrow Glacier camp no later than 5:00 am to be able to cross the exposed areas while the trail is still frozen.
  • Guides must be trained on rock fall protocol and be able to brief clients and porters before departing Arrow Glacier Camp.
  • Pre-trip information must contain warnings about the risk factor on the Western Breach.
  • Outfitters should reduce the number of support crew to accompany clients during the Breach day.
  • Teams must have at least two ice axes to help cut steps in icy conditions.
  • Outfitters must provide life saving equipment - gamow bags, oxygen cylinders, 1st-aid kits.
  • Outfitters should have a written emergency response plan.
  • Porters must have kit bags with handles to allow for hands-free climbing.
  • Outfitter must provide mobile toilets in the Crater. All waste must be deposited in pit toilets at Barafu camp.

Schoeman agrees with these guidelines and says the Western Breach route should not be taken lightly. "In January and February of this year our teams experienced heavy snow storms and dangerously high winds on Kilimanjaro. Those conditions made the Western Breach route challenging and several under-equipped, inexperienced teams were forced to give up."

Despite the slightly higher risk factor just about anyone in reasonable shape can reach the summit of Kilimanjaro via the Western Breach route! "It has a very high summit success rate", says Carol Ferris, Kiliwarrior Expeditions VP of Customer Relations. "I am not an experienced trekker but my Western Breach trek in March 2008 was spectacular!" She continues, "I had a choice of 5 routes and picked the Western Breach after all the great feedback from past clients. The Breach day was challenging but afterwards every one in my team felt is was by far the best way to experience the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro."

For press information, or to set up an interview with Eben Schoeman or Carol Ferris, contact Kiliwarrior Expeditions by phone (1-703-349-3215).

Kiliwarrior Expeditions
A specialist & very exclusive Tanzania-based company (worldwide sales office is in the USA) known for its uncompromising focus on Care, Service and Excellence - resulting in an incredible 100% summit success record in 2004 and very near perfect in 2005 -2008! Kiliwarrior treks are exclusively designed for couples, single climbers, families, and small groups of friends. The Kiliwarrior mountain team stars in the film "Kilimanjaro - The Way It Is" - winner of four Telly Awards and available for purchase on Amazon (ASIN B0007PNNPC).

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EBEN SCHOEMAN
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