Mountain Project Logo

Routes in Kilimanjaro

Western Breach T 3rd 1- 1 I 1 M 1a R
Type: Trad, 2556 ft, Grade III
FA: unknown
Page Views: 1,072 total, 18/month
Shared By: Anfarwal Vr on Jan 10, 2013 with updates
Admins:

You & This Route


7 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do

Your Star Rating:


     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:


-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick
    -none-

Route Description



The Western Breach is the most aggressive and riskiest way to summit Kibo. Be aware that rock fall is a hazard, and climbers should be prepared for variable weather conditions.
The trail is steep and involves 3rd-4th class climbing at over 16,000 feet. During my summit, we were hit with a snowstorm and climbed the route through snowdrifts. Microspikes or crampons are suggested, and helmets are a must.

This is not a route to be taken lightly; this route was closed in 2006 due to the death of 3 climbers, and the route was changed to minimize the time in the danger zone. As the glaciers retreat, rock fall will become more of a hazard.

The route is generally approached from the Shira, Machame, Lemosho or Umbwe Routes. From the Shira route, most people camp at the Lava Tower Camp at 4637m, then Arrow Glacier Camp at 4871 before heading up through the Western Breach in the crater wall to Crater camp at 5731m. From there, it's a 1.5 hour hike up to Uhuru Peak at 5895m. From there you will descend over the other side on the Mweka Route.

Be aware that an alpine start is required! This allows climbing parties to get free of the rockfall zone before the sun begins melting out the snow/ice in the dangerous rock bands above. Most climbing parties will leave Arrow Glacier between 2am & 5am.

Beta on the descent: Just after half-way up, after the 4th section of 3rd class scrambling is the point of no return. If AMS, HACE, HAPE or an accident occurs the safest way down is still continuing up to the ridge, across the icefields and down the other side via Stella Point.
Chris C.
Seattle, WA
  3rd Mod. Snow R
Chris C.   Seattle, WA
  3rd Mod. Snow R
If you want to "climb" rather than hike, this is your only choice of route really. There is A LOT of rockfall at Glacier Camp through the early evening, so be sure not to wander out of your camp up the mountain. Look around at all the rock debris at your camp site, porters did not carry that up from town, gravity pulled it all down the breach! The wind is also particularly bad there, so be sure to not leave any of your stuff outside the tent. A full tent along with some of our porters' items were completey blown away in the night. Also, there was (sadly) no more snow on this route in August 2015, but there was a glaze of ice on some of the rock.

To the fellow asking about fitness and grade of the climb, it's not a particularly difficult scramble on its own, but at the high altitude it definitely has its challenges. It is also quite exposed, a fall would probably be fatal through most of the route. I think that is what makes people bump it up to 4th from 3rd. While non-technical, coming in with some level of fitness is probably a good idea. Also, all of the rock climbers in our group seemed to find the route all around more enjoyable than the non-rock folks. Even though it is not rock climbing, getting a feel for moving over rock beforehand may be nice for people who have never done it before.

As for the comment above about risking porters' lives on this trip, on any properly organized expedition, porters will NOT go up the breach with the climbers and guides. On summit day, porters will retreat to another camp and move around the mountain to meet the climbing team on the way down.

Look alive while climbing the breach! Somebody dies on it every so often!


Mar 23, 2016
Dick Stone, I wanted to ask you about the day of the rockfall. September is one of the colder months on Kilimanjaro and I'm under the impression that the main cause of these rockfalls is warm weather. Was that day exceptionally warm? Roughly what time of day did the rock fall happen? I have heard that it is more likely to happen at the hottest part of the day.

Also, I had a guide service literally tell me "an athletic person can do the western breach with his hands in his pockets... well, maybe a couple places you would lay a hand down." And westernbreach dot com says "grandmothers and couch potatoes can climb the western breach." But mountainproject rates it at 4th class which seems to contradict this. How would you rate it? Jan 6, 2016
Dick Stone
Boulder
Dick Stone   Boulder
Thank you Anfarwal. Sep 28, 2015
Anfarwal Vr
Denver, CO
 
Anfarwal Vr   Denver, CO
 
Dick, i'm so sorry to hear about this tragic accident. I've updated the route description to try to highlight the dangers as well. Most people aren't aware that it's not just you that climbs the route, but all of your porters do as well and they're often ill-equipped. Thanks for posting--my thoughts go out to the family of the climber. Sep 24, 2015
Dick Stone
Boulder
Dick Stone   Boulder
I am posting this just to raise awareness of the Western Breach route on Kilimanjaro.
Just returned home to Boulder from climbing this route, and am very sad to report I was part of the horrific accident that occurred on the Breach route resulting in the death of a climber in the team just behind ours. We experienced a massive rock fall event the morning of our final ascent to the crater rim. Ironically our trip was a "photographic expedition" to document thru film and pictures the effects of global climate change on the mountain, and it very well could be our tradgedy (as well as the one back in 2006) could be a direct result of our changing climate.
If you are considering this route please consider the risks carefully. This is without question a dangerous route due to the rockfall hazard. One question you may ask yourself is: "I am willing to accept this risk, but am I willing to put the lives of all our porters at risk as well?"
Climb on... Sep 22, 2015
thehackattacks
Park City, UT
 
thehackattacks   Park City, UT
 
Incredible, bold and beautiful way to climb the mountain!! Apr 4, 2015