Photo: Thomson Safaris staffer, Ali Riley
There are dozens of spectacular sights on Kilimanjaro; the mountain’s volcanic past has left many impressive remnants, from noteworthy lava formations to the shiny black rock that covers the summit.
But few are as breathtaking—literally—as the Barranco Wall. Rising 800 feet above the Barranco Valley, the Barranco Wall is one of the most challenging sections on the mountain!
Steep, narrow paths cut back and forth along the rock face, making the Barranco Wall a “scramble”—a climbing term that means it doesn’t require any specialized gear or mountaineering skill, but that you will likely use your hands to assist you on the way up. Though it’s a demanding portion of the trek, most trekkers are thrilled that they get to experience the Barranco Wall; even without the physical exertion, the view from the top is stunning enough to get anyone’s heart racing!
Photo: Thomson Safaris guest, Ken Hosch
Like so many of Kilimanjaro’s most memorable sites, the Barranco Wall’s rocky slopes are the result of volcanic activity far in Kili’s past. But they also have a more recent cause: a landslide.
The crater at the top of Kibo formed when that volcano went dormant, between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago. Without the pressure of the lava just beneath the summit to hold it up, the mountaintop collapsed inward, forming what’s known as a caldera.
But over the years, smaller, less-dramatic collapses continued to occur at the summit, as the mountain settled into its modern form. One of these mini-collapses, around 100,000 years ago, resulted in a massive landslide down the southern face of the mountain.
It was this violent event that left Barranco such a steep departure from Kili’s mostly-gentle slopes; a presumably more forgiving slope was sheared away by the tumbling rocks, dirt, and debris.
Climbers on the Lemosho, Umbwe, and Machame routes have a chance to camp beneath this natural wonder, then push themselves to conquer it. Just remember to take it pole, pole (slowly, slowly), and enjoy the view of the Barranco Valley below and the Karanga Valley stretching out before you once you’ve reached the top. After a scramble up the Barranco Wall, you’ve earned the chance to look around and catch your breath…at least until you take in the views!
One of the bonuses for making it up the Barranco Wall: Kissing Rock! Check out this post from our Facebook page