Nepal’s Dawa Steven Pioneers New Route up Kilimanjaro

Dawa Steven Sherpa had never dreamed of traveling to Africa. Least of all, to forge a new route up its highest and most popular peak. And yet, he has just returned home after pioneering a new route to the summit of 5,895m Kilimanjaro from Kidia village.

The adventure was not the result of a business venture, as one might think. Dawa Steven is CEO of Asian Trekking and has a business mind. This is the same shrewd guy who opened a bakery at Everest Base Camp. But the African adventure came thanks to his increasing environmental work.

“One of the international foundations I work with put me in touch with a group of people working with Kilimanjaro National Park,” he told Explorersweb. “They had been thinking for years of a potential new route near Kidia village that they could develop in a limited, sustainable way.”

Dawa Steven and his group identified some possible lines up the mountain, then set off to try the one that looked best.

On Kili’s upper slopes. Photo: Dawa Steven Sherpa


A whirlwind tour

“Of course, it’s nothing like climbing in the Himalaya,” Dawa admitted. “The point here is to find a good potential trail up this changing landscape, find the points with fresh water, distribute the potential camps, and so on.”

He climbed with three park rangers and a representative of the foundation. “Two other people eventually turned around,” he said. “But the route is meant to be climbed in seven days [in order to acclimatize on the way], and we completed it in just three and a half.” Dawa Steven’s whirlwind trip to Africa lasted just five days in all.

The route starts at Kidia village, then follows a different line all the way to Stella Point (5,756m). This lies at the edge of the crater, close to the summit. They left GPS tracks of their route with the parks people. It’s now up to local officials to work on the future trail.

The Dom Perignon route?

Interestingly, Kidia village is located on the southern, Tanzanian side of the massive peak, between the starting points for the popular Marangu and Machame routes. These are dubbed the Coca-Cola route and the Fanta route.

Kidia intends to be exactly the opposite. “While 200 people may set off from Marangu and Machame every day, the idea is to limit this Kidia route to a maximum of 20 a day,” he says. “This will allow locals to manage the route in a sustainable way.”

The plan is to make it profitable as well since the permit will be more expensive. It then becomes a sort of premium option for those wanting to stay away from the crowds.

According to a 2017 post on the blog, some people had summited Kili from Kidia in the 1980s. The area was also used as a way down in 2000 because of construction work on the Mweka trail.

Dawa Steven and friends. Photo: Dawa Steven Sherpa


Back to Nepal – and a new environmental project

Now back home, Dawa Steven is focusing on his campaign to clean the Base Camps of all Nepal’s 8,000’ers.

“I have Manaslu, Annapurna, and Dhaulagiri left,” he said. “Then I want to work with local authorities to protect villages in the Khumbu from floods by breaking glacier lakes.”

In recent years, flooding from the expanding glacial lake at the base of Lhotse has damaged several villages, as the 2016 video below demonstrates.