when should we climb?
BEST TIME TO CLIMB
Best time to climb, hike (trek) Kilimanjaro, It is possible to trek Kilimanjaro all-year-round.
However, certain months are characterized by colder weather, more rain and potentially loads of snow on the summit. In this article, we provide a brief outline of the two trekking seasons that are the best time to climb Kilimanjaro.
WINDS AND KILIMANJARO WEATHER
Kilimanjaro’s weather is heavily influenced by the interaction of trade winds with the structure of the mountain. The South-east trade winds traveling over the Indian Ocean carry loads of moisture.
When they hit Kilimanjaro, around March, then are forced upwards where they condense, form clouds and precipitation. This means March through to May is the wettest season on Kilimanjaro. The southern slopes are particularly susceptible to rain during this time in the year.
If you are confined to a trekking date in April or May we suggest you consider the Rongai route, which departs from the Northern end of Kilimanjaro and is generally drier than the southern route options during these months. Anti-trade winds from the North-east carry very little moisture but blow strongly.
The strength of these winds which last from April through to October keep the South-east trade winds below them, hence these months are usually dry and cloud cover and precipitation is generally restricted to the lower slopes. The North-east monsoon arrives in November and brings some light rains to the northern slopes of Kilimanjaro.
BEST TREKKING MONTHS
There are two distinct trekking seasons which constitute the best time to climb Kilimanjaro. They are January-March and June-October. January-March is generally colder than June-October and there is a higher probability of encountering snow on the summit. For some, this might be seen as a negative, but the benefits of a January-March trek is that the slopes are often quieter at this time of the year.
The June-October trekking season coincides with the summer holidays in Europe and N.America and hence certain routes are often quite busy. March, April and November are the wettest months on Kilimanjaro, and not ideal for trekking. Snowfall and cold temperatures are common during December-May. The chart below shows the average snowfall in cm on the summit of Kilimanjaro.
ALTITUDE AND CLIMATE ZONES
Another factor that is important to consider is the variation in weather conditions as you ascend Kilimanjaro. There are four distinct climatic zones on Kilimanjaro – the rainforest zone (~800m-3,000m) is warm and humid. Rain is common in the zone, particularly during the wet season and temperatures average around 12-15 degrees Celsius at 2,870m.
The second zone is often called the low alpine area (~3,000m-4,200m) and is a semi-arid zone where average temperatures range between 5-10 degrees Celsius at 3,630m. The high alpine zone (4,200m-5,000) is desert-like. Here temperatures average around the freezing point at 4,970m, and at the summit in the glacial zone (above 5,000m) temperatures average around -6 degrees Celsius.
Although the summit temperature doesn’t sound too cold, wind chill is a major factor. You are almost guaranteed relatively high winds. Moreover, the effects of cold temperatures at high altitude are more pronounced as your body expends more effort trying to get your skin and vital organs well-oxygenated in an oxygen-depleted environment.
This results in vasoconstriction near the extremities (like your hands, feet, and nose) and means that you will feel the cold a lot more at high altitude. In other words -6 degrees Celsius can feel like -20!
The chart shows the average monthly temperatures at four points across the climate zones.
Further towards the Western Corridor, the vegetation changes again and the area predominantly consists of swampy, wooded savannah land, famous for the black cotton soil which is impassible in the rainy season. The two large rivers in this area, the Grumeti and the Mbalageti River both flow into Lake Victoria in the west.
The Grumeti River is famous for its huge crocodiles who enjoy basking in the sun during the day while the riverine forest around this area is home to the rare patas monkeys.
The northern part of the park is mainly made up of open woodlands, riverine forests and mountains. It is here in the north where the majestic Mara River flows and it is this river in particular that all the migrating animals fear crossing as crocs with a size of up to 5 m lurk below the surface. The northern part of the Serengeti is a lot less frequented by visitors, making it a great place for an intimate safari experience.
The Serengeti is home to one of nature’s greatest and largest animal migrations. More than 1.5 million white bearded wildebeest and 250,000 zebras take part in the 1000 km journey in search of greener pastures. During their trek towards the rich grazing grounds they must overcome the most dangerous obstacle on the journey, the Mara River, famous for its huge prehistoric reptiles, the crocodiles.
Apart from the annual migration the Serengeti is also home to the “big five” – lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard and it is claimed that the Serengeti has the highest population of lions anywhere in Africa. Leopards are frequently spotted relaxing while large herds of elephants and buffaloes graze on the savannah. Although the park is also home to very few black rhinos, they are rarely ever seen as they tend to hide in the more bushy areas of the park.
But it is not only mammals that reside here and over 500 species of birds including ostriches, secretary birds, different types of vultures and eagles, Egyptian geese, black headed herons, crowned cranes, Kori bustards and many more can also be found in the Serengeti National Park.
GUIDES, COOKS & PORTERS
First of all, the most important consideration for your climb is who will be leading you on the mountain. Quality guides and porters will make for a wonderful time, while a mediocre staff can put your life in danger. Lesser companies employ guides who lack advanced medical training, industry certifications and proper safety equipment.
We have the best guides on the mountain. Because each of our guides is licensed by Kilimanjaro National Park. They have climbed Kilimanjaro around 20 times each year. Our guides also speak fluent English. Most have summited Kilimanjaro between 100-300 times! They know how to lead clients to the top, safely and professionally.