When to Climb Kilimanjaro

mount_kilimanjaroWhen is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed all year round. However, you should be thoughtful while deciding when to take your trip. You’re going to spend quite a sum of money, so you don’t want to ruin the trip by picking a crappy time to go.  

The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the main dry season, from July to October.

Because Tanzania is near the equator, the country does not have four seasons like we do in the USA. Instead, there are wet and dry seasons. The main dry season occurs during our summer (July) and goes through fall (October). This is generally considered the optimal time to climb Kilimanjaro. Rain and snow and blizzard-like conditions are least likely to occur during the main dry season.

The negative aspect of climbing at this time is that the mountain becomes very crowded. On any given day, there can be a thousand people at your campsite! But if you have to choose between being relatively alone with miserable weather, or crowded with beautiful weather, I’d opt for the second choice.

Now the other option is to climb during the short dry season, which is from January to February, which lessens the crowds somewhat. The chances of having great weather are still very high, but because these two months are bookended by rainy seasons, it’s possible that the rainy seasons run long or start early.

For those who truly want to be left alone, you can climb during the rainy seasons. The long rainy season goes from March to June, and the short rainy season goes from November to December. However, you must be willing to brave the wet trail conditions to do this. This should only be done if you have done wet weather backpacking before. First time trekkers should never climb during the rainy season. The difficulty and discomfort are exponentially higher at this time.

If you are wondering about how cold it will be, it can always be bitter cold. It is far more important to come while it is dry than to try to come during the relatively warmer months. The few degrees do not amount to much, but being soaked on the trail will.

Mount Kilimanjaro’s weather is unpredictable. All climbers should be prepared for rain and cold regardless of the time of year.

kilimanjarofaunaEcological Zones

There are six ecological zones on Mount Kilimanjaro. The trek from the base to the summit will bring climbers through an amazing range of conditions.

At the lowest level is the bushland zone, made up of cultivated land and grasslands. Temperatures here are very pleasant, with a year-round average of around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures decrease with each correspondingly higher zone. It is important to remember that these remarks about weather are generailities, and the actual weather is impossible to predict.

As climbers make their way through the park gates, they enter the rainforest zone. The rainforest is characterized by dense forest, humidity and precipitation. The rainforest zone receives the highest amount of rainfall of all the zones, receiving as much as 80 inches a year. Lichens, mosses and ferns dangle from trees making a dense canopy that harbors brightly colored insects, colorful flowers, hornbills, colubus monkeys and leopards.

On the upper edge of the forest, smaller shrub-like trees begin to replace the tall, straight-trunked trees in the heath zone. The forest abruptly opens up into an area of rolling, unfertile land that consists predominantly of dense heather. Buffalo, elephants, elands, common duikers and the yellow-crowned canary are just some of the wildlife here.

The fluctuation in temperature causes desert-like conditions in the alpine desert zone. Temperatures may range from below freezing at night to simmering during the day. The alpine desert zone receives only 10 inches of rain per year. Only the hardiest organisms can survive this climate. Although not much wildlife lives here, elands and leopards sometimes pass through. Thin air and strong winds make flying too difficult for most birds.

Starkly beautiful glaciers straddle gaping volcanic craters in the summit. The arctic zone is almost completely void of vegetation due to its arctic climate, except for some red and gray lichens that have adapted for survival. The artic zone receives less than four inches of precipitation per year, usually in the form of snow, and night-time temperatures at the summit can be subzero. The presence of snow so close to the equator has often been a fascination for explorers. However, many scientists believe these glaciers will disappear within 15 years.