What You Need To Know About Kilimanjaro Weather Before You Climb
The weather on Mount Kilimanjaro can change dramatically within the space of twenty-four hours. Temperatures vary from hot (21 to 27 degrees Celsius) to extremely cold (-7 to -29 degrees Celsius) based on your altitude and the time of day.
If you plan on conquering the highest peak in Africa, understanding the weather conditions is crucial for a successful and safe climb.
So, let's discuss the weather patterns, what gear you'll need to pack for each climate zone, and tips for acclimatising to the changing conditions. With this information, you’ll have a better overall experience when hiking Kilimanjaro.
General Climate Around Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro is located near the equator. This geographical position contributes to the relatively stable climate at its base.
Unlike other mountainous regions that experience drastic seasonal changes, the area surrounding Kilimanjaro remains relatively consistent throughout the year.
However, the weather can vary significantly as you ascend the mountain, transitioning from a wet tropical climate at the lower slopes to arctic conditions near Uhuru Peak.
The Kilimanjaro area experiences two main seasons: a dry and wet season.
The dry season typically occurs from late June through August and then again from December to February. During these months, the weather is generally clear, making it the best time to hike Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Kili wet season occurs from March to May and November to early December. The mountain receives significant rainfall during these periods, which will make the trek more challenging.
The trade winds, also known as monsoon winds, play a significant role in Kilimanjaro's climate. These winds originate from the Indian Ocean, bringing moisture-laden air towards the mountain.
When the winds hit the mountain's slopes, they rise and cool, leading to condensation and precipitation. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable from March to May during the long rainy season.
The monsoon winds contribute to the lush, green landscapes at the lower elevations and are responsible for the snowfall at higher altitudes.
Kilimanjaro Temperature With Altitude Increase
Altitude is a significant factor in determining the weather conditions on the mountain. As you hike, the Kilimanjaro temperature drops, and the weather changes.
The average temperature ranges from 21 to 27 degrees Celcius at the mountain's base.
However, the temperatures can plummet as you climb higher, especially at night.
At the summit, Uhuru Peak, nighttime temperatures can range between -7 and -29 degrees Celsius.
Different Climate Zones as You Climb
As you make your way up the mountain, you'll pass through various climate zones, each with its unique weather characteristics:
Cultivation zone (800 to 1,800m): This is primarily farmland with temperate conditions. You'll pass through this region on your way to the trailhead.
Forest zone (1,800 to 2,800m): This is a tropical rainforest where conditions are usually warm and humid. Thick cloud cover and mud are common here.
Heath/moorland zone (2,800 to 4,000m): After hiking past the dense tropical forest, you will find the next zone with tall grasses and giant heathers. The weather is generally dry in the moorland zone, but rain can occur. Temperatures will also drop significantly at night.
Alpine/high desert zone (4,000 to 5,000m): This zone is arid, with only small, hardy plants surviving. Wind speeds increase, and there's little rainfall. Daytime temperatures can still be quite warm, but they drop quickly in the evening.
Arctic summit (5,000m to 5,895m): This is the final zone before reaching the peak. The environment here is harsh, with virtually no vegetation. Daytime temperatures are freezing, and the air is thin, making breathing more difficult. The night temperatures can plummet to below freezing, often accompanied by strong winds.
Kilimanjaro Weather By Month
Understanding the monthly weather variations on Mount Kilimanjaro is essential for planning a successful climb.
Best Seasons to Climb Kilimanjaro
The best months to climb Mount Kilimanjaro are generally during the mountain's two dry seasons:
January to March
June to October
During these months, the skies are clear, and the risk of rainfall is minimal, making for a more pleasant and safer trek.
What to Expect Each Month
January to March: These months are ideal for beginner hikers. The skies are clear, and temperatures are slightly higher. Rainfall is less frequent, and there may be less snow than later in the year. However, do expect cooler temperatures and occasional light showers.
April and May: These months mark the long rainy season. Climbing during this period is challenging due to wet conditions.
June to October: These are the busiest months, especially September. The weather is generally good, but the trails can be crowded. Some routes limit the number of groups per day to manage and protect the environment.
November: This month experiences a short rainy season. If you're an experienced hiker, you might enjoy the challenge and benefit from lower prices and fewer visitors.
December: The weather is generally good, but expect lots of snow on the summit. It's advisable to bring crampons for better grip.
Preparing for The Climb
Proper preparation is vital to conquering Mount Kilimanjaro's varying weather conditions. You'll need a proper Kilimanjaro packing list that accounts for both the tropical heat and arctic cold you’ll encounter.
Lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing is ideal for lower elevations, while thermal layers, waterproof jackets, and insulated boots are essential for higher altitudes.
Don't underestimate the importance of acclimatisation; spend a few days at a moderate altitude before your climb to help your body adjust.
Also, you can start training for Kili months in advance. Incorporate altitude-specific workouts, stay hydrated, and consider a longer route for gradual acclimatisation.
Then, always check the weather forecast and consult your guides to make informed decisions on your trek.
Weather Anomalies and Safety Measures
While Mount Kilimanjaro generally experiences predictable weather patterns, anomalies can occur. Understanding these irregularities and mitigating their risks is crucial for a safe climb.
Kilimanjaro's glaciers are rapidly disappearing, with ice coverage having shrunk by over 90% in the last century. This has been attributed to a combination of factors, including changes in Indian Ocean dynamics that have led to decreased precipitation over the mountain.
The reduction in ice and snow could, in the future, affect water availability on certain routes, as some rely on glacial meltwater.
It's essential to have experienced guides and the right equipment for emergencies. If you are a beginner, you can also consider hiking during the dry seasons and ensure you stay well-hydrated as you climb.