When to Climb Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro is very near the Equator, just 280 km south to be exact, but that doesn’t mean it has the same weather patterns every day of the year. As is true throughout tropical areas, there are wet seasons and dry seasons even if the air temperature itself doesn’t swing wildly. And of course the temperature at the base and the temperature at the summit can be drastically different as well.
You can climb Kilimanjaro all year round, but some seasons are much better than others. It’s not just an issue of whether to bring an umbrella or not – going during the rainy season can be dangerous and decrease your chances of reaching the summit.
The Short Answer
The weather on Kilimanjaro is always a bit unpredictable, but generally speaking the best months to climb are mid-December through February. The second-best choice is from the middle of June through September. Due to the traffic issue discussed below, the ideal combination of predictably good conditions and moderate crowds is mid February or late September, early October.
A Bit More Detail
In addition to the weather at the base, and on different parts of the mountain itself, you’ve also got another thing to consider: traffic. That’s right, this is a popular climb and during certain parts of the year you’ll be anything but alone up there, and during other times you might see very few, if any, other groups. The peak seasons for high traffic are around the Christmas holidays and during summer in the northern hemisphere. Obviously this is because that’s when most people have enough time off to climb, so if you can work your schedule around this a bit you can increase your chances of a great experience.
When Not To Go
From the middle of March through the middle of June the rain comes down incessantly and sometimes mixes with snow. Climbing in these conditions can be somewhat miserable, slow, dangerous, and will decrease the likelihood of reaching the summit.
From around the middle of November through the middle of December is similar, making it another very challenging time to climb.
It’s always busy on New Years, Christmas and full moons.
A Few More Notes on Weather
- Kilimanjaro is one of the tallest mountains on earth and the weather can change from perfect to terrible and back again within a short time, even during the best seasons. Even during the dry seasons it’s advisable to bring rain gear.
- The mountain is often covered in clouds during the middle of the day, and yet clear in the morning and at sunset.
- It’s not uncommon for the first 2 or 3 days of your climb to be in the rain, and then you’ll be above the clouds the rest of the way.
- It’s possible for a group on a 7-day climb to literally be in rain the entire week. Be prepared with rain gear and boots that can handle mud. Trekking poles are also recommended. It helps you in the mud.
- Many climbers – and even guides – bring an umbrella on the trip. It’s quite nice to have.
By Peter Baxter
November 16th, 2007