What are the Most Important Tips to Know Before Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro
What are the Most Important Tips to Know Before Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro
April 1, 2023

What are the Most Important Tips to Know Before Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro

Found in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s tallest mountain at about 5,895 meters (19,340 feet). It is the largest free-standing mountain rise in the world, meaning it is not part of a mountain range. Also called a stratovolcano (a term for a very large volcano made of ash, lava, and rock), Kilimanjaro is made up of three cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Kibo is the summit of the mountain and the tallest of the three volcanic formations. While Mawenzi and Shira are extinct, Kibo is dormant and could possibly erupt again. Scientists estimate that the last time it erupted was 360,000 years ago. The highest point on Kibo’s crater rim is called Uhuru, the Swahili word for “freedom.”
The mountain is also known for its snow-capped peak; however, scientists warn that the snow might disappear within the next 20 years or so. In 1889, German geographer Hans Meyer and Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller became the first people on record to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. Since then, Kilimanjaro has become a popular hiking spot for locals and tourists. Because mountaineering gear and experience are not needed to reach the peak, tens of thousands of climbers ascend the mountain each year. The climb is still dangerous, however, because of the risk of altitude sickness—the condition climbers experience if they ascend too quickly, which can be deadly if not treated right away.

In 1973, the mountain and its six surrounding forest corridors were named Kilimanjaro National Park in order to protect its unique environment. The park was named a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site in 1987. A variety of animals live in the area surrounding the mountain, including the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis). For more information on Kilimanjaro Climbing - Download our free book which includes everything that you need to know regarding your adventure to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

 The weather on Mount Kilimanjaro can vary from very hot to extremely cold within the same day although it does not experience wide temperature changes from season to season. Instead, the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro are determined more by the altitude and time of day. At the base of the mountain, the average temperature is around 21 to 27 °C and at the summit, Uhuru Peak, the nighttime temperatures can range between 20 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to -29 degrees Celsius). Like all great mountains, Kilimanjaro creates its own weather which can be extremely variable and difficult to predict. Hikers need to be prepared for warm, sunny conditions, and rain, wind, cold, and even snow.

Even though the best time to climb Kilimanjaro coincides with the “dry” seasons, rain, and snow are possible at any time of the year. As you get higher up, the temperatures can vary dramatically, one moment you can be trekking in baking sunshine, the next you’ll be layering up against a bitter wind. Standing at 19,341 ft. above sea level, Kilimanjaro is big enough to create its own weather systems. Being on the equator means the trade winds (sometimes called ‘monsoons’) that move across the ocean, drawing moisture upwards are interrupted by the mountain. This causes the wind to push up towards the summit, cooling as it goes, bringing rain and snow

The long rainy season between March and May is a result of the trade winds from the southeast. These southerly winds from the Indian Ocean are laden with moisture, bringing rain to the lower slopes and snow on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro's summit. During this season, the southern slopes get the most rainfall. The ‘short rains in November are from a dryer wind coming from the northeast. As it hasn’t traveled across an ocean, the rains are shorter and less intense than during the long rains. Most of the rainfall during this season falls on the more northerly slopes.

Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t experience wide temperature changes from season to season due to its proximity to the equator, instead, the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro are determined more so by the altitude and what time of day it is. At the base of Mount Kilimanjaro where the climb starts, the average temperature is around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius). From the base when you ascend, the temperatures will decrease as you go through the mountain’s 5 ecological zones. At the Summit of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, which lies in the arctic zone the night temperatures can range between 20 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to -29 degrees Celsius). Therefore, we recommend that you should always be prepared for wet and cold nights so please bring the necessary gear at all times.

“Pole, pole” you will hear your guides telling you, which is Swahili for “slowly, slowly”. Even if you feel you can go faster, the best way to acclimatize is to walk slowly and stay within your fitness zone so that you do not put your body under too much strain. Hydration is vital in acclimatizing well, you should carry 2 liters of water with you each day with the aim of drinking all of this during your day’s trek. Drinking plenty of fluid at breakfast and evening meals is also important. You will understand why we suggest a “pee bottle” as a “must-have” piece of kit to save you having to de-tent during the night and do a toilet visit when it’s cold and pitch black outside! Be as physically fit as you can before you start to ensure you enjoy the adventure rather than it being a hard slog. Also, the fitter you are the less likely you are to put your body under pressure and stress. Make sure you have the right Kilimanjaro gear and that you have tried and tested it before the trek to ensure that it works and functions and that you are as comfortable and confident as you can be. Don’t leave it till summit day to find out whether your head torch works or day one of the trek to try out your new walking boots.

While you will need to satisfy yourself with respect to what is currently covered within the policy that the insurer proposes to sell you, generally, we have found World Nomads to offer the most suitable insurance cover for Kilimanjaro. US citizens may also wish to consider Berkshire Hathaway's "AdrenalineCare" insurance. Some insurers do better for persons of certain nationalities only, so the following insurers are also worth looking at. However, we would reiterate again, that before securing a policy you confirm with the insurer that the premium that they're selling you does indeed include cover for trekking up to 6,000 meters altitude. And if you're ascending via the Western Breach, you'll need further confirmation that when using ropes and helmets (if you choose to bring these - which is recommended) you are still included:


Author: Stephan

Stephan is the go-to expert when it comes to planning safari and Kilimanjaro Climbing trips. He's an incredibly experienced tour guide and trip planner - he'll help you plan every detail, from logistics to accommodation. With Stephan by your side, your adventure will be one of a kind! His enthusiasm makes his guiding services unmissable. Let Stephan make your next safari or mountain climbing experience truly incredible!

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