Since its official opening in 1977, Kilimanjaro National Park has become one of Tanzania’s most visited parks. Unlike the other northern parks, this isn’t for the wildlife-although wildlife is there. Rather, it’s to gaze in awe at a mountain on the equator capped with snow and to take advantage of the chance to climb to the top of Africa.
At the heart of the park stands a 5895m Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and one of the continent’s magnificent sights. It’s also one of the highest volcanoes and among the highest freestanding mountains in the world, rising from cultivated farmlands on the lower levels, through lush rainforest to alpine meadows, and finally across a barren lunar landscape to the twin summits of Kibo and Mawenzi. The lower rainforest is home to many animals, including buffaloes, leopards, and monkeys, and elands are occasionally seen in the saddle area between Kibo and Mawenzi peaks.
A trek up Kilimanjaro lures hundreds of trekkers each year, in part because it’s possible to walk all the way to the summit without ropes or technical climbing experience. Yet, the climb is a serious (as well as expensive) undertaking, and only worth doing with the right preparations.
The Kilimanjaro massif has an oval base about 40m to 60km across and rises almost 5000m above the surrounding plains. The two main peak areas are Kibo, the dome at the center of the massif, which dips inwards to form a crater that cannot be seen from below, and Mawenzi, a group of jagged pinnacles on the eastern side.
A third peak, Shira, on the western end of the massif, is lower and less distinct than Kibo and Mawenzi. The highest point on Kibo is Uhuru Peak, the goal for most trekkers. The highest point on Mawenzi, Hans Meyer Point (5149m), cannot be reached by trekkers and is only rarely visited by mountaineers. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano and it still releases steam and Sulphur from vents in the crater center.
Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time of the year, though weather patterns are notoriously erratic and difficult to predict. During November and March/April, it’s more likely that paths through the forest will be slippery, and that routes up to the summit, and especially the Western Breach, will be covered by snow. That being said, you can also have a streak of beautiful, sunny days during these times, and should come prepared for rain and bitter cold at any time of the year. Overall, the best time for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is in the dry season, from late June to October, and from late December to February or early March, just after the short rain and before the long rains.
Don’t underestimate the weather on Mount Kilimanjaro. Conditions on the mountain are frequently very cold and wet, and you will need a full of waterproof cold-weather clothing and gear, including a good-quality sleeping bag. It’s also worth carrying some additional sturdy water bottles. No matter what time of the year you trek, waterproof everything especially your sleeping bag, as they are things that can’t dry on the mountain. It’s often possible to rent sleeping bags and gear from Lindo Travel, or in Moshi Town in small shops. However, quality and availability can’t be counted on, and it's best to bring your own.
If you are looking to climb Kilimanjaro, then we would like to invite you to contact us for a free-of-charge consultation regarding which route to take, and when is the best time to scale the mountain. Feel free to contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org or if you need to read more about Kilimanjaro then here is the link from our Kilimanjaro climb blog posts