Climbing Kilimanjaro is a popular tourist activity in East Africa and is widely accepted as one of the world’s most iconic mountains. Many hikers yearn to experience the breathtaking beauty of it while they challenge themselves to conquer this mightly peak. So, when is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?
Most people opt for the dry season which runs from late June to October. Though, there are certain pros and cons of this season. It provides drier conditions during the ascent and descent and is, on the whole, more pleasant due to more comfortable temperatures compared to the wet season. In addition, the clear skies during this time makes the sunset and sunrise views more stunning.
On the downside, the dry season is busier as it coincides with the regular holiday season. Plus, depending on the ascent route, the dry season can also be harsher with strong dry winds and freezing cold nights.
Hence, climbing Kilimanjaro in the wet season (November-June) provides its own set of advantages. Firstly, the wet season is relatively quieter than the dry season. Secondly, though certain trails can be waterlogged, generally the rain falls down at night or in the early morning and can add to the overall nature experience.
However, the most unexpected reason which makes the wet season a great time to climb is that the rain brings down the dust levels on the mountain paths, allowing hikers to take in the views more easily.
In addition, some experts suggest that it is also generally easier to acclimatise during the wet season. The cooler temperatures make it easier for the the body to adjust to the passing altitude, meaning that hikers are less likely to suffer from altitude sickness.
Safety tip number one for climbers is to go through a reliable tour guide. It is important to find a guide who has several years of experience as well as vital first aid and CPR training. In addition, make sure that your tour guide has a good reputation from past and present customers.
Next, plan for your trip well in advance. This means taking into consideration factors like the different seasons, various ascent and descent routes, different duration of trips and preparation for the unpredictable changes of weather.
Thirdly, a medical check-up is essential before attempting to climb Kilimanjaro. Have a discussion with your doctor to know the best measures to take which are suitable for you.
Ensure that your planned budget is sufficient to cover all associated costs, including food, clothing and trekking equipment. Finally, give yourself enough time to make the necessary preparations.
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of the climb. Therefore, make sure to stock up on energy-rich foods, proteins and dietary supplements with high calorie content. A good balance of vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates on a daily basis is essential for the success of the climb.
Drink plenty of water as dehydration can lead to altitude sickness, fatigue and more serious conditions. Carrying water with you on the hike is always recommended, but make sure to take purification tablets to clean the water as necessary.
Regularly eat carbohydrate-rich snacks as they are great energy boosters when you’re feeling tired. If there is a vegetarian in the group, simply factor that in and make sure to get a few vegetarian meals on the menu.
Clothing and Equipment
Comfort is the key to successful trekking and the durability of clothing and equipment can often make or break the experience. For clothing, warm, layered and waterproof items are essential to make your way up the mountain and these are usually any stand-alone items that dry quickly. For equipment, a good pair of shoes with a strong grip is a must. In terms of backpacks, there should be enough space to fit in the necessary items but do not overpack as it will only create difficulty while maneuvering.
Sunscreen, sunglasses and hats are also important to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Additionally, always pack a few extras of items like spare torches, maps, batteries and should consider carrying a small first aid kit.
Acclimatization is the process of adapting to the atmosphere at higher altitudes. Kilimanjaro offers many different routes to the peak, but any ascent higher than 3,000m should employ the “climb high, sleep low” rule. This will allow you to climb to a certain point and beforehand to descend and sleep at a lower altitude for the night. This rule is essential in order to avoid any symptoms of altitude sickness.
If the climb is too steep and the peak is reached in a couple of days, sleep at even lower altitudes for the nights. Take regular coffee and tea breaks in order to drink plenty of fluids. And, do not exhaust yourself too much, meaning that you should not hike for long durations.
Finally, a crucial aspect of the climb is hydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid taking energy drinks. They contain a lot of sugar which can make you feel dehydrated. Tea, coffee and hot lemonade are the better options in terms of energy boosters. As mentioned before, carrying a bottle of purified water is essential, but also make sure to stock up on water reserves during certain stops and never drink the water directly from natural sources as this can cause diarrhea, cholera and other illnesses.
To climb Kilimanjaro, a certain level of fitness is necessary. Your level of endurance should be good enough to cover 8-10 hours of hiking a day for 6 days for the longer 6-day treks. Plan ahead and make use of low-level trekking days to practice and improve your level of fitness. Basic cardiovascular exercises such as running, jogging, swimming and cycling are great for this.
In addition, hiking and walking are a great way to prepare for the climb. Take short treks with a backpack and gradually build up your strength and stamina as you get closer to your goal.
In terms of gender, men and women face their own physical challenges when climbing Kilimanjaro. Men are more likely to experience chest pains due to a higher percentage of fat around their torsos and shoulders. On the other hand, women are more likely to suffer from slower acclimatization and can feel out of breath sooner due a smaller lung capacity.
Therefore, it is important that both women and men understand their physical limits and follow the necessary protocols related to safety. Getting the right amount of rest and climbing at an optimal pace are essential steps to a successful climb for every individual.
Altitude sickness is caused by the lack and thinning of oxygen in the air at higher altitudes and can be devastating for the unprepared climber. Remember to not ascend on the mountain too quickly and always watch out for the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness. These include headaches, vomiting, lethargy, shortness of breath and persistent dizziness.
The symptoms of altitude sickness are treatable and the hikers can generally continue their climb in a few days if they seek medical advice. In severe cases, the climbers may need to be taken back down the mountain if the oxygen levels haven’t returned to normal.