Avoid Rainy Season on Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro weather

Weather changes quickly on Kilimanjaro

A recent post about when to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro has me questioning when really is the best time to try to reach the top of the African continent.    The author suggests that really any time is fine, even the rainy season. "April to May is rainy season and most people avoid trekking in such a season but it is ideal for people who love to do trekking in rainy season." But the more I think about this the less comfortable I am with this advice.  It is true that the mountain is so massive that it actually creates its own weather patterns.  So you're likely to get a day or two of rain no matter when you climb.  But suggesting the rainy season is fine for those who like to hike in the rain may be over-simplifying things a bit too much. Every day on the mountain temperatures raise as high as 70 degrees and can drop below freezing.  Even if you have good rain gear, if you get wet in a downpour you risk serious hypothermia as the temperatures drop during the day.  Even if you're fortunate enough to stay warm  yourself, chances are your support staff won't be so lucky.  Many porters wear poorly insulating cotton clothing and carry insufficient rain gear.  Frequently, even the few porters who do have warm gear refuse to wear it hoping their tattered state will lead to better tips from clients. Two weeks before my first trip to Kilimanjaro two porters and a client died on the mountain from hypothermia.  They got caught in a downpour and couldn't get to camp before the afternoon temperatures dropped and sucked the heat out of them.

An emergency blanket could save you or your porter from hypothermia

If you're dead-set on climbing during the rainy season (or any time really), make sure you have adequate clothing.  You should have at least a water-proof breathable shell jacket and pants with you at all times.  Pack your day-pack with clothing to trek in temperatures from 70 degrees down to freezing.  If you're trekking in the rainy season you might also want to at least bring an emergency blanket for each of your porters to protect them from the elements.   They're small, easy to carry and may even save their life.
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