As we shall see, Kilimanjaro is a climate unto itself. Even so, the mountain is subject to the oscillating effects of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), experiences a bimodal precipitation pattern, and is generally avoided during the long and short rains (March-May and November), when it’s lower regions get particularly wet. The very best months for climbing are January, February and September. Kilimanjaro has 5 altitude influenced climatic zones:
· At 800 - 1800m, the mountain’s base is heavily cultivated, experiences an average temperature of 27°C.
· Between 1800 - 2800, the mountain is heavily forested, receives 2000mm of rain a year and is home to a range of wildlife, most of it very well hidden, whatever the time of year. The temperature decreases by one degree for every 200m climbed.
· The vegetation changes dramatically at 2,800m, from forest to moorland, and temperatures decrease from around 22°C - at the forest-moor fringe - to a relatively cool but manageable 16°C at 4000m.
· An alpine desert habitat constitutes the next 1000 metres. Here the temperature ranges between 15°C and 10°C, but can drop to 5°C during cold spells, and the area receives no more than 200mm of rain a year.
· The final zone is sometimes referred to as the arctic zone, more commonly the summit. Here the one degree to 200m ratio does not hold true: temperatures can range between -10°C and 10°C, and at night can fall into the minus twenties. Average rainfall is 100mm.
Above 4500m, the mountain is not subject to the area’s climatic patterns, and so the weather is unpredictable and fast changing. Clearly, in terms of preparation, climbing Kilimanjaro is more than a trek, involves a certain amount of risk, and requires that climbers are well equipped and fit, and that they are guided by experienced professionals (see Mount Kilimanjaro for further information).