1. What is the best time of year to go?
All of our Kilimanjaro Climbs avoid the two rainy seasons in Tanzania, the "long rains" in April and May and the "short rains" from late October through November. It is important to understand however that weather on Kilimanjaro is as changeable and unpredictable as mountain weather all over the world is. Some light rain is virtually constant in the lower sections of the mountain throughout the year. But it might dry out on a given day or week. And the upper reaches of the mountain, which are quite arid, can see passing rain or snow storms at any time of year.
2. Which trip dates are during the warmer season?
Even though it is only about three degrees south of the Equator, Northern Tanzania has surprisingly variable temperatures through different times of the year. July and August are generally referred to as "winter" by the locals and it is the coolest time of the year in Nairobi and Arusha. Nighttime lows are typically about 48°F and daytime highs might only be in the high 60's or 70's. You are probably thinking these sound like very pleasant temperatures, and you are right. We tell people "if you leave the United States in the summer months and travel to East Africa you are going to a cooler climate". This is surprising to most people, but very true. Safari and the time you spend in Arusha during these months can be wonderful in terms of weather - never as hot and steamy as you probably imagine tropical Africa to be. Similarly, if you are on a trip during our winter, you will find the weather to be as much influenced by altitude as latitude. It is warmer in December or February, but it is still not extremely humid or hot.
The above description is for the lower elevations. It gets very different on the upper reaches of the mountain. Talk to anyone who has climbed Kilimanjaro at any time of the year, and they will probably comment about how cold they got on summit day. This has more to do with the mild hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and the exertion that climbers experience, than it has to do with temperatures, or even wind. When you go to 19,000, anywhere on the earth, at any time of year, you need to have very efficient insulation and be prepared to conserve you body's energy effectively. There is little difference in the degree of "warm" than can be experienced on a summit day on Kilimanjaro at any given time of year.
3. Which dates generally have the most people signed up and why?
The most popular months on Kilimanjaro are July and August, with December running a close third. Alpine Ascents trips tend to fill at any time of year they are run, but you will see fewer people from other groups in months other than August or December.
4. What is the average number of climbers?
Most trips run with between 12 and 15 people - though we will run smaller groups if a certain date has less sign ups.
5. The number of people per tent?
We currently use three-person tents on our Kilimanjaro program. Two climbers per tent.
6. Is there a community tent for eating/gathering?
Yes, we have a large dining tent and tables and chairs that are used at all camps. (OK, sometimes we forgo the table and chairs at high camp) These are especially nice if it happens to rain. But often people will go inside to get their food and then eat outdoors in beautiful evening light. We also provide toilet tents with commodes.
7. Approximately how much weight will climbers carry?
You will need a medium sized backpack (say 2500 to 3500 cubic inches) that can hold your layers of clothing for changing temperatures and activity levels through the day. One thing that many people do not expect is the porters who carry your large bags will probably move slower that you do. It is not uncommon to get to camp as the afternoon and evening temperatures cool off, ahead of the porters, but with lots of photographs to be taken and relaxing to be done. You need to be prepared to be inactive through part of each day as well as to hike. Most people carry packs that weigh about 20 pounds. You could pare this down to perhaps 15 if you were careful, but with a lot of camera equipment, or other personal preference type items, it might be more.
8. Do American guides take part in the actual climb all the way to the summit? If not at what point do they stop and why is this?
We always plan to go to Uhuru, the true summit of Kilimanjaro at 19,340'. A medical emergency that would require a lead guide's attention rather than an African guide's would be the only reason that they would not but this has not happened to date.
9. Do you have assistant guides to take someone back down should they become ill upon ascent and require descent? And what is the client to guide ratio?
We normally take 1-2 lead or "chief" African guides, plus 3 assistant African guides, for a total of five guides, including our guide, on a typical summit attempt. All of these men are well-known to us and we have done many successful summits together. Obviously this does not leave options for an unlimited number of turn - arounds during the summit attempt, but we have always been able to get people who really need to descent headed in the right direction, very quickly, and under excellent care and supervision. This is in addition to our staff of lesser assistant guides, porters, cooks, cooks' helpers - a staff of 50+ on full expeditions.
10. Could you give an example of a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner on the mountain?
Re-supply during our trip allows us to provide lots of fresh and whole grain cooked foods. We have the best chefs and food on the mountain, hands down.
Talk to Safari Expert if you have any question about your travel to Tanzania. Next African Safaris will be happy to assist you.