As the world’s largest free standing mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro is a massive geographical structure, so big in fact, that it essentially creates its own weather – and who’s going to argue? Due to its proximity to the equator, Kilimanjaro does not experience wide temperature changes from season to season, instead, the temperatures on the mountain are determined more by altitude and time of day – they say it’s like travelling from the equator to the North Pole… so strap in, wrap up (some of the time) Rich & Jason!
Without going into too much detail, and therefore turning this blog into an A-Level Geography report, the reason the weather varies is because…(deep breath…) strong winds travel across the oceans, drawing moisture up along the way. Eventually they collide with the mountain, and then the winds are pushed upwards as they hit the slopes. The fall in temperature and the atmosphere pressure leads to snow and rain… as my old Geography teacher used to say: “Simple as that, okay?”
From bottom to top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the guys will pass through five different ecosystems, each presenting its own conditions and challenges – some tougher than others. Here’s a bit of detail on the different stages they’ll experience:
Bushland (2,600 to 6,000′): Rich and Jason can expect temperatures of between 25°C and 28°C with high humidity. Jason will be relieved to know that crops and grasslands have replaced the natural bush and lowland forest, and large wild animals are few and far between.
Rainforest (6,000 – 9,200’): The forest receives approximately 6 feet of rain annually supporting a wide variety of plants and wildlife… including those that have come up from the Bushland (sorry Jason!). This will give the guys a rest from the high humidity at this stage, however temperatures will drop very low at night.
Heath and Moorlands (9,200′ – 13,200′): Mist and fog cling to the forest at the lower edge of this zone, but soon the land opens out into a clear and cool landscape of heather and other plants characteristic of heath.
Alpine Desert (13,200′ – 16,000′): This is when it gets real. The alpine desert receives very little water, and correspondingly, very little vegetation exists here. These days will be like waking up Barbados then laying to rest in the Antarctic, with temperatures ranging from 35°C to below freezing. Trekking up a steep hill, with heavy baggage, throughout the daytime heat will be a joy here, I imagine.
Arctic (16,000’+): The final straight. Characterised by ice and rock, there is no plant or animal life at this altitude and it really separates the weak from the chaff. Sheer will and determination comes into play here; just at the other side of the pain is the target. Nights are extremely cold and the un-buffered African sun in the day time is tremendously powerful. Just to add to the fun, oxygen levels are half that of ground level at this point…
On the summit of Kilimanjaro, taking into account the altitude and potential wind chill factor, temperatures could reach a bone rattling -30°C, in extreme cases.
The conditions throughout Kilimanjaro will be new for both Jason and even Rambo Rich. Much like a penalty shootout in the World Cup Final, you can do as much preparation as you like, but it’s impossible to recreate the one-off moment when it’s time to perform. Will Rich and Jason keep their focus, beat the mountain and reach the summit? We don’t have to wait much longer to find out – just a month until the big departure, which means you’ve still got a month to donate!
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The unique Senecio trees found on Heath sections of Mount Kilimanjaro.