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Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to Solve the Water Crisis

The Summit on the Summit crew conquers Kilimanjaro. (Photo courtesy of Chase Jarvis)

Written by Rachel Torgerson, editorial intern

Melissa Arnot is a professional mountain climber, gracing the peaks of the most prestigious mountains (nabbing the women’s world record for her Everest ascent) and for two years in a row, she’s led celeb do-gooders up the slopes of Kilimanjaro with Summit on the Summit to raise awareness (and funds, naturally) for the Matt Damon-founded charity,, and the clean water crisis.

“There are more people in the world who can access a mobile phone than a toilet, says Chevenee Reavis, fellow Kili-climber and Director of Strategic Initiatives for  “It’s really an incredibly large challenge, but one that we actually have solutions for. We know how to deliver safe water and sanitation—it’s about raising awareness and beginning a movement around the cause.”

Among the celebs to face the climb this year were Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds) and Beau Garrett (Tron: Legacy). “This group had never camped, never been without shower water. Then you add the altitude—19,340 feet is higher than anyone had been. At the end, everyone summited Kilimanjaro; a testament to the passion these people have for educating themselves and other people,” says Arnot.

Want to scale the slopes, too? We asked Arnot how to train and what to expect on the mountainside.

How should you train to climb a mountain like Kilimanjaro?

If you’re going to train for a specific objective, one thing is doing the research. How heavy will your pack be? What length of days should you expect? And then do training to mimic the activity: hiking with a pack, building endurance and core strength, working on a stair climber.

How many calories do you burn climbing?

If you’re going to spend a full day climbing or hiking, everybody’s probably burning well over 3,000 calories a day. It’s five-plus hours of walking and cardiovascular fitness a day.

How can you plan for a hiking trip?

If you’ve never done any climbing, don’t be intimidated. Get access to great guide services and learn skills from professionals—they’ll set up all the ropes and make sure you’re safe and efficient. They’ll let you know how to pack, how to dress and manage at every break so you can go all day long.

What is a day in the life of conquering Kilimanjaro?

On Kili, days start at 6 a.m. Support staff and porters wake the team up with hot tea. You have breakfast, then you walk, depending on the terrain, and take little breaks to eat, drink, take pictures and apply sunscreen. Then you walk again, take a lunch break, and people are in bed by 7 or 8 p.m. You want to eat lots of heavy carbohydrates, which are easier to digest at high altitudes.

How do you train when you’re not climbing?

Training is a huge part of my life. I spend a lot of time hiking up ski areas with my pack, which mimics what I do. The key is to hike up and down with the same weight because your muscles really get a lot of fatigue heading downhill, too. I also do yoga to loosen up, stretch out and keep my body balanced and healthy.

What are you up to next?

I’m headed back over to Everest soon. I’m starting a non-profit called The Juniper Fund, which helps to raise funds and awareness for mountain workers, getting them rescue insurance and life insurance.

For more on how you can get involved with the cause, visit  

Now you tell US: Have you gotten fit for a cause?