Matt Cutts on Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain standing at 19,340 feet, thats almost 6,000m. It is due to the extreme altitudes that Kilimanjaro is considered be hard to climb. Earlier this month Matt Cutts (the head of Web Spam at Google) climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for Charity:Water.

Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam at Google
Matt Cutts of Google Source: Flickr by Tony Young

As a bit of a tech geek I have known about this trek for a while, however to explain why Matt took on this challenge who better to explain than himself.

One thing I’ve noticed while hiking for practice is that you’re *always thinking about water*. How much do you need to carry? Do you have enough water to last until you can refill your bottles?

A lot of people take water for granted. You turn on the tap and there it is. But that’s not what it’s like for everyone. They have to think about water all the time. Walking miles to get it. Carrying it. Worrying how safe the water is.

45,000 people die each day from waterborne illnesses. When you give, 100% of all donations go directly to water projects, and each donation is marked using Google Earth when projects are complete.

Source: My Charity Water Donation Page

Can You Camp at the Summit?

Matt trained and climbed the summit together with two of his freinds. They then did something most people don’t do: they camped out the the crater at the top of Kilimanjaro. The crater is very close to the summit, so Matt actually was camping at 18,000+ ft! From what I gather he had plenty of thermals and lots of sunblock. But why does Matt tell us he did this?

… One big advantage is that you do the 6+ hour slog up to the summit during the day instead of starting at midnight. Hiking during the day is leagues better than at night, in my opinion. The other big advantage is that you get to explore the crater.

Source: Matt Cutts Blog

However, there are downsides to this approach too. Primarily the lack of oxygen, the human body isn’t designed to cope without oxygen and given it’s scarce nature at this altitude it’s easy to see why some people will just opt to leave the summit 20 minutes after getting there to start their descent. Some people at this height may suffer from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS / Altitude Sickness), and a few people will suffer unfortunately from High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Of course AMS is generally summarised by most as a headache and being sick quite a lot, however it can get much worse. When it does, as Matt explains you end up on what some guides jokingly call the “Kilimanjaro Express.”

sickness is common at high altitudes don't get caught out
The Kilimanjaro Express Source: Flickr by Jolie Odell

Can Anyone Climb Kilimanjaro?

Matt is not an “athlete” by any means, last year he did a few triathlons and has been on some long hikes this year for stamina training … but like many readers of this blog, he is just an average guy who has been trying to get fit. Doing a triathlon for charity would probably be a hard enough target for anyone, but once it’s complete you look for your next target, for Matt this was Mt. Kilimanjaro. In his post Matt poses the ultimate question of if anybody can climb Kilimanjaro … it may come as a surprise to some but the answer is “yes”, and here at cheaptents we agree with him. In essence as long as you can build up your stamina anyone can take on the climb, which is actually more of a hike as there is no rock climbing involved, unless you manage to take some obscure route of course. As Matt says, the question is not can you but do you really want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro?

If you are going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro then you may want to consider some of the tips below.

A few tips in case you decide to go:
– I’ve read lots of Kilimanjaro books, and the best one to start with is the book by Henry Stedman.
– I never walk with hiking poles, so I almost didn’t bring poles. Trust me: you should bring hiking poles. I definitely recommend the FlickLock or thumb lock poles over the “twist to unlock” poles. These poles worked very well for me. I’d opt for black handles if you can, because the gray handles got pretty grubby-looking by the end of seven days.
– Get good hiking boots and wear them all over the place for a month or two.
– Take care of your lips with SPF 15 or SPF 30 lip balm or Chap Stick. I used regular Chap Stick, which is SPF 4, but the sun is much stronger at higher altitudes. My lips were pretty sunburnt by the end of the hike.
– We flew into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO, but sometimes written as KIA) from Amsterdam on KLM. But a lot of people flew into Dar Es Salaam (DAR) via Dubai on Emirates. The people we talked to said that the Emirates flights were very nice.
– You may hear the word “Mzungu.” Our guide told us that it means “guest,” but a more literal translation would be “white person.” As far as I could tell, people are saying it with affection though.
– Hike at your own pace–ideally a slow, steady pace that you can maintain for hours. It’s Kilimanjaro, not KilimaNascar.
– Throw in a safari at Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, or the Serengeti National Park. As long as you’re in Africa, why wouldn’t you want to see stuff like this?

Source: Matt Cutts Blog

We also advise you take a look at our camping advice and climbing/hiking advice, the better prepared you are for the climb (or any climb for that matter) the better the chances of success.

If you wish to donate you can do so here: Charity:Water. Remember whatever you donate gets doubled thanks to Google.

Finally, if you are making the climb Take Care of Yourself & Your Equipment, Good Luck.

Have you climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro?
If Yes, we’d like to know about your experience.
Leave a comment or email

If you’ve enjoyed this article you may be interested in the Run Across America Interview with Abe Clark. Earlier this year Abe ran unsupported all the way across the USA to raise awareness and money for Living Water International.


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