To raise awareness of the global water crisis, MTV recently sent an assortment of celebrities (including Jessica Biel, Santigold, Emile Hirsch, Lupe Fiasco, and Kenna) to the 19,341-foot-tall peak of Mount Kilimanjaro for the upcoming doc Summit on the Summit, airing March 14. Also along for the trip was Transformers 2’s Isabel Lucas, who (spoiler!) survived and attended last Thursday’s Calvin Klein womenswear show. She spoke with Vulture there about the trek, getting altitude sickness, and sharing a tent with first-time camper Santigold.
So what was it like? In the trailer you all look like you’re half dead.
It was definitely very physically challenging. We climbed with a group of 45; we were making a documentary. It was to raise awareness for the global clean-water crisis, and we had water experts come with us, and we’d have little summits and meetings each night — it was a seven-day trek — and became very educated and informed about the problem. The documentary is being aired on March 14 on MTV.
How grueling was it?
It was the most challenging thing, physically, that I’ve done. All of us got altitude sickness, or felt the effects of it, whether it was nausea or headaches or loss of consciousness, even. 19,341 feet is really high, and a lot of us hadn’t experienced that sort of altitude, and you don’t know how your body is going to react. I actually didn’t feel the effects until we were on the summit, and then when we were descending, I got quite sick. We had an amazing group of people and they were very helpful and supportive. It was really hard, though. Really.
Did you make friends with any of the other climbers?
We’ll all probably be friends for a long time; it was a great bonding experience. My tent buddy, specifically — I bonded really well with her. Her name is Santi White. She’s an artist, singer-songwriter, Santigold.
Oh, right. She lives here in New York.
Yeah. I’m seeing her tonight. And, um, Lupe Fiasco. Emile Hirsch was already a really good friend of mine, I actually invited him to come along.
When you did the climb, there was some extreme weather. How did you bathe and eat?
We camped for eight days. I’ve camped a lot because I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia. But Santigold hadn’t camped once in her life, and she was amazing, very adaptable for someone who hadn’t camped before. There were no showers — we used lots of different clean wipes. We were fortunate, though. I felt like it was quite a luxurious way of camping, because I’m used to setting up my own tents and we were really fortunate to have porters with us who were like super-humans, who carried really heavy weights. And for them it’s a great job, you know, in Tanzania.
How cold was it?
It was below zero. And there was a snow blizzard when we got to the summit, and it was really freezing. [Laughs.] Yeah, it was really, really, really cold. And about every hour we’d stop because my feet were becoming quite numb. They would rub my feet and do what one does when they’re getting frostbitten. [Laughs.]
There were 45 people on this climb. Did they all have to stop and rub their feet?
Yeah, but there were some of us who might not have the same sort of good circulation, and, uh, I had that problem. But everyone was freezing.
You know, one of the special things that I will mention because it is special [is that] I think we’re the biggest group to all have summited Mount Kilimanjaro together. Fifty percent of the people that climb actually make the summit, and our whole group, all 45 of us, made it.