My journey to reach the roof of Africa

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Cryogenic Cycling

Brrrrrr, I’m just thawing my fingers out with a little typing.

A glorious clear sunny autumn morning welcomed me today as I took the bike out. I guess the frost on the car windscreen should have been a clue how cold it was going to be though. Frozen hands and face acerbated by biting wind chill had me slowing down and even considering turning back home to try and find some more suitable clothing. In the end I figured that I just needed to toughen up and put up with it. Kili’s going to be way colder and today’s little ride only reinforced the need to get the correct gear for the environment. I’ll now look for a cycling hat that will go under my helmet, something to cover my face / neck and a pair of full fingers riding gloves. It’s not even October yet – what’s January going to be like?

Off into Manchester today to meet up with some of my MBA alumni friends. I’m looking forward to catching up for lunch and a few drinks with the guys. Perhaps I can talk them into joining me up Kili next year – watch out Paddy!


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Just recovering from a stinking cold for the last week so have not been out on the bike until last night when I rode over to a new member’s night for my local rambling club. The best training for walking up Kili is unsurprisingly going to be going walking. I figure joining an organised group will help me get out and about without the hassle / risk of going it alone. I’m hoping that it’ll also provide a useful source of advice when it comes to selecting kit.

Talking of kit my new favourite topic is pouring over the various UK outdoor sport retailer’s web sites. Never adverse to a little bit of retail therapy I’m going to enjoy my research and purchasing. As those who know me will confirm I can be prone to being “all the gear, no idea” so I’ll be tempering my enthusiasm as much as possible to try and minimise unnecessary purchases. There’s so much stuff to get though – here’s an example Kilimanjaro kit list from a Kili Trip organiser I’m looking at.

Oh and I’ve a lost just over a stone so far with me currently tipping the scales at a 15st 12lb (101KG) . Still a fair chunk to lose but it feels nice to see some progress (and the slightest hint of cheek bones appearing back on my face!)

Right, time to buy some boots and a woolly bobble hat…

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Martine, my wife suffers from Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), something that she once likened to “living with a time bomb in your chest and not knowing if and when it’ll go off”.

PSC is a rare disease that has no known cause, cure or treatment. It causes the bile ducts both inside and outside the liver to become scarred, narrowed and eventually blocked. As more ducts become blocked, bile becomes trapped and damages the liver, leading to cirrhosis and liver failure.

PSC Symptoms often include:

•    Chronic, debilitating fatigue

•    Severe, uncontrollable itching

•    Dangerous infections of the bile ducts

•    Pain in the body’s Upper Right Quadrant

•   Jaundice

PSC sufferers frequently have associated autoimmune diseases, most commonly inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. As well as all that they also have a significant increase in the risks of bowel, liver and pancreatic cancers. Basically, you just don’t want to get PSC.

Martine was diagnosed in 2007 with PSC when our daughter, Sophie was 15 months old. We’d never heard of PSC and within Singapore (where we lived at the time) there were no other sufferers or meaningful medical experience of the disease.  Our family went through a very difficult period where our outlook was unsure and “Googling” PSC just delivered inconsistent, depressing information and a bleak prognosis. PSC Support gave us information and support to help us all come to terms with Martine’s illness.

PSC Support is a UK charity, totally run by volunteers, that helps people affected by PSC, including sufferers themselves, and their families. PSC Support makes a real difference by providing  information and support to those affected by PSC, promoting PSC and organ donation awareness, developing effective partnerships with those involved with medical treatment and help support vitally needed research into PSC.They’re a small organisation that totaly “punches above its weight”.

We know at first hand the how frightening and isolating a diagnosis of PSC is for both the sufferer, their family and friends and the difficulty associated with having an uncertain future. That’s why Martine and I both volunteer for PSC Support and why I’m going to use my Kilimanjaro climb to raise awareness and funds for PSC Support. As a cause it simply couldn’t get any more personal for my family and I.

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Doctors in the Death Zone

I just caught a replay of BBC’s 2007 Horizon program “Doctors in the Death Zone” which followed a group of British intensive care clinicians researching the effects of hypoxia on the human body with a view to gaining new insight to help critically ill patients. Everest makes a pretty cool laboratory! If you’re quick and in the uk you can still catch the second part of the program on iPlayer.  The team is looking to revisit Everest in 2013 to do further research – more details on their web site

They said that 1 in 15 attempts to summit Everest result in a climber’s death and that often was associated to the affects of hypoxia. It was eye opening to see the affects of altitude and reduced oxygen on some of the climbers. Everest is over 29,000ft but even on Kilimanjaro’s slightly more modest 19,340ft slopes the affects of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is apparently still felt by most climbers during their ascent. I’ll be doing more reading on this I think!


42, 14, and 4 – I Have Numerous Goals

Hotel Spa
Today Martine, my wife is representing PSC Support at a British Liver Trust event in Northamptonshire. Whilst she’s “working” at the BLT event I’m in our hotel room watching the Spa Belgium F1 GP qualifying on my iPad (gotta love Sky’s F1 coverage and their Sky Go mobile viewing BTW) and been researching online to find somewhere to go for a ride. I’ve also been thinking about my goals and motivations to climb Kili.

Tick Tock…
I haven’t booked the climb yet but my current thinking is to go in Sept ’13 by which time I’ll be 42. September next year gives me 12 months to get fit, prepare and fundraise along with the fact that Sept is still in the more desirable “dry season” in Tanzania. One of my motivations for the climb is certainly a desire for a new “project” to aim at and focus on. I do sometimes miss some of the recreational activities I used to do like my flying or skydiving but I found they didn’t balance with family life or studying for my MBA. With my studies completed in ’11 I think there might be some space for a little adventurous project like this. I know I’m not getting any younger so why not just crack on and do it now? I joked to Martine that doing “Kili” would be cheaper than buying a Porsche or many other stereotypical “mid life crisis” acts!

Lightening The Load
To paraphrase a joke from the English comedian Roy “chubby” brown: “I’m not fat; I just have a problem with my feet. I can’t keep them out of the pie shop”. Starting from a weight of around 17 Stone (108 KG) I have begun watching what I eat / drink as well as getting into some regular exercises as I’m going to need to lose some weight . I’m targeting myself to get down to 14 Stone ( 89 KG) for the climb. It would be nice to look in a mirror and feel a bit more positive about my body shape. Even at 14 stone weight my body mass index would be “overweight” but considerably more favourable that my current “obese” 😦

Cashing in
So whilst I clearly have some personal reasons to attempt Kilimanjaro I also see it at a chance to draw awareness and raise fund in support of those, such as Martine who suffer from Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. PSC Support, the UK charity that helps anyone affected by PSC and raises money for research is a small, volunteer based organisation that has a big job to do. If I can help pull together £4K from my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, family or blog  vistitors then we can all make a tangible, positive difference to the work and research PSC Support does. There is a donate page on this site if you’d like to help, thanks.

Right, Jenson Button of McLaren has just got pole for tomorrow’s race so I’m happy chap and now off for a ride. Bye for now.