My journey to reach the roof of Africa


A windy walk up Pendle Hill

883988_10151522008539421_1007958666_oA sunny but cold Good Friday holiday had us stepping out to tackle Pendle Hill. It’s not a particularly high hike at 557 metres (1,827 ft) but it does offer a steep ascent when approaching in an anti-clockwise route from the village of Barley to the east. Although it’s less than 20 miles away from home it’s the first time I’ve been in this area of Lancashire.

Jeff and I car shared and met up with Paul, Debbie and their energetic 1 year old Labrador Wallace. A quick cup of tea from the Barley Café set us all up nicely before we headed off through the village toward the hill. The first mile of the walk is almost flat as you follow a stream through some farmland up towards the base of the hill. From there we took the right hand path to the summit which consists of very steep steps which as we rose became more and more snow covered.  The wind really picked up of the final 100 meters of ascent, it was biting cold.  Once on the top we sheltered behind a stone wall to have an early lunch and grab a drink.

Visibility was superb and we had stunning views over towards Yorkshire where could clearly make out our previously walked Pen-Y-Ghent and Ingleborough mountains in the dales.  Once rested it was good to get moving again and warm up as we climbed back over the wall and off to the trig point at the summit plateau’s highest point for quick team photo opportunity.

My navigation was a little off as we began the decent and I missed our planned path and cut the corner to bring us down off the hill on a shorter route. Note to self – don’t assume, take a compass bearing to check! Unfortunately the ground was pretty boggy in places as we got lower down and one of us slipped and took a knock to their ankle. 2 ibuprofen and using walking poles for stability seem to help and we all took a gentle pace down onto firm ground. We followed a hard surface track alongside lower Ogden Reservoir back into Barley village where we finished as we started with a drink from the café.

I’ve posted some climb stats and facebook photos. All in all a short walk but with a good steep accent to help our training. This could be another candidate for a weekday evening walk once we get sunlight later into the day as the summer approaches.


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Ingleborough in the snow

DSCF0474Yesterday the team and I tackled Ingleborough, Yorkshire’s 2nd highest mountain.  We met up in Horton in Ribblesdale , got kitted up and set off at around 10.30am.  We were taking a direct ascent route to the summit and would re-trace our steps back down. Jeff had walked most of the route the previous week so armed with his map and prior knowledge he led the way.

It was cloudy and cold in the lowland area but as we began to climb we soon got into light rain and reduce visibility. The ground was very wet and some snow still around which combined with all the limestone poking out around the place slowed progress in areas. We stop for a lunch break but once stationary soon began to feel the cold so soon packed up and got moving onwards and upwards for the summit.

As we climbed higher the rain turned to snow and we entered cloud which dramatically reduced visibility. This is where Jeff’s previous trip up Ingleborough paid off as he led us on paths around some of the more arduous ground. The paths steepened and we were now walking on quite deep snow. Out came the walking poles to help get us better purchase and stability. I found this part of the walk the most challenging as was very slippery walking on compacted snow as my boot tread soon clogged up.  Eventually after some considerable effort and what felt like an age we made it on the summit plateau where we marked a large rock at the top of the path just in case we struggled to find our way down in the poor visibility.

Hot drinks, snacks and a few quick photos at the top before we all turned tail and set off back down.  The initial decent on a snowy track certainly focused the mind. By this time there was quite a few walkers coming up and down the narrow path and when added to the poor vis, snow and steep drop we all took it nice and slow using our poles.   As we began to get lower the cloud base rose and we started to see the path ahead to re-trace our route. It seems a lot longer walk on the return for some reason but we pressed on to get back to our starting point. You can see the walk’s stats and map here.

This was my first outing wearing new Berghaus Mera Peak jacket and PacLite Shell overtrousers both of which worked great for me. I found them light, breathable and kept me totally dry. My £2.99 fleece gloves where less of success as once damp they really didn’t keep my fingers warm. I’m still researching what gloves to buy – Jeff had some nice waterproof breathable ones with a removable liner which looked the part. I’m also going to rent some mountaineering mittens for the Kili climb as I’ve read they’re best for the extreme cold of the summit attempt.

A challenging but enjoyable walk and good training for us all. 3 months to go!

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PSC Research and Support

QEH_pscLast Saturday I was volunteering at a PSC Support meeting at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  These face to face meetings allow people affected by PSC who often feel isolated and their condition and symptoms misunderstood to meet with others in the same situation. Knowing that they’re not alone can have the most remarkable positive effect on PSC suffers and their families. I remember when Martine went to her first meeting and she came back with a far more positive outlook after talking with someone who had gone through a liver transplant after having PSC and was doing really well.

The other part of these meetings is bringing together medical experts and PSC researchers to share their knowledge and deliver updates on their work. This time we had presentations around Liver transplantation in PSC and new scanning techniques which could dramatically improve Liver diagnostics and reduce the time of clinical trials. A lively Q&A session followed – and this was very welcome because you typically don’t get that kind of time and access to a consultant when attending your regular clinic appointment.

We also received an update on medical research on PSC and this was very exciting. There’s genetic profiling research due to be published later this year which should identify many of the genes associated with PSC – in fact it may even suggest that PSC is a cluster of similar but slightly genetically different conditions.  That kind of insight can really help clinical research into possible therapies. Another enticing research strand in the UK is looking at the autoimmune nature of PSC and seeing if existing drugs can be targeted to halt and even potentially reverse the effects of PSC. Of course all that takes time and money and that’s one reason that I’m fundraising for PSC Support – to enable them to make the research grant contributions that help medical science move closer to understanding the mechanism of PSC and to find effective therapies.

Events like last week both inspire me when I hear the various “PSC’ers” stories and give me hope when I see the research direction and energy.


Time to Get Personal

I recently signed up with a personal trainer at the gym. Kristy’s friendly persona belies her ability to push you to the edge in your training. I thought that the initial workout the gym gave me at sign up was tough but doable but now my work outs are at a whole higher level (as are the post work out aches sometimes!) Kristy’s going to work with me for the 3 months running up to the climb to help me build up both my cardiovascular and endurance fitness. I’m doing 1 hour of personal training a week with her and each session is varied so it doesn’t feel monotonous and is tailored to my goal of being ready for Kili by June. On top of that I’m trying to get in at least two other exercise sessions per week either at the gym, hotel if I’m traveling or out for a hike at the weekend.

So far so good, my lower body seems a little better than upper but even after just a few sessions I can already notice the difference in my fitness. The “plank” abdominal exercise that I couldn’t even do a few weeks ago are now achievable to hold a short time (but they’re still really tough!). I’ve taken a “before” body shot photo but I won’t subject the world to that until closer to the climb when I intend to have something better to compare it to! It’ll be interesting to see any difference. This Friday I’m going to try a “V-Cycle” spinning class which is an instructor led high energy exercise cycling which was recommended to me to help with my cardio and of course legs.

My weight loss has certainly slowed down but I am continuing to make progress but now each and every pound of weight loss is worked for. This morning I weighed in at 15st 4lb (97KG).

With only 3 months to go I need to get the best out my Kilimanjaro preparations and having a personal trainer is certainly helping me work towards that.

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Pen-y-gent – Take 1

IMG_0114Jeff and I just got back from hiking up Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s one of the peaks from the “Yorkshire 3 peaks challenge”.  Just a two man team today as Paul and Debbie couldn’t make it as they’re on honeymoon in the Caribbean (good enough excuse I suppose) – congratulations to them both! All four of us will be doing Pen-y-ghent on the 20th of April as a night hike. This is to help up get used to our night gear, in my case my Petzll Tikka Plus 2 head torch. We’ll be doing the final ascent of Kili at night so it makes sense to have a practice at handing ourselves whilst walking in the dark.

It was a relatively short hike at < 7 miles but we worked hard on the first half as we ascended up the fell’s “steep” side as you can see from the climb stats. Conditions were overcast, still and pretty cold to start but the work rate of getting up the southern slope soon had us loosing layers as we warmed up. I took a totally loaded up pack with all the daytime gear I’d expect to have on Kili +3 Litres of fluids. Overkill for what this day walk demanded but good training – no point lightening the load only to try to carry more on Kili. In fact I might try to overload my bag for UK training walks so my Kili pack is lighter – train hard, fight easy and all that….

I took my Fuji X10 camera out on the walk. Martine bought me this for Christmas after researching suitable cameras for my Kilimanjaro climb. It’s compact but with a great lens (wide angle –> tele-photo zoom) and in the right hands can take some nice shots. I’m by no means camera savvy so I’ve been playing with some of its extensive features, settings and modes. I’ve posted a photo album from the day on my Kilimanjaro facebook page.

Post walk celebrations were a mug of tea and toasted tea cake in the Pen-y-ghent café before the 70 mile drive home.