My journey to reach the roof of Africa



DSCF0788Last weekend’s training hike was Wales’ highest mountain, Snowdon. Martine and Sophie joined me and our new (to us) caravan (we’ve had enough of tents in the UK weather!) as we spent the bank holiday long weekend in Snowdonia. Paul, Debbie and Wallace the Labrador stopped in their campervan on the same site.

Saturday morning was glorious, warm and blue skies as Paul, Debbie and I set off down the road to pick up the Snowdon ranger path a few miles away to start the long climb up to the 3560ft (1085M) summit. After the initial climb and about 4.5 miles into the hike we stopped looking down over the Llyn Ffnnon-y-gwas reservoir.  It was time for lunch and where Wallace decided that he liked the look of Paul’s ham sandwich and swiftly grabbed it and wolfed it down in the blink of an eye.

It was then on to the hard stuff as the path became rocky and steep and it zig-zagged up toward the peak where it intercepted the LLanbaeris path and mountain railway track to the summit. As we rose higher the temperature dropped and we even saw patches of snow hiding in the rocks along the ridgline. The views were spectacular looking our across both sides of this impressively high (by UK standards) mountain.  The peak was very busy but we took the obligatory photos as the summit trig point before grabbing a hot drinks and snack and donning gloves and hats.

Rested and refreshed we followed the mountain train track down towards Llanberis for a few miles before turning off westwards around Hebron station to make our way around the lower flanks of  Moel Eilio and then descending  back down to our campsite.

At just over 14.5 miles this was a long walk but whilst tired and with empty hydration bladders we kept up a good pace and all felt good the day after.  I’ve posted the climb stats and some photos of the day.


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Kentmere Horseshoe

IMG_0216“I’m glad it was cloudy so I couldn’t see how much we had to do” said one of team after our 11.6 mile walk around the peaks of Kentmere in the southern eastern corner of the Lake District.  It was a long, steady ascent up to the first peak and we were soon in the mist and getting damp.  On came the waterproofs as we stopped for an early lunch.

After sandwiches and a hot drink we began off along the ridgeline up and down the horseshoe of peaks. Visibility on top was no more than 25 meters, the ground damp and after while the path became hard to identify. Out came the maps, compass backed up by my trusty iPhone GPS app! Eventually we got ourselves fixed and back on the path as we descended to lower ground and below the cloud. We were now rewarded with stunning views of the Kentmere valley and the peaks we’d just traversed along.

We completed the circuit tired but in good spirits. On the way home Jeff and I polished off Kendal mint cake and flapjacks after our long day in the hills. I’ve posted the climb stats and some photos on facebook.

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Goals that go up and down

goalsIn September last year I set myself a number of goals around the Kilimanjaro challenge and with our departure 28 days away here’s a quick review of where I’m at…

Fundraising Target: £4,000 – Achieved. People have been so generous in their support and donations that we recently got over the £4,000 mark. So what next? Increase the target of course! I’m now going to see if we can make it up to £4,500 – that would be brilliant. There is so much work to be done and opportunity to make a difference to those affected by PSC that PSC Support will make great use of every single penny and cent donated.

Weight Target 14 Stone –More to do. I’m hovering around the 14stone 5lb mark at present. I’m doubling up my gym sessions with Kristy my personal trainer for the remaining weeks before the tip. To be honest I’m more concerned about getting my fitness as good as possible and the weight loss is really a consequence of that rather than the main goal.

Age Target 42:  On track. I’ll be 42 the day after we come off Kilimanjaro if all goes well!


Wet Wherside and Inclement Ingleborough

DSCF0766Last Sunday Jeff and I took on a Whernside and Ingleborough double whilst Paul and Debbie sunned themselves in Dubai (Envious? Me?). I think they had the better deal weather wise.

We parked up just outside the Ribbleshead viaduct and set off around 9.30 in over cast and breezy conditions. Initially heading north westerly following the train line before turning to begin the climb up to Whernside’s ridge. By this point we were in the mist and drizzle so out come the waterproofs. At this point I realise my Gortex over-trousers are at home – big time fail!  Around 11.30am we make a quick stop at the summit wind shelter where I grab a cup of tea and an energy bar and then we’re off along the ridge and then down the valley where we stop to adjust kit and snaffle down a sandwich.

It’s now windy and really raining – cold on the face as I try to reduce the presented surface area by receding well into my coat’s hood. We cross just north of Chaple-le-Dale and begin our way up towards Inglebrough.  Once over the fells and past some pretty impressive looking pot holes we climb back into the mist and up a very steep and wet path of rock steps up to the north easterly side of set of Inglebourgh upper slopes. From there it’s a short climb to the south east to reach the summit trig point and the welcome respite of the wind shelter where we finish the last of our hot drinks.

By this point my lower half is saturated and I’m cold so I’m glad to get moving again. The next hour or so we move north easterly along the upper slopes of Inglebourgh, across Southern Scales Fell and Park fell before descending down to pick up the road back to Ribblehead.

In an effort to conserve battery life I rather smartly stuck my phone into aeroplane mode forgetting that this also disables the GPS. This means that I didn’t record any climb stats for this hike but Jeff estimated our route to be around the 14miles mark. We finished the route at around 4.30pm which is fairly respectable time. If we kept that kind of pace up we should be able to nail the Yorkshire 3 peaks under the 12 hour mark – a challenge I’d like to attempt but perhaps save for after the Kili trip as I don’t seem to be getting any takers from the rest of the team just yet. Not too many more weekends on the hills as we leave for Tanzania in 30 days’ time!


Placebo Powered Kilimanjaro Medicine Bag?

Do you believe in a “pill for every ill”? I think I could be accused of being more than a little pro supplement and pharmaceuticals as I prepare for next month’s trip. I’ve done plenty of googling and  read a copy of “Altitude Illness: Prevention and Treatment” which I’ve found to be an excellent reference (and will be in my backpack up Kili)

I know I’m probably being a little over the top in what I’m taking with me to either actively use or have as a back-up. I rationalise to myself that it can’t hurt so why not take them even though I know that in the case of supplements their intended effects are not always backed up by evidenced based science. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • Altivit – a multivitamin and herb supplement designed to aid acclimatisation.
  • Glucosamineto aid cartilage production. I sometimes get knee pain so I figure I might as well try to give them a little help.
  • Garlic – to aid circulation/ coronary wellness and cholesterol issues. I’ve no history of heart problems but figure that cardio vascular performance is going to be important up Kili.  There’s also some tales that in Tibet that the local garlic soup helps acclimatisation.
  • Diamox (Acetazolamide) as a respiratory stimulant to help acclimatisation.
  • Ciprofloxacin – antibiotic useful in the treatment of diarrhoea.
  • Avomine (Promethazine) – an Antiemetic in case I get nauseous due to altitude or even stomach upset.
  • Imodium (loperamide hydrochlorid)  – Treats diarrhoea by slowing down muscle movements in the gut  so more water can be absorbed.
  • Malarone (Atovaquone Proguanil) – Anti Malarial tablets.
  • Ibuprofen – regular over the counter pain killers.

The UK’s National Health Service is designed to be “free at the point of use” but for a number of my medications I was expected to pay for a private prescription and pay for the drugs. I ended up sourcing the prescription only drugs online through~UK online pharmacy services  and    pharmacydirectGB. This was the first time I’d bought UK medicines online but I found it a slick experience, low cost and all the drugs came from regular UK dispensaries.

Let’s hope I’ve bought more than just a bag full of placebo effects with my supplements…

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“I’ve had a good idea”


During an evening training hike on Pendle Hill Jeff’s good idea was to ignore the paths for the second ascent and just go directly up the hill. It was ***** steep and had my calves were complaining as I hauled myself up. It’s pretty clear to spot on the climb stats! Not long to go so we’re getting as many hikes in as possible. I may not blog on each and every one of the weekday short hikes but you should see the climb stats get tweeted if you follow @kilimattjaro.

Anyway, next time Jeff has a “good idea” I’m going to play deaf… 😉

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Pulling the Strands Together

DNAIn the largest ever study of PSC a global team of investigators have studied the genes that contribute to why someone develops PSC. This work is of huge importance to all interested in developing new therapies for patients with PSC, and has understandably generated a lot of excitement for patients and clinicians.

First and foremost it reflects an enormous effort on the part of patients and investigators to collect DNA samples from so many people with PSC across the world.  This in its own right demonstrates how it is possible to make progress in understanding a rare disease, by multiple groups working together.  It is hoped this will continue in the future, with patient organisations such as PSC Support.

Secondly the genetic findings are striking, for identifying new immune genes that are associated with the risk of developing PSC. Collectively with prior genetic studies, this latest work contributes enormously to the slow but steady effort to piece together the puzzle of why a patient gets PSC/colitis.  If medical researchers can better understand this, then it is hoped they can better design new therapies to treat the disease more directly.  Efforts will continue to discover more genes associated with PSC, but more importantly to model experimentally how they actually contribute to PSC itself.

If you’re interested, the genetics paper can be accessed at Nature Genetics. A brand new state of the art review will also very soon appear in the medical journal The Lancet on PSC, which brings together all the latest advances in disease understanding.

We’re still some distance from proven PSC therapies or a cure but it finally feels like there is real momentum and increasing understanding of the mechanisms of this horrible disease.

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A Double Pendle To Go Please

DSCF0699Tuesday evening Jeff and I took quick jaunt up and around Pendle Hill. We were having so much fun we went up and down it twice!  As it’s only about a 25 minute drive away it’s a great evening hike as we approach the final weeks of training. Weather was a lot milder and very little wind compared to our previous Pendle hike.

We set off up the eastern flank of hill around 7pm taking the right hand stepped path. I kept my poles on my pack to really give my legs the full benefit of the climb. Our pace was good and we were both breathless and red by the time we reach the peak plateau around 25 minutes later.

A quick drink and a few moments to take in the views across Lancashire and up and over to the Yorkshire Dales and we were off on our way down again. Jeff led the way as we took a direct route down Pendle’s steep eastern slopes. Here the poles were most definitely needed for stability and well laced footwear to stop your foot banging into the boot’s toe box. Underfoot were spongy moss and fern interspaced with small sections of peat and rocks. I’ve ready the descent from Kilis peak is also very steep and full off loose scree so whilst the descent angle might be similar the materials underfoot will be very different. I took a “zig zag” approach to working down to shallow off the angle but managed to keep up a quick rate down until we picked up another assent path.

This time we climbed up a longer and slightly shallower path back to the top before another quick rest at the summit trig point. From there was back down our initial path and back to the car. A short hike in terms of distance but it was almost all either climbing or descending so good exercise for us both. I’ve posted a few photos to the Kilimattjaro Facebook page and you can see climb stats here.

With our Kilimanjaro trip now just 45 days away we’re in our peak training (pun slightly intended 😉 )period.