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.


1 Comment

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!

Leave a comment

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.

1 Comment

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.

Leave a comment

Our First Team Walk

teamLast Sunday we were on our 1st training walk where all four of our team have all been together. We hooked up with my local Ramblers group to go on an organised walk over the fells around Staveley in the Lake District. Jeff and I met Paul and Debs at Wills Café for a pre-hike drink (and sausage sandwich in Paul’s case) and headed off around 10.15am for our hike.  The weather was glorious and you can see our route and stats here.

Things I learned on this hike:

  • It’s bloody difficult to get 3L of fluid into my 3L hydration bladder once it’s installed in my pack. Next time I’m going to fill it first then install it. I also used some electrolyte tablets in the water – don’t know if they had much effect but as we’re told their good practice for Kili I figured I might as well get used to them.
  • My new Burghaus Choktoi Fleece is very warm and was soon ditched for a thin micro-fleece as the weather was mild. It should be just the ticket on a chilly Kilimanjaro though so I’m still happy with the purchase (got a killer price too from Go Outdoors’ price beat guarantee )
  • Carry some anti-inflammatory painkillers – one of our team twisted their knee and whilst we did have a bandage to strap it up none of us had any painkillers – a rookie mistake and already fixed by spending 79p in the local convenience store on the way back to the car.
  • I’m fitter but not there yet – on some of the extended uphill sections I broke into a heavy sweat but had no problem keeping up the pace. Nor did I have post hike aches the day after.
  • There’s a lovely  craft brewery with bar and restaurant in Staveley – pity I was driving and so passed on having a beer.

There are some photos from the walk on my Kilimattjaro facebook page. All in all a great walk and I’m looking forward to getting out with the team again soon. In the meantime I’m still getting in the gym about 3 times a week to work on my fitness.

Leave a comment

Donating Life

FTHPSC is unpredictable. Every sufferer experiences different symptoms which progress at different rates, some rapidly, some more slowly. In progressed cases Liver transplantation can often be their last chance.

Here in the UK there was a recent media campaign “from the heart”  which promoted organ donation.  As part of that campaign there were two videos about PSC suffers both of whose families happen to have also been supported by my chosen charity PSC Support. Take a moment to hear their stories – they’re both an inspiration and motivation to me.

Craig – a young family man who recently had a liver transplant.

Jade – a young women whose PSC has progressed to the point where she needs a new liver. Jade’s father was an organ donor after his unexpected death so her family has a unique perspective of both sides the subject.

Would you accept a donated organ if your life depend on it, or if a family member’s did? I suspect the vast majority of us would say yes –  I would! Signing up to be an organ donor doesn’t mean you any more likely to die. In fact you’re more likely to need a donor organ than to donate one.

When Martine was diagnosed with PSC and I began to educate myself about the condition I made sure I signed up to be an organ donor in the event of my death.  I’ve met many people who have gone through a liver transplant and the wonderful gift it is for them and their loved ones. Please consider registering to be an organ donor too and make your wishes known to your family.


Digging Some Retail Therapy

pocket_trowelI’m spending an inordinate amount of time online reading gear reviews and researching potential kit for Kilimanjaro.  I’m currently lusting after Berghaus’ Men’s Ramche 850 Fill Hydrodown Jacket as its very light and uses water resistant down filling (most down jackets don’t cope well with damp and quickly lose their insolative “loft”). I think this jacket would be just the job for summit night but I’m still shopping around trying to find a good deal as it isn’t cheap!  I’m also hankering after a thick fleece and waterproof shell jacket – possible a “3 in 1” style where they zip into each other. Apart from that I’ll need some base layers (probably Merino wool based to they don’t get stinky) and some head wear (sunhat and extreme cold mountain hat or balaclava). But whilst I continue my research and quest for killer discounts my gear pile is still growing. Whilst over in the USA last month on business I managed to fit in an evening tour of the local REI store and picked up the following:

Hydration –  MSR Alpine 1L Water Bottle as it had stellar reviews in a recent UK magazine. I’m currently planning to use this as a hot water bottle at night and during the day to carry an energy drink to complement the water / electrolyte mix in my Osprey 3L hydration bladder and insulated hose.

Sleeping –   A Reactor Extreme Thermolite Liner for the sleeping bag. I plan to rent a sleeping bag from my climb operator as a good down bag that is rated to -10 / -20deg c is very expensive and I’d be unlikely to need it after the trip. Buying a liner give me both additional warmth and the peace of mind that I’m not touching much of a potentially unclean (or at least pre-used) bag. I also picked up a tiny COCOON Air-Core Pillow Ultralight inflatable pillow. I’ve since read some poor reviews for the pillow so I might end up resting my head on my jacket!

Personal Hygiene –  Multiple packs of Fresh Bath body wipes as I’ll be shower free for 8 days on the mountain (urgh) so these should help to keep my bits and bobs clean.  And for when nature calls whilst on the trail a delightful lightweight pocket trowel.


Should I Feel Good About Being Overweight?

I’m feeling happy this morning. With myBMI weight now dropped to around 15.5 stone (98 KG) my BMI has come down just to the “overweight” upper threshold. When I started out on my Killimattjaro project I was over 17.5 stone (111KG) which was clinically Obese – so it’s nice to see some progress. That said in reality nobody should be content to be overweight and I do want to get more weight off before June. With my gym work and being reasonably disciplined in my diet I’m sure there are more gains (losses?) to be had.


My Kilimanjaro Gym Regime

gymMartine and I joined our local Virgin Active health club last weekend. For Martine exercise is one way that can help reduce the effects of the PSC related fatigue she suffers with. For me it’s about improving my cardio vascular fitness and general stamina to help me on Kili.

I had my induction consultation on Tuesday and they listened to my goals and came up with the following workout:

Warm Up

Rowing Machine – Moderate Pace, 5 Min

Cardio Vascular

Treadmill – Intervals (2min@ 5.5kph, 1min @10Kkh) for  12min total

Vario Cross Trainer – Intervals (2min @L4, 1min @L7)@ 90+ RPM for 12 mins total

Bike – Intervals (2 mins @4, 1 min @ L6) @ 80+ RPM for 12 mins total


Strength and Conditioning

Chest Press (2 x 12 reps) 20KG

Lat Pull Down (2 x 12 reps) 30KG

Leg Press (2 x 12 reps) 50KG

Lower Back Extensions (2 x 10 reps) 0.5KG

Plank (abdominal) 4 x 30 secs

I’ve since completed two sessions and been stretched but OK with most of the exercise except the back extensions and “plank”. My core and back are clearly not my strongest point – yet.  One of my sponsors commented on my training “the more you put in…” and every time I’m running out of steam or feeling the burn I’m reminding myself of that. Better to be hurting in the gym a little than failing to get up Kili due to a lack of preparation.