Kilimattjaro

My journey to reach the roof of Africa


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Kilimanjaro Equipment Review

During the planning and preparations for my Kilimanjaro trip I was obsessed with gear and equipment.  I’m sure any would be / in preparation Kili climber will figure out their waterproof / cold weather gear so here’s a summary of a few other items that worked particularly well for me and some that I found less useful..

I liked…

airlok_456_456autoAlpkit AirLok Dry Bags.  On our 1st day of hiking we had rain on the lower slopes – these kept all my gear bone dry. I had a selection of sizes and found them really useful for keeping stuff organised in my back bag and porter duffel – just the job when you’re scrambling around with limited time to pack up and strike camp in a morning.  I’m still using them today when I travel.  Low prices and good service from Alpkit make these one of the best gear buys of my trip.

meco_120_ls_tee_mayaRab MeCo Base Layers.  Comfortable, light weight and stink free – just the job. I had a T-shirt, long sleeve, Boxers and full length pants.

nailbrush

Nail Brush. Kili’s dust gets everywhere – give yourself a fighting chance of keeping your hands clean for meals. Take something to scrape the dirt from under your finger nails too!

KJ311_Rain-Hat_FRONT-RIGHT-374x374Seal Skinz Trail Hat. Kept the sun and rain off me nicely on the lower slopes of Kili. Lightweight and relatively low cost to the alternatives I looked at. Not the most glamorous item I ever wore though – still, screw fashion – stay dry / avoid sun burn!

magic coin towels

Magic Coin Disposable Pock Towels. Cheap as chips, takes up very little space and an absolute god send. A new flannel for every bowl of washing water!  Inexpensive cleanliness…

socksHeat Holders Socks. Warm feet at night – ‘nuff said.

STS_AREACTEX-TR-Thermolite-Reactor-Extreme-308x308

Thermolite Reactor Extreme Sleeping Bag Liner. I rented a sleeping back from my climb company so I wanted to ensure I had a liner for extra warms / cleanliness. As it happens the sleeping bags provided were clean and warm but this lightweight / low pack volume liner ensured I was toasty every night on Kili.

x10Fuji X10 Camera  (superseded by the X20). Compact, good battery life (took 2, only needed 1), great lens. I’m no photography expert so my lovely wife who knows about these things choose the Fuji for me, particularly because of the lens range from macro to semi-wide angle. Loads of features yet idiot (me) proof.  You’ve got to capture the trip, right?  Cool retro styling. A top gadget.
A81100261212Power Monkey Extreme Solar Charger / Battery.  Kept my iPhone and iPad charged for the whole trip. I used a GPS app to track my climb. Didn’t manage to make any calls but did get the odd patch of cell phone coverage to send and receive SMS. Easy to use and robustly built but a little heavy because of the larger battery capacity– you might find lighter versions if you just want to charge a phone

I was less impressed with or didn’t use…

altivitAlti-Vit Vitamin supplements.  I didn’t feel that these made a difference for me as I still felt the effects of altitude (headache, nausea) most days. Your millage may vary of course.
headpadsHi-Gear Heat Pads – didn’t feel too warm on summit night, maybe due to lower oxygen levels (catalyst for heating process). Had to take gloves off to open / activate – so your hands get colder  just when you’re at the point of already needing to warm them up. May work better at lower altitudes, haven’t tested.

STS_ASTOOL-Nylon-Pocket-TrowelPocket Trowel- Reinforced Nylon. I didn’t need to poop en-route during the day’s hikes so this never got used. I’m not sure it would have been robust enough to dig into Kili’s slopes though.

CanteneNalgene Wide-Mouth Canteen – This was going to be my “pee bottle” for when I didn’t want to leave the warmth of my sleeping bag at night. Once on the mountain I decided  that  didn’t feel like risking any in-bed spills or leaks so I just got up when nature called (which can be very quickly when you’re just started taking Diamox!). Seemed like a perfectly functional and robust flat-pack bottle – I just didn’t need to use it in the end.


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Time to Go

Right today’s the day then. We leave this afternoon for Istanbul and then onwards to Tanzania arriving early in  morning Sunday. We begin our climb on Monday taking an 8 day Rongai route – you’ll be able to keep an eye on how we’re doing via the climb tracker. I’m taking my iPad / iPhone but I don’t know if I’ll be able to blog during the trip. Keep an eye on Twitter though as I might get an odd update out on that.

Didn’t get chance to write up on my packing kit list but I’ll certainly review what worked / what was superfluous once I get back. Finally, thanks to everyone who’s supported the project and donated to PSC Support. I’m off to fly my PSC Support flag at 19,340ft next week – wish me luck. Thanks!


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Talking To Myself

motivationletterJust a few days before we leave and so as you might expect the trip and the challenge ahead is never far from my thoughts. I feel good about the preparations and training I’ve done – my fitness is better than it’s been for many years and my weight is significantly lower than a year ago. I’ve also obsessively read and research anything I can find on climbing Kilimanjaro, trekking gear, hiking skills and high altitude physiology /medicine. I’m both exited (like a kid waiting for Christmas type excited) yet wondering what lies ahead. I know it’s likely to be tough in places and it’s the personal challenge to see what I can do that played a part in my first thinking about “doing Kili”.

Yesterday the team, our families and I did a local short walk and then shared a meal and drinks in the evening sun. It was great for us all to spend some time relaxing and talking about the trip ahead of us. Today I’m off for another IHE session and tomorrow is my last training session in the gym. I’m then into resting until we depart on Friday – the sports performance professional’s call this “tapering” – I call it taking it easy and eating loads of carbs before the climb 😉

The other aspect of my Kilimanajaro challenge was of course to raise funds and awareness for PSC Support. I’ve been delighted, amazed and humbled at people’s good will and generous donations – so much that I have had to rise the fund raising target couple of times. Jeff in our team has also been fund raising too and between us we’ve already raised in excess of £6,000 which is absolutely fantastic. Thanks to everyone who has helped make that happen. Of course if you’ve not yet donated there’s still time to help and every single penny will go to good use to help those affected by PSC.

Meeting my half of the sponsorship bargain will be a significant point of motivation when I’m on the mountain. To help reinforce my commitment and in an attempt of some amateur psychology I’ve produced a Motivation Letter to myself to remind me why I’m doing this and who’s supporting me. I’ll be taking a laminated copy with me in my back pack and plan to read it daily. So if you’ve sponsored the climb you’re going to the summit with me both in my grateful thoughts and on my motivation sheet. I’ll produce a final one on Thursday night before as I pack so why not get you name on there by sponsoring me?

This week’s main challenge will be how on earth do I pack all my gear and keep within my weight limits for the airline and mountain porters? I’ll write up a separate blog on my Kili Kit list and packing – it’ll be interesting to see what I actually find useful vs all the stuff I’d like to take.


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Exposure

photo3I’ve just started a course of Intermittent Hypoxic Exposure (IHE) using the Altitude Centre’s POD in Manchester’s Ellis Brigham store.  It works by allowing me to breathe rarefied air and so expose me to lower oxygen levels with the aim of triggering some physiological changes to help me “pre-acclimatise” before I get on to Kilimanjaro.  I’ll be trying to get a 40 minute session in each day until we leave a week on Friday.  I don’t know to what degree it’ll help but I’m pretty much happy to try most things to give me the best chance of reaching the summit!


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Placebo Powered Kilimanjaro Medicine Bag?

placeboeffect
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 www.drfox.co.uk  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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Just a little prick…

Travel_Vaccinations_1319644531

I’m a human pin cushion – well that’s how it felt today when I went for my first set of travel shots for Tanzania.  I’ve never been a big fan of injections (well who is?) but to be fair the experience wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d imagined – just a few little pricks and I was done for this month. Here’s what I’ve been getting protection against:

  • Hepatitis A & B – Liver complaints and given I’m fundraising for PSC and have seen at first hand the impact liver disease can have this was a “no brainer”. It needs 2 follow up shots after 1 month and 6 months but the first 2 will cover me for my June trip to Kilimanjaro. Covered by the UK NHS.
  • Measles/Mumps /Rubella – 2 shots so I need to go back in a month. Not normally needed but there was no record of me having these as a child  on the system so they gave them “just in case” I hadn’t had them. Covered by the UK NHS.
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria/Polio – single shot which lasts 10 years. Covered by the UK NHS.
  • Typhoid – Tablets but needed to be bought from a pharmacy after getting a private prescription (£15 from my GP).
  • Cholera – Liquid but needed to be bought from a pharmacy after getting a private prescription.
  • Malaria – Prescribed Malarone tablets which you just need to start taking 1-2 days before travel , whilst you’re away and for 7 days once home. Needed to be bought from a pharmacy after getting a private prescription?

I didn’t get a sticker from the nurse for being a big brave boy though…