My journey to reach the roof of Africa

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Pen-Y-Ghent (and a bit)

A return viDSCF0532sit to Pen-Y-Ghent today this time with Paul and Debbie too. A cool, still morning fooled us into wrapping up in multiple layers but as soon as we got working up the inclines we quickly warmed up. Off came the coats and thick fleeces to be left with just base layers or micro fleeces with zips down and sleeves rolled up. Whilst the peaks are still wearing plenty of snow it did feel like some spring weather might be making an appearance at last.

The assault to Pen-Y-Ghent’s summit from the south is almost one continuous climb with just the odd dip here and there that cheats you of your hard won gains. You can see profile on the climb stats. The final section is steep and rocky, initially with rough stone steps and then almost scrambling up rocks. By this point the guys had worked up a sweat and Debbie however was of course like all ladies merely “glowing”. The assent still felt as tough as last time I did it but whilst I was hot and certainly breathing harder my legs weren’t too bad at all –It felt like the gym work must be paying off.

An early lunch at the top was a welcome break and I feasted on my tuna salad pitta followed by a Cliff energy bar and a quick cup of coffee. I took the chance to have another play with my camera. I’ve just picked up a Lowepro Apex 60AW belt mounted case which now means it’s quick and easy to grab my Fuji X10 rather than taking off my back pack to get it. I also tried the monopod camera adapter on my walking poles – it was a fiddly job so I don’t think I’ll be using it much whilst trekking but perhaps for night shots in camp when I’ll need a slower shutter speed and must minimise camera shake. I’ve posted some of the day’s photos on my Kilimattjaro facebook page.

The descent was over snowy and slippery ground and so our poles were very useful as we slowly picked out way down the side of the mountain. There were plenty of people out on the hills today including fell runners who I have to have a begrudging admiration for their fitness, even if I do think it’s a crazy pursuit. One fell runner was bounding up the hill in the snow wearing nothing more than trainers and running shorts. Mad bugger!

As we got to lower ground we detoured a few hundred feet from the path to show Paul and Debs a small waterfall and sinkhole. We then elected to take a more circular route to add few more miles to our walk before making our way back to Horton in Ribblesdale and a well-earned cup of tea in the café.

I’m not free next weekend so my next hike will be in two weeks for another Pen-Y-Ghent return but this time at night!



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!


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.

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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.


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.

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A Rivington Ramble

rivington-pike-stepsLast Saturday the 5th Jan saw 3 of the 4 “Team Killimattjaro” members get out on the hills together for the first time. Jeff, our fourth team member is just playing himself in as he breaks in his new boots and custom insoles; he’ll be ready to rumble with us soon. I’m really looking forward to getting the whole group out on a walk as soon as we can.

The weather on the day was  unexpectedly mild, dry with sunny spells and light winds as Paul, Debbie and I enjoyed our 9.5 hike around the West Lancashire Pennine moors near Rivington,  close to my childhood home of  Chorley with the local Ramblers walking group (who made us very welcome – thanks folks). I recorded the hike data on my phone’s Cycle app – you can see the results here.

This was the first time that I tried my new walking poles – they’re ace, super light and easy to stow on my day-pack but a bit of nuisance to adjust whilst walking. I really felt the difference during steeper sections as they allowed me to share some of the load with my upper body and use my arms to help pull me along. During descents they act like a second set of feet so you can always keep multiple points of contact with the ground and take some of jarring off your knees. That said I had a few traction control failures  much to Paul and Debbie’s amusement but I did just about stay upright – without the poles I suspect I’d of been flat on my ****!

I drank my 2 Litre hydration bladder dry during the walk – I’m seriously now considering going for a 3 Litre one. As Paul subsequently said” you don’t have to fill it completely if you don’t want to”. I think I’d like the flexibility to carry more drink.

My post-climb recovery seemed very good with no pain or stiffness, just a little “tightness” in the legs to remind me I’d been out the day before. I was able to exercise the day after no problem. Feels like progress in the fitness stakes but as ever there’s plenty more to do ahead. I’m off to the states next week so it’s some hotel gym action to try and fight off the jet lag.

I’ve quite a bit of travel on over the next few weeks but hopefully I’ll get another hike in before the end of month.

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Christmas Expansion – People, Kit but not my Waistline.

Christmas overeatingKilimattjaro is expanding to a team of 4, I’m excited and delighted to being joined by my friends Jeff, Paul and Debbie.  Debbie’s a GP and Jeff joked that he’s very glad to have two stretcher bearers and a personal doctor to look after him on the mountain. I guess Paul and I need to get working on our carrying skills then!  It’s great to have them all on board and I’m really looking forward to sharing the Kilimanjaro experience with them.  I’m also going to appreciate having others to train with, discuss gear and generally put up with me being a Kilimanjaro obsessive bore!

I’ve been adding to my collection of kit with a recently purchased North Face 90 Litre Duffel bag which I grabbed in the sales. This bomb proof bag will be on the head of a porter bringing my camping items / additional clothing up to each day’s  campsite . We’re limited to 15KG in this porterage baggage and I think we’ll easily reach that figure.  I’ve also invested in a set of Leki Carbon walking poles which are super light and also have a photo adaptor to allow them to be a monopod for my camera. I’ll be trying those out on my next walk early in Jan.

I much prefer being outdoors when I can but as the weather has been wet recently so I’ve been ditching the bike for sessions on our Elliptical Trainer which recently was brought out of storage. My weight is around 15 ¾ stone (220lb /100KG)  at present and has been pretty flat for the last month (I’m actually pretty happy with that given it’s the Christmas period with all its associated opportunities for excess). Santa also brought me a set of gym gear I can travel with (thanks Martine x). I’ve a lot of business trips coming up in the New Year so now I can ensure my training doesn’t lapse by getting in the hotel gyms.

Whilst my general exercise and weight reduction are all going to help with cardiovascular fitness it’s really importantly I get plenty of long walking in to build up the appropriate muscles, stamina and get comfortable with all our kit.  I’m scheduling a number of walks per months with my local ramblers group to get myself out into the hills. On top of that the team are looking at doing a formal training weekend in Snowdonia where we can do a couple of days back to back with an experienced mountain guide and to get the benefit of their knowledge and experience.  We’ve also booked ourselves on a Night Hike in April that will give us the chance to test our head torches and get some practice of hiking in the dark.

2013 is going to be busy – and I can’t wait. All the best for the New Year!