My journey to reach the roof of Africa


Killimattjaro in the News

LEP KilimanajroThe Lancashire Evening Post, my regional newspaper picked up my press release and ran an article (PDF) on my climb today.  With a estimated readership of over 92,000 it’s great to get some broader awareness about PSC, next month’s Kilimanjaro challenge and perhaps encourage some donations to PSC Support.



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.


Hiking in Hope

DSCF0649A 7.45am start as Jeff picks me up for the drive over to Hope in the peak district where we met up with Paul and Debbie around 9.30am. Conditions were mild but windy as we got kitted up for the circular route around the Hope valley which we expected to be around 8 miles in distance.

The first section was low level across fields as we made our way over to the neighboring town of Castleton. From there we began our ascent up the side of the valley up the narrow and rocky “limestone way” up past Peveril castle. Progress was noticeably slower on this steep, wet and tricky section as the ground was difficult to get stable footings on. After what felt like forever the limestone walls opened out and we made our way back onto open ground across higher fields dotted with sheep and lambs.

A few more miles in brought us out over a high fell road and to the base of Mam Tor where we paused for lunch.  Looking up at the route to the summit we were envisaging burning calves and puce faces however as we got closer we found that whilst is was certainly steep in places the inclined felt more manageable due perhaps in part to the stone path work that had been laid.  The views from the blustery top were magnificent as we gazed back down into Hope valley on one side and over the Edale valley to the other.

After a quick photo stop around the summit trig point we were off along the hills ridge line for the next few miles as we descended and then rose again over multiple smaller peaks. In this manner we worked along the northern side of Hope valley until we made our final descent back to our starting point in Hope village.

From today’s hike I think everyone’s fitness is coming on nicely and we all seem to be handling ourselves and equipment with aplomb. With just over 6 weeks before we leave for Kilimanjaro we only have a four more weekends where we’re all free to train together.

I’ve posted the climb stats (which seem shorter than 10 miles Paul’s phone recorded using the same app) and uploaded photo to the Kilimattjaro facebook page.

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Fancy A Quickie Up Darwen Tower?

IMG_0190Jeff and I got a cheeky little evening hike in today up to Darwen Tower.  The circular route was about 4 miles and took around 1 hour 15 mins although the climb stats from my phone say otherwise for some reason (I think I was in “bike” mode rather than “hike”). There was a good mix of elevation changes so we got a bit of a work out.  From the tower we enjoyed pleasing vistas over Lancashire  to the North West coast and across to Pendle Hill in the North East. I’ve posted a few photos in an album on the Kilimattajro facebook page.

We’re planning to get more of these weekday sessions in as the nights get longer and our June Kili climb approaches – 54 days to go at the time of writing!


Night Hike

Last night we did a night hike over our perennial favorite Pen-y-ghent organised by Mark Reid of Team Walking.  We booked this walk many months ago with a view to getting some prior experience of handling ourselves and kit in low light as preparation of the final ascent night on Kili.

We met up with Mark and the rest of his group at the Crown pub in Horton-in-Ribblesdale around 6pm and Mark gave us all a quick briefing around the route, expected timings and also the differences to expect when walking at night such as allowing your night vision to develop by protecting your eyes from direct light, using your other senses to augment your understanding of your environment etc.

Conditions were mild and the first part of the ascent was done just in T-shirt and long-sleeved base layer top but as we reach higher ground the sun began to get low in the sky and the temperature dropped. Off comes the backpack and outcomes my fleece. I’m now getting reasonably adept in changing my layers quickly and more importantly anticipating when to do so.  This means I’m keeping comfortable without overheating too much.  We reached the summit just after 8pm and stopped for a hot drink and snack as the sun set.

All the snow has now gone and the steeper section of initial descent is now much easier and quicker to get down although you still need to be controlled in your pace over the areas of looser ground. There was still plenty of ambient dusk light as we came off the mountain but as we reach the lower flanks the light began to fade and out came the head torches.

Most of the pathways are limestone and so of a light colour – that certainly helped pick them out in the moonlight / torchlight. We took a 15 minute detour to walk over to hull pot – an impressively sized sink hole when the water course disappears underground into the local cave systems.  While we gained a sense of scale under the moonlight I think I’d like to go back for a look and photography of it during the day.

On the final few miles back into the village we turned off the torches and just walked in the moonlight. Most of the pathways are limestone and so of a light colour – that certainly helped pick them out in as we made swift progress. I’ve posted the hike’s map and  stats and some photos on my Kilimattjaro facebook page.

Throughout the hike Mark interjected our stops with commentary about the landscape, questioning the group on our thoughts and understanding of the environment we were in. He’s clearly a passionate advocate of the benefits of getting outdoors and his views and philosophies come shining through in conversation.

Things I learn from this hike

  • With just a little moonlight you don’t really need a torch at all.
  • Low power mode on my head torch is more than adequate to illuminate my foot fall
  • I don’t yet know how to take photographs in night time conditions and so need to read up on that

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Just a little prick…


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…

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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!