Saturday, 29 October 2016

Ode to Kilimanjaro

Having now recovered from the physical effects of the challenge and the inevitable expedition blues I thought I would write a little account of my experience of climbing Kilimanjaro in the form of the following poem! Hope you enjoy it....

ODE TO KILIMANJARO

An uphill struggle to a barren summit...
Shall I book it? Too late, I've done it!
I'm going to climb a mountain, the almighty Kili 
Not sure if I'm brave or just being silly!

We head to the airport with a bag full of kit 
Waterproofs, sun hats and fleecy mits 
We're prepared for all weathers as we take to the air 
With nine hours of flying before we get there

An overnight flight with hardly any sleep 
Does little to prepare us for our impending feat 
But we check into a lodge and enjoy a few beers 
As we settle our nerves and share our fears

There's 15 in the group, with Phil the trek leader 
And a doctor too, I hope I don't need her!
All lovely people with their own personal story 
All hoping to get that moment of glory

A good night's sleep and we're off to the start 
Already I can feel the beat of my heart 
It's a drizzly beginning as we head into the woods 
But the rain soon leaves, no need for a hood

We trek up through the forest at a pace like a snail 
Too quick and the guides "Pole pole" would hail 
It's better to acclimatise if we all go slow 
Frustrating at first but worth it we know

We reach our first camp a thousand metres up 
That's a mountain at home but here no such luck 
Our tents are all ready and we're greeted with songs 
From the porters who carry our camp all along

A hearty meal then it's off to bed
An early start, "Don't be late!" Phil said!
Already the air is harder to breathe
As the oxygen levels start to recede

We tuck into breakfast after a restless sleep 
Downing coffee and porridge then we're up on our feet 
As we head to camp Shira, it's a steep climb today 
We're all exhausted by the end of the day

Now nearly 4000 metres and the views are amazing 
With beautiful dark skies that are great for star gazing 
The forests are gone, replaced with bushes and rocks 
And the dust gets everywhere, not just in our socks!

We measure our oxygen and heart rates as well 
As the toll from the climb begins to tell 
Headaches and nausea have started for some 
And nosebleeds as well are about to come

Day three arrives, we know the routine
Breakfast, fill the water, apply the sun cream 
A stretching session gets our muscles all powered 
Then we head off for lunch at Lava Tower

We're really high now, nearly level with Mt Blanc 
And the terrain's far more open, the bushes all gone 
Replaced with black rocks all made of lava 
From volcanic explosions erupting like cava

We descend to camp three for much needed rest 
'Climb high, sleep low' is the plan that works best 
A baby wipe bath and wash of the feet 
Then off to the mess tent for something to eat

Day four arrives, it's a big one today
An eleven hour trek before our next stay 
Our first challenge of the day, the Barranco wall 
One foot wrong and it's a long way to fall

An exhausting climb with lots of false summits 
But we make it to the top, thank God we've done it!
A group jump photo then we march off again 
Not so steep now much flatter terrain

Then the climb picks up as we head to camp four 
The high camp, after which there are no more 
We sort out our thermals, night torches and gloves 
As we get ready for the part we'll hate or love

It's 1am, very cold and dark
This certainly won't be a walk in the park!
Five hours of climbing before the sun rises 
Head down, small steps, just think of the prizes!

We're struggling to breathe as the air gets thinner 
And some people are stopping to bring up their dinner!
Headaches and heartaches bring tears for some 
As batteries run low and emotions overrun

Then finally the sun appears in the East 
And we bathe in it's warmth, what a feast! 
It's a beautiful sight as we reach the crater rim 
The sense of relief finally begins

We're at Stella Point now, not far from the summit 
A gentle climb and then we've done it 
We solider on, weary and tired 
As we continue on up, higher and higher

Then the end is in sight, the infamous sign 
At the top of the mountain a sight so fine 
The last hundred yards and we touch the top 
To answer the question, would we make it or not?

We all take photos and savour the views
Ready to share our fantastic news
But we don't hang around, the air's cold and thin 
And we've another six hours trek to fit in

It's all downhill as we slide down the scree 
Making very fast progress, only stopping for a pee!
We quickly descend and the air gets thicker 
As we breathe in more oxygen we'll no longer get sicker

Just one more camp then the end is our goal 
As we stride on downhill making use of our poles 
We're all in good spirits but weathered and worn 
Some of our kit battered and torn

Then we reach the finish, our mission complete 
To conquer the mountain we all came to meet 
A mountain so tall you won't find another 
Standing proudly alone, she has no big brother.

A mountain that became our friend and our foe 
Testing our resolve with its beauty on show 
A huge personal challenge that each of us set 
And an experience I'm sure we'll never forget


Thursday, 29 September 2016

Mission Accomplished!

I am delighted to report that both Colin and I successfully completed the challenge and made it to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.  We had an amazing time and were privileged to be able to share the experience with a really lovely group of people.

The trek was one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done, particularly as we approached the summit in the dark, when the air was thin and cold and every small step took a herculean effort.  For most of the ascent we couldn't see the summit but in a way that was no bad thing - just as in life, you don't always need to be able to see where you want to get to; just know that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and don't give up you will get there.

Thanks you for all your support and encouragement over the last year as I've prepared for this challenge.  And thank you to everyone who has kindly sponsored me.  You have helped me to raise over £6,200 for two wonderful causes, both of which are small charities with low overheads that directly help people in the most desperate of situations, so the money really will make a difference.


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Time To Start The Malaria Tablets!


Just 2 days to go until Colin and I head off to Africa to attempt to climb the world’s highest freestanding mountain!  I have all my kit ready (nearly!) – everything for sun, rain, scorching heat and freezing cold!  Plus loads of energy bars, half of Lloyds pharmacy and the all important toilet roll!  I tried to weigh it all but my bathroom scales weren’t cooperating, so I’m just hoping it comes in under the weight limit.




The other development is that I have somehow managed to injure my foot!  I’ve had an x-ray on Friday in case of a possible stress fracture but nothing obvious showed up.  I’ve also had some physio (thank you Pippin), lots of ibuprofen and have tried taping it up with zinc oxide tape to support it, which seems to be helping.  I’ve stocked up with every legal pain relief I can, so there’s not much more I can do now - just have to hope it will be OK when it is put to the test!

For anyone that would like to follow my progress I’m hoping to update my position from the mountain on my Challenge Tracker – link at the top of the page.



Thank You


I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone again for all the support and encouragement you have given me with this challenge.  You’ve helped me to raise a lot of money for two wonderful charities that really do make a difference to the lives of people in the most desperate of situations.  I’ve sadly witnessed firsthand the enormous pain and suffering that cancer causes, both physical and mental, and I know how desperate things can get and how hard it is when everyone else seems to have given up on you.  To keep fighting against the odds takes courage but it also takes financial resources and support from people who can guide you in the right direction – Yes to Life is one of the only cancer charities in the UK that helps people with few options to keep fighting.  And when everything fails and all hope is gone, it is the most hideous time of all – waiting to die, hoping that it will be as painless as possible and that there is something more after this life.  It is places like the Princess Alice Hospice and their incredible compassion, sensitivity and kindness that help people through this most traumatic and difficult time, and without charitable donations they just wouldn’t exist – I certainly can’t imagine how we would have coped without them.

So, on behalf of the two charities I’m supporting, a huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored me and helped me to raise much needed funds for the work that they do. And if you haven’t sponsored me yet and would like to, it’s not too late!

Next update from Tanzania!

All the very best,

John

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Three Weeks To Go

It's just 21 days to go now until I start my attempt to climb Kilimanjaro.  Last weekend I did a 38 mile training session and had great fun bivvying out in the woods with Colin, who is doing the climb with me. I've been trying to do regular walks most days but it's been quite hard to fit them in.


I've managed to get most of my kit sorted but I'm still missing one or two bits including the vitally important warm gloves.  There don't seem to be many winter gloves in the shops this time of year! There's a massive list of kit to take including a long list of medical supplies sent by the doctor that will be joining us!

If anyone is interested in following my position on the mountain, I'm hoping to post updates on my Challenge Tracker map (signal permitting).

Thanks again for everyone who has sponsored me.  All of the money raised will go to
the two amazing charities I'm supporting, who do such great work helping people at a time of desperate need.  So far you've helped me to raise nearly £5,500, which is an amazing amount so thank you all very much. If you haven't yet sponsored me and would like to there is a link at the top of this page.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Treadmill Challenge Completed!

Well, I made it!  I managed to simulate climbing Kilimanjaro on a treadmill in one day at the Surrey County show.  Now just the small matter of the real thing to do!


I have to say it was a lot tougher than I imagined it would be and  I wasn't sure it was achievable when I first suggested it (for me at least!), but after 9 hours and 12 minutes of walking uphill at a 12% incline (plus a few toilet breaks!) I managed to climb the same ascent that I will doing on the mountain for real in September.

The lovely people at the Princess Alice Hospice had arranged for a platform for my treadmill and a gazeebo to protect me from the elements, so I felt a little bit on display but it certainly seemed attract attention and some bemused looks as people passed by throughout the day.



I kept myself hydrated during the day drinking about 4 litres of water with an electrolyte mix and snacked on bananas and cereal bars to maintain my energy levels.  By the end of the day I had burned about 3,700 Calories, so came home a bit lighter than when I arrived!

I did the challenge in one hour sessions, stopping at the end of every hour for a 5 minute break. After getting to around the half-way point though, I was starting to doubt whether I'd be able to complete the whole thing!  But it's amazing how a few minutes rest can help and by facing each hour one at a time I managed to get through the day to finish the challenge over 10 hours later!

Lots of people came up to speak to me and ask me questions, but the question of the day was from a young boy who cheekily said "Were you a fat person when you got on that?"!

I was also interviewed by BBC Surrey at the show for their social media and was invited onto their breakfast show the next morning for a radio interview, which you can listen to below.



It's now 4 days on from this mini challenge and I still have a lot of aches and pains, but I'm really pleased to have completed it.  We managed to raise about £400 during the day for the Princess Alice Hospice and Yes to Life from people putting money in our collection buckets, so thank you to everyone who contributed to this total and to everyone who came and said hello.

My overall fundraising total has now risen to an incredible £4,770.  Thank you everyone for helping me get this far.  If anyone else would like to sponsor me, you can do so by clicking the "Sponsor Me" button at the top of the page.  I'm covering all my own costs or the challenge, so all of the sponsorship money goes to the charities I'm supporting.

Thank you!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Kilimanjaro on a Treadmill

In a moment of madness I came up with a fundraising idea to climb the height of Kilimanjaro on a treadmill as part of my training for the real thing in September!  Well, now it's going to happen, at one of the largest public events in the area, The Surrey County Show on Bank Holiday Monday 30th May!

I'll be on the Princess Alice Hospice stand (near the Food Hall), raising money for the Princess Alice Hospice and the cancer charity Yes To Life.

If you're coming to the show, please do pop by and say hello - it's going to be a very tough challenge to complete this in one day, so any encouragement or friendly distractions will be very welcome!



Sunday, 8 May 2016

Quiz Pushes Fundraising Total Over £4000

On Friday evening around 100 people took part in a Quiz and Ploughman's Supper event to boost my Kilimanjaro for Cancer fundraising.  The event was a huge success and managed to raise over £1000 for the charities Yes To Life and the Princess Alice Hospice.  A big thank you to everyone who came along to support this.  It was a really enjoyable evening and I've already had people asking when the next one is!





A wonderful team of people helped me to organise and run the event and I would like to express my huge thanks to all of you - you were amazing and I'm very grateful to you for giving up your time.

A number of other donations have also been made separately -  thank you everyone for these.

I'm really pleased to say that my fundraising total including Gift Aid has now passed £4000.  Wow!   That is already an incredible amount and will make a real difference to the charities receiving it.

I'm already on the case with my next fundraising event though and will hopefully be able to share details of this with you in the next few days!