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!
 

Friday, 6 May 2016

Coffee Morning Boosts Fundraising

I just wanted to say a huge thank you to Ruth McCulloch for organising a coffee morning at her house to support my fundraising and to everyone who came along to this.   The event raised a fantastic £338 to add to the total.  I had never been to a coffee morning in my life, so it was a new experience for me!


With other donations and Gift Aid received, the overall total raised for the two charities I'm supporting is now an amazing £2898.

Tonight we're holding a Quiz and Ploughman's supper event, so I'll post another update very soon.  I also hope to be able to share with you soon details about another exciting mini challenge I'm hoping to do at the end of May to help with my fundraising.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Fundraising Update

Thank you  to everyone who popped their green token in the collection tube in Waitrose in Cobham during March. My tube ended up with 46.25% of the tokens, so that means Waitrose will be donating a fantastic £462.50.  That brings the total raised so far now including Gift Aid to £1862.50.


I wanted to share with you some of the other ideas that are in the pipeline.  A few friends have been kind enough to let me rope them into a little fundraising team and they're doing an amazing job of helping put together various activities.  This is what we currently have on the list:


  1. 28th April - a coffee morning organised by a couple of ladies from the Guildford Rock Choir.
  2. 6th May - a Quiz and Ploughman's Supper at the West Horsley Village Hall (tickets still available).
  3. Sweepstake - guess how many steps it will take me to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro!  If anyone is willing to help promote this, maybe at their work or with friends and family, let me know and I can send you a 'sweepstake kit'.  It's £1 a guess and the prize is the height of Kilimanjaro in pennies (£58.95)!
  4. Buy a Block of the Mountain - my lovely friend Sonia has designed an amazing poster with a picture of the mountain split into blocks (see picture above and click here to see it in full size and download it).  The idea is to ask people to buy a block for a £1 to sponsor me to get to the top!  Again, if anyone is willing to take one of these and try to get it filled that would be great.
  5. Kilimanjaro on a Treadmill - I've come up with the idea of trying to climb the height of Kilimanjaro in a day on a treadmill, by setting it at maximum incline and walking all day!  Next to the treadmill I would have a big map of the mountain and a marker, which can be moved along throughout the day to show my progress.  Also, other people could possibly sign up to walk sections.  I just need to find somewhere to do it, ideally with a lot of people passing by.  So, if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.
  6. 'Ain't No Mopuntain High Enough' Banner - as my friends and family will know, I've been a member of the Guildford Rock Choir for the last 5 years.  The choir has been an important part of my life and hugely supportive to both me and Beata through the terrible journey we had trying to overcome her cancer.  They were there when we needed help with fundraising for treatments, they were there at our wedding and even to her funeral.   So, I thought it would be fitting to somehow include Rock Choir in my challenge to climb Kilimanjaro.  Obviously I can't take everyone with me (there are 23,000 members nationwide) but instead I've come up with the idea of carrying a big banner to the summit bearing the words "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" which of one of the songs that Rock Choir is most well known for.  I'm not sure if the idea will come off yet but I will keep you posted.
  7. Live Music Event - we're hoping to organise a live music event in the summer, probably along the theme of "Band in the Park", with a live band and various guests vocalists.  More news on this as it develops.
That's most of the ideas we're looking at.  I do also want to say a thank you to my friend Steve Roberts, who has offered to do a charity bike ride in the summer to support my fundraising - thanks Steve.

Thank you everyone who has sponsored me so far.  The money is going to two very worthy causes. Both of them are small charities with low overheads, who help people directly, so your donations will make a real difference, here and now, to ease people's suffering.


Friday, 18 March 2016

Waitrose Green Token Update

Just a quick update on the green token scheme at Waitrose in Cobham, which is supporting my Kilimanjaro fundraising this month for one of my selected charities.  Thanks to your help, my Kilimanjaro collection tube has the most in so far (sorry for the fuzzy photo) - mine is the one on the right!



There's still time to add to this though - it's running for the whole of March so please look out for it if you pop into Waitrose in Cobham.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Waitrose Supports Kilimanjaro for Cancer

I'm delighted to announce that Waitrose in Cobham has offered to support my Kilimanjaro climb and help me raise money for the Princess Alice Hospice through its Community Matters green token scheme throughout the month of March.

You get a green token when you buy anything in the store and can choose one of three charities to support by putting it in a collection tube on the way out. At the end of the month, Waitrose divides £1000 between the three charities in proportion to the number of tokens in each collection tube.

If you live in the area, please consider supporting this if you can.  This is the full text that Waitrose is displaying next to the collection tube:

Mount Kilimanjaro Climb for the Princess Alice Hospice

John Piears is attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in September to raise money for the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher, where his wife Beata spent her final weeks before she tragically died of ovarian cancer at the age of just 41.

Their mission and values
To inspire and deliver innovative palliative and end of life care to help patients, families and carers feel better, do more and cope with death and dying.

Shortly after Beata moved to the Hospice she said to me “we were so lucky to get this”. That’s how we both felt – grateful to have had access to such wonderful care in a calm and peaceful environment. Sadly the hospice  already cannot meet the demand for its services and as 75% of their funding comes from charitable donations, I want to do what I can to help them to reach out to more people in need” – John Piears

This is a link to John's fundraising website: www.KilimanjaroForCancer.co.uk




Sunday, 21 February 2016

15 Interesting Facts About Kilimanjaro

As part of my preparations for climbing Kilimanjaro in September I've been doing quite a bit of research.  Here are some interesting facts I've learned.


  1. At nearly 6km high (5,895m to be exact), it is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
  2. At the summit oxygen levels are only 9.7% compared with 21% at sea level.
  3. Temperatures at the summit can drop to -25°C at night time.
  4. A lot of people fail to reach the summit due to altitude sickness.  Some estimates put the success rate as low as 45% but most put it somewhere over 66%.
  5. Smokers cope better with altitude sickness as their bodies are used to lower oxygen levels.
  6. One of the indications that you are acclimatising well to the high altitude is passing wind!
  7. Climbing Kilimanjaro involves passing through 4 climatic zones: Rainforest, Moorland, Alpine Desert and Arctic. 
  8. The final ascent to the summit is usually made at night by head torch, to ensure that there is enough time to descend again and so you can experience sunrise from the highest point in Africa.
  9. Kilimanjaro’s peak is permanently covered in snow but the ice cap has reduced by 82% since 1962 due to climate change 
  10. Above 5000m, the atmosphere is only 45% as effective at filtering out UV light as it is at sea level, so serious sun protection is needed.
  11. There are around 3-7 deaths each year on Kilimanjaro from Acute Mountain Sickness, falls and hyperthermia.
  12. Everest Base Camp is lower than the summit of Kilimanjaro.
  13. The first person to reach the summit was a German by the name of Hans Meyer in 1889.
  14. The first Person to reach the snow line on Kilimanjaro was Charles New, a British missionary, in 1861 who took with him a party of 13 porters, all of whom were completely naked.
  15. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano.  The last volcanic activity happened 200 years ago, but the last major eruption was 360,000 years ago.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far, your donations are going to two wonderful charities and make a difference to real people facing the most difficult of times.

Friday, 5 February 2016

World Cancer Day - Letter to MP

As well as planning to climb Kilimanjaro to raise funds for charity I'm also spending my time campaigning on the issues of profiteering and conflicts of interest within the cancer industry, something which I was very shocked to discover during our cancer journey.  It is hard to believe but cancer has become one of the most lucrative markets on the planet, while one person dies of the disease every four seconds.  As high profit levels depend on time-limited patents, profits would plummet if genuine cures were developed, so it's not surprising that progress in developing cures is slow - we are relying of profit-motivated organisations to develop cures that are not in their interest.

Yesterday was World Cancer Day and I chose this day to write to my MP about these issues, which I believe are the single biggest obstacle to bringing forward the day when we no longer live in fear of cancer


I've shared my letter on Huffington Post: Cancer Widower's Letter to MP about Cancer's Tug of War
If you agree with the issues raised in my letter please help me to put pressure on the Government to tackle this problem by forwarding the link to your own MP - there is a link at the bottom of the Huffington Post page to do this.


UPDATE : I have now launched a campaign called “Dying for a Cure” to press for changes to tackle this issue.  It has its own website (dyingforacure.org), petition, Facebook and Twitter pages.  Please visit the website to find out more and see how you can support the campaign.


Sunday, 31 January 2016

£1000 Raised Already

Wow!  You've already helped me to raise over £1000 with your donations and the gift aid for the charities that I am supporting with my Kilimanjaro challenge.  That's fantastic news and will make a difference to these charities, who desperately need the money to help them reach out to help more cancer patients bravely dealing with this awful illness.  Your help means a great deal to these people.

A particular thank you to everyone who has donated in response to my article "Becoming a Cancer Widower", which has been shared on Huffington Post, Macmillan and Yes To Life.  I've received many lovely comments from people saying that they found it helpful and inspiring, even though it also stirred up sadness at the same time.  I'm glad that so many people have connected with it and found it helpful.

 If you would like to read my article, you can find it on any of the following websites:


On the training side of things it's not such good news unfortunately as I've got a bit of a knee injury from playing badminton last week!  I'm going to rest it for a bit and hopefully it will settle down on its own but if not I may need to get advice from a Physio.  Luckily it's not serious and I probably just need to be a little bit more careful for a while.


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Welcome to My Blog!

I thought it would be a good idea to set up a blog to keep a record of my Kilimanjaro adventures and to share some of the things I've been doing.

I'm doing this challenge in memory of my wife Beata, who was such a beautiful and inspirational person.  I hope that I can do her proud by taking on a big challenge like this and by raising money for two charities that were important to her.


A friend of mine (Colin Holloway), who is never one to turn down the chance of a big challenge, has offered to do the climb with me, so in September we will both be joining a group of around 20 trekkers to make our ascent to the summit of the world's highest free-standing mountain - nearly 6km above sea level, where the air has less than half the amount of oxygen we’re used to and where temperatures can be as low as -25°C.  We’ll be hiking through four climatic zones to get there, starting off in temperatures about 30°C.  Each day of the ascent we’ll be drinking around 5 litres of water a day to keep hydrated and burning around 5000 Calories a day of food and fat!

On Tuesday, Colin an I went to a briefing about the trek in London and signed on the dotted line, so we are now fully committed!  We've got two big tasks over the next 9 months - training and fundraising.  We're paying for all our own costs, so all the money we raise will go to the charities.  If you'd like to sponsor me, please click on the link in the side panel.

That's it for now.  This is where the story will unfold, so check back every now and again if you want to keep tabs on our progress or sign up to follow my blog by submitting your email address in the Follow My Blog section on the right.