This week I was introduced, via a friend and the power of social media, to John Thurston. John has just got back from climbing Kilimanjaro. I have literally just spoken to him about his experience and I am now even more scared and even more excited than I was an hour ago!
John’s opening gambit was ‘If someone asked me whether they should climb Kilimanjaro I would say no!’ citing it as the toughest thing he has ever done. He quickly went on to say ‘However, if someone told me they had already signed up I would tell them it’s going to be the most amazing experience of their life!’
John had been looking to do a charity event for a while and chose climbing Kilimanjaro due to the physical challenge it involved. He trained for 12 months and dropped 4 stone in preparation for his climb. This DID NOT prepare him for how physically tough this adventure would be, by all accounts!
John’s group took a different route up Kilimanjaro to the one I am taking. His trek lasted 11 days, mine will be a total of 9 nights away, 4.5 days up the mountain and 2 down. Maybe we are taking the speedy route!
Spirits were high at the airport and as the team set foot on the mountain, however fairly quickly 2 of John’s group of 20 were taken off the mountain, unable to cope with the physical aspect of the ascent.
John told me ‘It’s hard, very hard – so hard that on the last day every step seems to take every ounce of energy you have. If you stop for a moment you are shivering with the cold and just wanting to sleep. The sherpa’s are amazing, urging you on or maybe questioning whether you should be turning back’
Apparently the tents are small and sleeping is difficult due to the conditions, everyone smells from days of not washing, you forget what you are saying mid sentence and the headaches are painful as the altitude sickness takes a grip. Towards the end of the trek its a mental battle as well as a physical one……but, it’s the most amazing thing John has EVER done. I could hear him grinning down the phone!
I asked his advice on how I could prepare myself and this is what he told me:-
1. Buy the very best gloves, liners, socks and sleeping bag you can.
2. Its very, very cold when the sun drops. You go from wearing a t-shirt in the sun to -30 in no time at all. Take as many layers as you can.
3. Don’t take Diamox (a drug you can be prescribed to help you with the side effects of altitude sickness) – listen to your body.
4. Take a nail brush, its so dusty that it’s quite off putting to be eating with vile fingernails.
5. Take plenty of imodium
6. Be responsible for taking your own water purification tablets. The guides drink the water without it being treated and therefore they do not see it as essential to treat the water. Clearly numbers 5 and 6 are linked.
7.The altitude sickness will affect you mentally as well as physically, have an ‘important pocket’ in your ruck sack where everything you need will be. Saves any confusion.
8. Sleep with the next days clothes in your sleeping bag, getting dressed in the extreme cold will not be such an ordeal if your clothes are warm.
9. Don’t take 1 pack of wet wipes, take 3. You’ll need them.
10. Be organised. You will be tired and disorientated. Take lots of small plastic bags so you can segregate your clothes and make the things you need more accessible within your rucksack.
11. Make sure your walking boots are well and truly worn in.
12. Dont just practice hill climbing, make sure your legs are strong enough for the descent as well.
13. Avoid using insect repellent with DEET in it, apparently it disintegrates plastic at altitude which could mean bags, cases or anything else you are carrying will fall apart. Could be awkward!
He has made some lasting friendships with the people he climbed with. There was laughter and tears – and they all supported each other during the hard times both on the mountain and during the post adventure blues back in the UK.
I am now starting to seriously up my training and focus on my fundraising. I am committing lots of time and energy to ensure that this trek will be a success and that I will hit my target of raising £3750 for Sparks and reach the peak of Kilimanjaro. Watching my fundraising total rise each week is a massive motivator. Knowing I am raising vital funds to support children, and their families, through illness will motivate those difficult steps.
Can you help me? Will you donate, or encourage others to donate to this worthy cause?
If I wasn’t excited before, I really am now. 105 days and counting until my Kilimanjaro experience begins!