Facing Altitude Sickness on Kilimanjaro

will_walking_dalesA month has passed since my last blog article on my upcoming Kilimanjaro climb. I will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in late July this year to raise funds for the charity STEPS who have, and continue to support my family during the treatment of our youngest child William who was born with severe bilateral talipes.

Since my last update we’ve had some good and bad news. Firstly, the good news is that I have managed to secure some altitude training, insurance and finally bought all the equipment I need for the climb. The bad news is that unfortunately Will has had a setback with his feet.

Will was actually discharged this time last year from his treatment where we were told to keep an eye for signs of relapse. Over the past few months Will has complained of pains in his ankle and we decided to take him back to his consultant at Nottingham Queens Medical Centre. Ironically the pains in his ankle seem to be a case of growing pains and also due to a trip on a school outing. Whilst we were there his consultant noticed that the muscles in his right leg seem to be tightening. He no longer stands flat on his right heel, but standing on his tiptoes on his right foot so it is quite evident of the effects.

Over the next three months we will need to complete special muscle stretches with him morning and night, when he will go back in May to the hospital to review his progress. Speaking to other parents with children with the same condition, this could potentially lead to another operation on his ankle with either another tenotomy or a tendon transfer, but we’re determined that the muscle stretching will resolve this. As much as this is a setback for him, it’s not unexpected. A lot of children being treated for talipes have ongoing issues throughout their lives. In some ways we’re thankful we’ve picked this up quite early. He’s taken to his muscle stretches well as he has done throughout all his treatment.

Over the past year since I decided to take on this mountainous challenge I’ve spoken to many people who have completed the same climb. The first thing they warn you from their experience is Altitude Sickness. You can train by hiking and walking many miles beforehand but nothing will prepare you for the decrease in oxygen levels at higher levels.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a common illness that affects a significant proportion of people that climb Mount Kilimanjaro due to the height and decrease in oxygen levels. 70% of people that climb the mountain will suffer from this to some extent. A high amount of these climbers are unable to summit due to the severe effects and are forced to return to lower levels. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and with many people supporting my challenge by donating to STEPS at www.justgiving.com/ClimbSteps, I don’t want to let them or myself down by being unable to complete the climb.

Thankfully there are companies out there who can provide altitude training, and I’ve managed to organise altitude training with a company called AcclimatiseMe that offer a 100% success rate. A few weeks before the climb I’ll be undertaking 15 days worth of sessions using a machine that simulates a drop in oxygen levels, training your body to acclimatise to the altitude and oxygen levels on the mountain itself.

equipmentMy training continues to go well, attending the gym three to four times during the week and I’ve just returned from a week in the Yorkshire Dales where I’ve managed to break in my hiking shoes some more. I used them for the first time when I climbed Mount Snowdon last year and they seem to be fitting well. It’s important that they do not cause discomfort as they will become an extremely important friend on the mountain. We’ll be doing some more hikes in Derbyshire a few months before we fly too. I’ve also managed use the January Sales well to secure everything else I need for the climb, including a sleeping bag that is rated to -10 degrees Celsius. It can be a bit nippy there, reaching 27 degrees below zero at the summit.

In my next article I’ll give more details about the climb itself and the route I’ll be taking to the top, as well as keeping you up-to-date with all the other events/runs I’m completing as part of my fundraising campaign. My first event of the year will be the Derby 10k on the 19th April.

You can find out more about these at www.climbsteps.co.uk and donate to STEPS at www.justgiving.com/ClimbSteps.