Friday, 11 April 2014

Garys kilimanjaro climb

Life is a journey....
In October 2013 I decided to "get fit" I was fast approaching 50 and I'd recently seen a video on Youtube of Dr Arvind Kaul, consultant rheumatologist at the Royal Free Hospital, London giving a lecture on Psoriatic Arthritis & Psoriasis.
This clip was forwarded to me by a friend; it had quite a chilling effect on her, and it certainly made me thing. It highlighted the fact that this Arthritis is an Autoimmune  Disease and as such is "systemic" in nature, i.e. it just doesn't affect the joint, but it also affects the bowel and the Cardiovascular System as well.
Autoimmune Diseases, like Psoriatic Arthritis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn's Disease, does shorten the life expectancy of someone who's affected by one of these diseases, not that they occur in one's, myself I have three of these diseases, Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis and Vitiligo, although I suspect I may have more!
Most of my life I've been overweight, and I'd be the first to admit it. Roughly three years ago, I had an appointment with my Rheumatologist, and the usual weight and blood pressure checks were done before seeing the consultant. Once in with the consultant she had a go at me over my weight! "Your one hundred and eight kilos!", my thoughts were: "Your point being?"
I'm used to working in "old money", pounds, shillings and pence, I don't do this fancy metric stuff, give me an Acre before 0.4046 hectares any day of the week; so I worked out how much 108kg really was..... and it came as a bit of a shock, 17 stone!
Gazza needs to go on a diet!
Through healthy eating, mainly slimming world foods and diet, my weight gradually came down, until I got stuck at 14 stone, I decided to undertake some exercise.
I already take my dogs out for around a mile for both their morning and evening walks; but I thought I really need to "up" my game.  I gradually increased this to walking to three miles, which roughly take an hour to do on pavements on the flat. It was a step in the right direction...
During the rather nice summer of 2013, my wife and I decided to go to Brecon for  a day out, nice sleepy market town in Powys, Mid-Wales. The usual way of going to Brecon is to take the A465, up the Neath Valley, turn left at Hirwaun, join the A4059 through Penderyn and eventually joining up with the A470, the main North South road in Wales; shortly after joining the A470 you come across a mountain called Pen-y-fan, which is the highest peak in the Southern half of the United Kingdom, it stands at 886 metres.
We pulled into the car park, just south of Storey Arms, which is now a Youth Hostel run by Cardiff Council, it used to be a Coaching Inn in days gone by. Both my wife and I attempted to climb up Pen-y-fan, turned out to be a bit of a none-event, we only managed to get around a third of the way up, before turning back. This mountain wasn't going to be easy.
The weeks that followed, I decided to up my walking by doing a hill near me, this being Neath Road. It took me around 25 minutes to complete this hill first time, a trip of around half a mile, and climbing roughly 100 metres, once I managed this a few times I then started to walk into the forestry,  and up a steep track there, nick-named "Cardiac Ridge" by the local fitness instructors and participants of Nordic Walking. I started trying this, and although out of puff, I did manage to do it, I was starting to get fit, the height of this hill above sea level is around 340 metres or roughly 1,000 ft  the walk to "cardiac ridge" is around 3¼ mile (5km) round trip with an ascent of something like 600 feet (180 metres).
At the end of October 2013 I went to see my GP, informed him that I'd like one of them gym passes that he could prescribe with a view to improving my general fitness and shift my weight loss below that 14 stone that I'd been stuck on! So in addition to having long walks, I was now attending the Gym three times a week.
October & November 2013 were nice months, not too much rain, very little in fact and wasn't too cold either, one Sunday morning, I decided I'd make a second attempt at climbing Pen-y-fan; so I set out at 7:10 am for the 50 minute journey to the car park on the A470 just south of Storey Arms, I was in the car park at 8:00 am and soon on the Beacon's Way, up to the summit. I pushed myself hard, perhaps too hard, I could feel my blood pulsing in my ears! It took me over an hour to reach the summit that day, then roughly 50 minutes to come down the same way I went up. I was home by 11:00 am that Sunday morning, I was greeted by my wife saying "You are back early, didn't you make it up?" "Oh, yes I did" was my reply.
The following weekend I tried Pen-y-fan again, this time it was easier.
I'm now climbing up Pen-y-fan every other weekend, and I've now started climbing it twice, ascending using the Beacon's Way path, walking over to the Corn Du peak then descending via the path leading to the Storey Arms, a round journey of some 4 miles, and a climb of around 1,500 feet.
In addition to "getting fit" and the weight loss, there have been other noticeable improvements in my health, namely my Blood Pressure and Heart Rate, about a month ago I took my BP and pulse, my BP was 126/67 and my resting pulse was a mere 48 bpm!
Here are some photos I've taken on my climbs of Pen-y-fan. In some of the photos I took you can see snow on the ground, on some days the wind-chill took the temperature down to around -10ºC (14ºF); you may appreciate how hard this mountain can be, in fact, it's used by the Special Air Service as their training ground.

And what next? Well in August this year, I'm looking to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Arthritis Care, I'd be grateful if you would sponsor me, via my "JustGiving" page below, Thank You!

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