Climbing Kilimanjaro: a bit more about the plan

With less than 2 months to go (!) until I fly to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, I thought I’d share a bit more about the details of the trip.

I decided to go with Discover Adventure on the recommendation of Parkinson’s UK as they had used them before to organise fundraising trips. We are climbing via the Machame route, which is apparently the most scenic route and also the best for acclimatisation. This does, however, mean that it also gets quite busy!  There are currently 15 people signed up to the trek and we have been introduced via a Facebook group but yet to meet in person… We’ll also be accompanied by group leaders and a team of guides and porters who, let’s face it, do most of the hard work.

It will take 4 days to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro, through terrain varying from forest to rocky and what I have seen described as “moonscape”. This map shows the route up the mountain – it looks a very long way…

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Everyone I’ve spoken to or read about who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro seems to share the opinion that “Summit Night” is one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. We will go to bed nice and early, then get up at midnight and start walking for 4-5 hours to reach Uhuru Peak around sunrise. This is to avoid walking in the heat of the sun (and I’m sure it makes the views even more impressive at sunrise), but it means that the hardest, steepest part of the climb is very cold and dark, just at the point where the altitude is getting the hardest to bear. So that’s something to look forward to! I’m hoping that the thought of the view at the summit, not to mention the sense of achievement and the thought of all the donations to Parkinson’s UK, will be enough to help me push through!

Camping Practice at Silverstone

Seven nights in a tent is something that technically I have managed before (Glastonbury 2009) but I still feel it’s going to require a bit of mental preparation… and what better way to prepare than by practising with a weekend camping and watching cars at Silverstone.

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This was my third Silverstone GP with James, Byron and Reece and my second trip there this year after running the Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon in March. It was good fun visiting the track after having run around it – although it did cause a few painful flashbacks…

From my experience Silverstone camping is like a more civilised version of festival camping – you get to park next to your campsite (like Coachella) and the toilets are an infinite upgrade on anything you’d see at Glastonbury! We also had delicious home-cooked (campsite-cooked) meals for the whole weekend thanks to Byron and some forward planning.

Even with a forecast of torrential rain and local weather warnings (brought back memories of Silverstone 2010’s flooded tents when I ended up sleeping in the car), my tent coped extremely well and it was pretty cool lying awake listening to the rain but staying completely dry! Apart from that little downpour and the rain that made the race interesting on Sunday, the rest of the weekend was super hot & sunny and despite regular sunscreen layers I ended up with some rather strange sunburn lines on my face. Oops…

I made another little video for this weekend – even though it’s nothing to do with Kilimanjaro training it’s good practice for filming and editing to make sure I can make a half decent video of Kili!

Climbing Ben Nevis

A few weeks after climbing Snowdon seemed like a good time to tackle the next of the three peaks: Ben Nevis.

I made a vlog of the trip which I think tells the story better than I could write it:

You can see in the video it was very busy, even busier than Snowdon, as there seemed to be some kind of team challenge going on. While this was a bit annoying on the lower sections, I was actually quite relieved that there was a steady stream of people coming back down the mountain as we neared the top – one more way of checking we were still heading in the right direction through the snow with minimal visibility!

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It was a bit of a shame that we didn’t get the reward of a nice view (or any view at all) but it was a nice hike all the same, and the weather and lack of visibility made it seem even more challenging – and meant we even got a chance to use the compass we took :)

Here’s the proof from the Map My Hike app I used to track the walk.
Elevation was just over 1,300 metres (4,265 ft)

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Now we just need to find a way to fit in Scafell Pile to complete the three peaks…

McKechnies do Snowdon!

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As there are not very many mountains around West London, proper Kilimanjaro training requires travelling a bit further afield. And as I did say I was going to try and climb the three peaks, it was only a matter of time before a trip to Snowdon happened. So with a bunch of the McKechnie clan plus some friends, we rented an amazing house called Plas Colwyn in Beddgelert as a base to climb Snowdon. Most of us could only stay for the weekend but those with a bit more time (i.e. the retired ones) stayed on for the whole week.

After a hearty dinner on Friday night and a rather lengthy discussion about how many cars we needed to take to Llanberis (to ensure that the groups walking, getting the train or half and half could all get back at the end of the day) we set off at a reasonable hour on Saturday morning and found our way to the start of the Llanberis Path.

All weather forecasts had pointed towards very cold, windy and even snowy conditions at the summit, so we were all wrapped up in plenty of layers which were quickly shed as soon as we started walking under blue skies. But after a pitstop for sandwiches (thanks to Lindsay and Elaine) we could see the clouds coming in over the summit and all the layers were quickly piled back on.

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To test out my new rucksack and make my training a little harder, I weighed down my bag with two bottles of champagne for a little summit refreshment :) Despite the cold wind at the summit, we managed to put away one bottle to lighten the load slightly for the way down!

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I was quite surprised at how busy the path was – I had climbed Snowdon once before but that was (gulp!) 20 years ago and I remember the route being almost empty. Though I was 8 so my memory may not be the most reliable. But now it seems, during half term at least, that climbing Snowdon is a very popular Saturday activity!

As well as my Dad’s photos above, James and Lindsay did a great job between them of documenting the trip – James made two go pro films and Lindsay made a great vlog of the weekend:

James’s films:


Lindsay’s vlog:

A Drone’s View of Snowdon

This weekend I roped in a whole load of family and extended family members to climb Snowdon as part of my Kilimanjaro training.

Here’s a little preview of the trip in the form of a super cool film my brother James made with a couple of go pros and his favourite toy, the drone…

It does give the impression we had a whole film crew with us and I wish he could follow me up Kilimanjaro to document that too!

I’ll be back with a more detailed account and some photos ASAP!

A Fundraising Event: Quiz Night!

Last week I held my first non-cake related fundraising event – a quiz night! I’m a big fan of pub quizzes and figured a quiz night would be a great way to raise some money and also have some fun.

And it did turn out to be really fun! About 40 people turned up – mainly my friends or friends of friends, and although I was pretty nervous beforehand about my job as quizmaster, once I got into it I really enjoyed it. The total raised in the end was £260.

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The organisation of the quiz night was relatively simple (aside from waking up in the middle of the night remembering last minute details such as pens and a cash float). I did spend the couple of weeks leading up to the quiz engrossed in trying to come up with the right combination of questions. I took questions from various websites (two great ones are Paul’s Quiz and Quiz Zone) and also from quizzes I’ve been to in the past and some that randomly popped into my head. There were also, of course, a few Kilimanjaro related questions thrown in for good measure.

There were some creative team names as always; my favourites were a tie between “Ken Dodd’s dad’s dog’s dead” and “Snows of Quizimanjaro” – great topical name!

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This is me quizmastering…

I chose a central London venue as this was most convenient for most people to get to after work. After ruling out several venues on the grounds of not enough space, rude Events Managers or extortionate minimum bar spends, I remembered Henry’s Café Bar in Covent Garden. It has a downstairs area that turned out to be great for a quiz, with just the right amount of seating, a PA system and its own bar with a minimum spend of £500 (which turned out to be no problem at all with my thirsty friends!) They also donated a bottle of Prosecco for the winners!

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The winners: Ken Dodd’s dad’s dog’s dead

Parkinson’s UK sent me some collateral for the quiz, including beer mats and donation tins, and I also printed out a little poster. It was really useful to have a text donation number as it meant anyone who didn’t have cash on them could pay the £5 entry fee or the bonus round donation via text.

It was very cool to see so many people come and support my fundraising effort (or come to enjoy a quiz night!) – thank you to everyone who took part! My fundraising total currently stands at £1380 which is 34% of my £4000 target. Getting there but still a way to go!

April Training Update

After a couple of weeks of not wanting to go anywhere near my running shoes after the half marathon, I got back into a bit of running thanks to a new favourite 5K sunset running route along Brent River (uphill all the way, downhill all the way home – my favourite type). It’s amazing the difference longer evenings make to my willingness to run or really do anything after work.

The spring weather (which seems to have promptly disappeared) has also helped me with trying to convince Jason that hiking is a fun way to spend a Saturday, and we had a nice little trip to Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey a couple of weeks ago. It’s a super pretty place to walk and enough hilly sections that it’s better training than my local West London walks along the river.

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So here are the stats for April, not including general walking to the station and around and about:

Kilometres run: 24km
Kilometres walked: 20km
Other workouts: 3

Coming soon: a weekend in Snowdonia and a trip to Ben Nevis – feel like I need to up those kilometres!!

What’s the reason for all this?

The end of Parkinson’s Awareness Week seems like a good time to think about the reason I decided to take on this Kilimanjaro challenge and why I’m raising money for Parkinson’s UK…

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Parkinson’s Disease has had, and will continue to have, a great impact on my family. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 8 years ago, and his mother (my grandmother) had also suffered from it. For now, my dad manages to keep the symptoms mostly under control thanks to medication, so although everyday tasks may need more effort or take longer, he can still do a lot of the things he enjoys (like his current project, building a rather impressive model railway in his garden!).

Parkinson’s Disease is a horrible condition that affects 1 in 500 people in the UK. No-one dies of Parkinson’s; they just become slowly more and more reliant on other people for every need. The causes of Parkinson’s are as yet unknown, and there is currently no cure.

This is why the work that Parkinson’s UK does is so important, from funding vital research into that elusive cure, to the support and information that they provide to sufferers of the condition and their families, to raising awareness of Parkinson’s Disease and working to change attitudes and perceptions (there’s also a great section on their website with more information about exactly what Parkinson’s is).

Last November I went with my dad to a Parkinson’s UK lecture at the Royal Institution about bespoke treatments for Parkinson’s (if you watch the last video on that link closely you’ll see a cameo from my dad). It was so interesting to learn more about the subject and there were some very positive messages to take away about the direction that the research has been going in. This just reinforced to me the importance of funding to ensure that it continues to progress.

Parkinson’s UK depends entirely on donations and even though my sponsorship target is a just drop in the ocean of what it takes to do all this, I want to do all I can to support their work – and, as they say, every little helps!

March Training Update

Whoops it’s already mid-April! Please excuse my tardiness, let me think back to March…

Kilometres run: 45km
Kilometres walked*: 8km
No. of other workouts: 3

The Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon was of course the highlight of March, and I have to say I’m glad it’s done – I think with more training I could have finished it faster, but really I’m just glad to have finished at all! I have found I am enjoying running more now that there’s less pressure to run really long distances – and the light evenings are definitely helping :)

At the end of March we popped down to Devon to visit Jason’s Mum, and the three of us enjoyed a slightly windy 8km walk along the coast from Westward Ho! up the South West coast path. Despite being fully kitted out in waterproof clothing on the advice of the weather forecast, in the end the wind was all we had to deal with.

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* By the way, Kilometres walked only includes times I’ve gone out “for a walk”, basically how far I’ve walked in my walking boots. I’ve also been walking to one stop further away on the tube to get to work, and making sure I always walk up the escalators at Piccadilly Circus – every little helps!

6 months until Kilimanjaro!

Time is flying!

It’s crazy to think that it’s been over 6 months since I first decided to take on this challenge, and in that time again I will be (fingers crossed) approaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro!

So far I’ve ticked off my running challenge with the Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon, and I hope to do a couple more 10K runs to keep up my general fitness and because now I’ve got some PBs I want to beat :o)

Windy walk on the South West Coast Path! #devon #coast #roadtrip #westwardho! #sea #walking

A photo posted by @anniemaggiemay on

I’ve started my walking training with a couple of walks (most recently a windy South West coast walk in Devon this weekend) and plenty more planned, including a trip to Snowdonia and a vague plan for Ben Nevis. Also on the agenda are plenty of Box Hill laps and some flatter West London walks.

Fundraising is starting to ramp up with some donations coming in but I still have a long way to go! I am in the process of organising a pub quiz in central London and a couple of other events / raffles etc – details to follow.

I’ve realised I still have quite a long shopping list as far as kit goes. In fact, the only things I have purchased are my boots and some fleece lined walking trousers, so there’s plenty of shopping (/begging/borrowing/stealing) to be done over the next few months!