Q&A F2F Kilimanjaro

As referenced in my post Fibro to Fibro I was contacted through the blog about my trip up Kilimanjaro. Thank you to Nathan who has agreed to me posting the question and answer on the blog.

Q. I’m emailing because I also have Fibromyalgia, 28 years old male and took me a long time to get diagnosed. I am thinking of attempting kili and also trying to raise money for fibromyalgia. I just wanted to know if you had any advice ? Did you take any special medication for the climb ? I have no idea how the altitude will affect the fibro. If you could give me any tips that would be greatly appreciated.

A. I didn’t take anything in addition to what I was prescribed at the time (16 mg co-codamol for when pain struck and 500 mg Naproxen twice daily). I did however stop taking any and all pain relief for 6-8 weeks ahead of going to Tanzania because I wanted to be sure that when I needed it to be effective that it was. I didn’t seek any medical advice on this at the time which you may want to do but for the first 4 days of the route we took I used only naproxen as prescribed and paracetamol for pain. Days 5-8 of the route I used the co-codamol every four hours as prescribed.

I also chose not to drink any alcohol for 3 months before and didn’t have one until I got back to the hotel after the trip. Not sure if you get the same but i’ve often had flare ups from having one beer which risks taking time away from training etc and generally it felt good not to risk it or have a hangover for a while before going!

I didn’t take any anti sickness or altitude tablets. It’s impossible to be sure that symptoms I got whilst climbing had anything to do with altitude or if it was purely fibro. The general consensus amongst camps and guides was that altitude tablets aren’t worth the investment and that following the guides advice of consuming 4-8 litres a day and sticking to their routes and plans for altitude adjustment is the best way to combat it. Realistically though it is simply hit or miss as to whether you are affected by it.

The guides measure your oxygen levels and heart rate twice daily to assess your health and risk- my best advice with this process is DON’T FREAK OUT. Keep calm and see it as process. Because that’s all it is. DO take it seriously if they share any concerns during assessments and be clear that if after 3 readings they are not satisfied that your heart rate and oxygen levels are not satisfactory to continue safely you will be transported down the mountain and taken to a hospital for treatment, returning to your hotel to wait for the rest of your group to return. I think the risk of this happening is extremely unlikely but it is a possibility. No one in my group had to go through this but it did come close for a few of them due to their symptoms of altitude sickness and their readings on their assessments. If nothing else I think it’s helpful to know this in relation to your travel insurance/budget whilst you are out there. If you need to vacate the mountain and attend hospital/return to the hotel and wait for your group it will all be at an additional cost.

Q. I read you climbed Mont Blanc when you were younger. I’ve heard it’s more challenging than Kili. Did you think the same ?

A. I would say that they are both as difficult as each other for different reasons. Mont Blanc is seen as much more of a technical climb climbing for the majority of it. You don’t have to have a guide (though I wouldn’t attempt it without a mountain leader/guide) and you NEED to complete the majority of the climb in the first day before adjusting to the altitude at the rest point at Gouter hut (3817m) before ascending the last 900 metres or so when it’s deemed safe to. The route I took up Kili (Lemosho route) is much more hiking than it is technical climbing but don’t let that fool you that it’s easier. Day 5 at Great Barranco wall you will need to climb and clamber up -this aside from the feeling of summiting was my favourite part of the trip.  

I would suggest the final ascent is just as hard if not harder than Mont Blanc because of how sleep deprived you are, tired your body is and how long you are out in sub zero temperatures.

Q. I’m climbing mountains in Ireland the mournes and England to help me get used to hiking.

A. Yes! Brilliant do as much and as many as you can. Get to know your ‘problem areas’ from how your body reacts with the steep inclines. I am NEVER prepared no matter how often I do it how hard coming DOWN a mountain is. In my training for Kili I did the Malvern Hills from the northern point to the other end, Ben Nevis which I would highly recommend doing because apart from the final day and Barranco wall I think Ben Nevis is most like Kili in terms of difficulty. Depending what route and company you chose to do Kili with you are facing trekking for 5-8 hours a day. Like I say not all technically difficult but if you can find some routes near you that involve walking for that amount of time with some ups and downs it’s good to get a feel for how your body reacts to the endurance side of it if cardio work etc is new to you.

Q. I was thinking of doing the 3 peak challenge over a weekend of 3 days. Ben Nevis scafell and snowdon to see how I get on with that.

A. This is awesome! If you go ahead please let me know how you got on-it’s on my to do list. Think taking the approach of doing it over a weekend is the best way to approach it too. When I did Ben Nevis it was with the intention of doing the other 2 peaks in 24 hours but we approached it with bad planning and ragged ourselves too hard on Nevis so bailed out with the intention of returning to do it the way you plan to. If I don’t manage that this year I intend to get Skafell done as its the only one of the three I haven’t attempted yet. Snowdon is great training too- if you are feeling a bit more adventurous take the Crib Goch route instead of the Pyg track but read up on it and plan appropriately if you go for it-its higher in risk but so much more fun!

Q. I have thought about Everest base camp, mt Elbrus Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro but I think Kilimanjaro would be in the middle of the list in terms of challenging. I’m just so worried i’ll spend the money and everything then my body lets me down.

A. This was my biggest fear the entire build up, and journey but from the moment I saw the top of Kili from the plane a new sense of determination kicked in and it didn’t leave me until about 400 metres from the summit where I would of bowed out if any of the guides suggested I should but thankfully they didn’t. They had confidence in me when I didn’t have any and they are they experts so I trusted them to know and say if I wasn’t on track to summit.

I think so long as the moment you can get some rest from the travel in the hotel to getting in your tent as soon as you get to camp and resting as much as possible you should be fine. It’s not the most social of approaches but it worked for me. I shared the fact that I have fibro with my guides and team mates which helped alleviate any guilt I would typically feel in not being the chatty member of the group and just stayed focussed on the task in hand. I had a few dark moments where I really doubted my ability-thankfully at these points I would get the odd bar of signal/wifi from camp and get updates on the fundraising and messages from home which spurred me on.

The guides and the team take exceptional care of you. They pack down your kit, carry the heaviest things and set up camp and dinner for you ahead of your arrival each day. Keep a diary if you have the energy to at the end and no matter how yucky you feel from meds or altitude force any and every bit of food you are given down, go back for seconds and drink as much water as you possibly can-oh on that topic the guides do sterilise the water but I also purchased some travel sterilisers and added some soluble hydrate tablets and minerals.

You will need jabs-have a chat with your doctor when you’ve booked the trip-I had to have yellow fever, rabies, hep A & B and take a course of malaria tablets before and during the trip.

When I did Mont Blanc I was 13 with no physical limits but I remember it vividly and I think Kili is on par if not more difficult. Since doing Kili I now have more confidence in myself to get to the top of Mont Blanc when I plan to return to it Summer 2022.

Q. In terms of fitness I always train weights like bodybuilding training and it never affects my fibro it’s really good for me but I have no cardio lol I have recently just been starting on treadmill and hill climber.

A. This is awesome! In terms of fitness for Kili a basic level fitness will get you to the top physically but it’s majority mind over matter so I would suggest getting in/keeping in shape and get your legs used to walking/running up and down hills as well as longer distance flat for 6-12 months before hand and you will be fine. I didn’t do this but it might be worth putting together a cardio plan with a personal trainer if you go to the gym?

Q. If you don’t mind me asking what you do for treatment?

A. I don’t mind at all! I am taking more now than I was when I did kili because my circumstances and health has changed quite a lot since then. I currently take 500 mg Naproxen twice daily, 60mg co-codamol 2/4 times and day and 20mg Amitriptyline at night. I’ve also been doing a course in CBT to try and manage my stress more effectively (my biggest trigger) and have just started working with a new physiotherapist focusing on ways to strengthen my core and hips as back hips and legs are my problem areas at the moment. When I am able to afford it I aim to see an Osteopath every 6 to 8 weeks and highly recommend reflexology as well as sports massage.

Q. I have another appointment with my doctor as I wanna talk about Tramadol.

A. I tried this and it made me feel very spaced out and caused me to vomit a couple of times which is why I take Co-Codamol instead. From what I have learnt through trial and error, people who can take Tramadol can’t take Co-Codamol and vice versa.

Links and tips :

https://www.kandooadventures.com/climb-kilimanjaro/?gclid=Cj0KCQiA37HhBRC8ARIsAPWoO0xAKeiUQFS4ZNKPk65MufUWZpbSYfvx967RSEVmagyIdUSrHMjI3dIaAldlEALw_wcB This is who we booked with and there are not enough words to describe just how fantastic they were, before during and after!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Kilimanjaro_climbing_routes this breaks down the routes really well.

For transporting my medication and to help with my plan of limiting what I was taking for pain relief I made use of a travel case with days of the week written on them. I now use a morning day afternoon and evening one. Helps me make sure I am on top of my meds and reduces risk of me forgetting whether i’ve taken them or not-at altitude on top of fibro fog-big help! https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07HY7NPHY/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Minerals I took for a month before during and after the trip https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01LT05PHC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Water sterilizers I used

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0098O9CUS/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Hydration tablets I used

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B018IV6WWW/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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