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Guest blog: Kat’s Kili challenge for charity

Written by Fiona January 06 2012

Katrina Tweedie is a friend, a fellow journalist and a mum of three young boys. Fast approaching the dreaded 4-0 she decided that she wanted to mark the occasion with something memorable… Something a little more than just waking up with an almighty hangover headache. She was born in Zambia and Africa has long been a draw and fascination, so she had always dreamed of climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. But how could she pull off this feat? She had only ever been away from her children for two days. Her husband has a busy office job. How would she find time to train?

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa

Here Kat tells her story of her bid to summit Kilimanjaro

“Climbing Kilimanjaro had been mentioned a number of times, but then abandoned.  After all I have three young children and the longest I’ve ever been away from them is two days. Flying to Tanzania for 10 days and climbing the biggest free-standing mountain in the world wasn’t practical – not least because the highest ‘mountain’ I’d ever climbed was Arthur’s Seat.

Kat and her three sons on Conic Hill, Balmaha

Kat and her three sons on Conic Hill, Balmaha

“Then my husband met Bryn Willams – the inspirational founder of the Wobbly Williams Parkinson’s awareness charity – at a boozy lunch and I was signed up as the 29th person on his charity trek up Kili’.

“For the last decade, my life has revolved around school and nursery runs, potty training, homework and squeezing work into the spaces between, and I’ve managed to do a few 10ks and a half marathon.

“But for 10 days this month I will face an even greater challenge, although spare a thought for my husband who will man the fort at home.

“The group I’ve joined have had most of the year to prepare – I’ve had eight weeks.

“The charity team includes Scottish rugby legend Gavin Hastings, reigning Miss Scotland Jennifer Reoch, a 15-year-old girl who’s just completed her prelims, and a 61-year-old lady battling Parkinson’s.

A climb to the top of Dumgoyne, north of Glasgow

A climb to the top of Dumgoyne, north of Glasgow

“They have all embraced me and spurred me on to train in super-quick time. That I’m helping them raise money for Funding Neuro – research into cures for neurological conditions – has given me extra motivation.

“With my family, members of the team, and friends in tow, we’ve spent the past few weeks climbing any hill practical enough to tackle on a wet Sunday morning in winter.

“The highest we’re reached is 300ft short of the summit on Ben Lomond (3196ft) after we turned back with the children in the face of a severe blizzard.

“But Kilimanjaro is more than 19,710ft and at the summit temperatures can be -30C. I am feeling a mixture of terror and excitement over my charity challenge.

Am I fit enough to climb Kilimanjaro?

“Apparently, fitness isn’t the issue on Kili’, which requires very little actual climbing ability but rather a slow, slow – or pole pole, as they say in Swahili – trudge at snail’s speed up the mountain to let your body adjust to the altitude.

“But in the back of my mind is this statistic: Mount Kilimanjaro draws more than 25,000 visitors annually yet almost a third of all climbers fail to reach the summit.

“Smokers, or ex-smokers like me; women; and anyone who has lived at altitude are said to fare better, because they are used to deprived oxygen levels. Statistically, young and fit men are the least likely to succeed as their competitive edge drives them faster and they succumb first to altitude sickness.

“I now have 15kgs of technical kit that has been begged, borrowed, bought and donated by kind sponsors such as Decathlon and I’m hoping my new leather boots will be broken in by January 12, when we start to climb.

“So far I’ve loved every moment climbing hills across Scotland and I’m determined to ‘bag’ at least one Munro this year, but first let me get this big hill in Africa out of the way.”

You can sponsor Kat at www.justgiving.com/katrina-tweedie


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