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Kilimanjaro Factfile

At 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the only one of the seven summits (highest mountain on each continent) that is accessible without mountaineering equipment and experience.

It's the highest freestanding mountain in the world and one of the largest volcanoes, dormant rather than extinct.

On the summit, the lungs can only absorb half the amount of oxygen compared to sea-level.

The summit at Uhuru Peak is more than 1,600 feet higher than Everest base camp.

Estimates vary, but around 20,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year. Almost half fail to reach the summit.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

More swimming

Went swimming again today. I intend to go once a week until a few weeks before departure date, when I'll increase it to twice weekly. I'm feeling quite stiff this evening after pushing myself harder than I did last week. Seventeen lengths plus a few of my underwater crawl widths sans breathing, in a much shorter time, has certainly tested the shoulder to the limit. It's aching, but hopefully stronger for the unaccustomed workout. I'm the world's slowest swimmer, and lopsided now, too, with one arm much weaker than the other for swimming strokes. At least I don't get puffed from the effort. Heart and lungs seem to be doing better than the arms and legs.

Boots were selling off strong winter sunscreen with a 'two for the price of one' offer in Brecon, so I bought a tube of factor 25 cream and a stick of white factor 50 which should protect me from the high altitude glacier/sun combination. I tend to go in for the boiled lobster look in even moderate sun, so I'm used to keeping well covered during the summer. It will be long sleeved shirts with turned up collars and a wide brimmed hat on Kilimanjaro for me whenever the sun appears. I thought it might be difficult to find skiing sunscreen later in the year, so grabbed it while there was still some available. It was a bit of a gamble, as my skin can react badly to some brands – I once bought an expensive cream that was supposedly for 'sensitive skins' and was forced to race for the nearest tap to wash it off before my face fried. It felt as though I'd rubbed on battery acid. A small test area has shown, this evening, that I'm not sensitive to Soltan Extreme Sports sunscreen, so that's good news. I also began stocking up my travelling first aid kit with a few bits and pieces – gel blister plasters and some silver dressings, which are supposed to be good at preventing infection in minor wounds. As hygiene standards are necessarily lowered during the trek (no bath or shower for at least a week, and wet wipes the trekker's best friends), infection must be a danger from cuts and scrapes.

I was hoping to set a time of year for my trip last weekend, but things didn't work out. My sister has volunteered to cover for me on the farm while I'm away, and will need to organise her time off work. We're hoping to get together in a couple of weeks to work out the optimum timing for both of us. My windows of opportunity are quite small. It isn't possible to leave the farm during January and February, supposedly the best time of year for climbing Kilimanjaro. The area's two rainy seasons can make for miserable climbing conditions (and I see enough rain here, thank you very much), so it will have to be either during June/early July (which isn't ideal because that's shearing time), or late Septenber/early October, which also has associated problems. I think we'll just have to pick a date and work around it.

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