Imagine an arthritic 90-year-old walking backwards, and you’re going too fast.

That’s the advice given by Jon Garside, training officer of the British Mountaineering Council, who has led numerous groups up Kilimanjaro. Sounds like a barrel of laughs, especially when you realise that the ascent will be in pitch darkness, snow, and freezing temperatures down to about -30 degrees C. After my experience on the Inca Trail climbing Dead Woman’s Pass with a stomach bug, nauseous, severely dehydrated and combatting the effects of altitude, I know what it’s like to climb at a rate of 5-10 seconds per step, freezing cold, soaking wet, gasping for breath, and trying to find the will to make the next step. It wasn’t fun. Having already lost consciousness a few dozen yards from the top, and with the cold and rain, I felt no satisfaction in reaching the top (I still had a couple of hours’ descent ahead of me, possibly in the dark, and I was still battling with a bad stomach). I’m very sure that reaching the summit of Kili will feel vastly different though, however tough the climb is. Meanwhile I’m practising testing my willpower by making myself do all kinds of things which I really don’t want to do. Walking the couple of miles home rather than taking the bus when it’s late at night, freezing cold and pouring with rain, with every step I remind myself that climbing Kili will be far worse than this, so I should just get on with it and stop whingeing. On Thursday night I forced myself to carry on the remaining 30 minutes of a spin class even though my blood sugar was low and I felt like lying down and closing my eyes (for the worried amongst you about the wisdom of this, I had taken plenty of glucose and turned my insulin pump off, so I wasn’t actually going to lose consciousness by carrying on, it just felt like it). At least this willpower testing is doing my training no end of good, by forcing me to carry on when I’d normally just give up. I’m sure it’s a good philosophy for life.

Oh, and this is the old lady I shall be imagining. If she can do it….

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