Want to effectively combat cancer? Go climb a mountain. A new strategy recently launched by the Oman Cancer Association (OCA) lays emphasis on the fact that the best and surest way to keep cancer at bay is to make physical fitness an integral part of your daily routine. This stems from the belief that mountain climbing pushes your body and mind to the highest limits of determination, strength, stamina, endurance and courage. And it’s not just the ascent or the climb down, it’s this whole process of preparation that toughens and strengthens the body against sickness and disease.
A group of 30 people have volunteered for a trek up the 4,900 m above sea level Mt Kilimanjaro in July this year. The mountain is a dormant volcano located in Tanzania. A training programme for their physical fitness and dietary requirements is all set to begin sometime from next week.
Nasser al Azry, OCA secretary general and an experienced climber who successfully climbed Kilimanjaro last year, says OCA had plans for two ascents this year. The other one was to Mount Everest base camp in April.
“It doesn’t look as though the Mt Everest Base Camp trek will materialise. All the people who have signed up so far, all want to go up Kilimanjaro”.
But after all said and done, matters for the present look very encouraging. “Out of the 30 persons on board, 11 are ladies, seven are Omanis, including a mother (40 years) and daughter (17) duo.
Nasser says, the final contingent for the trek will not comprise more than 20 persons. “This is only because, for a long trip and the tough trek involved, 20 is a very manageable number”.
He recalls: “Before I set out to climb Mt Kilimanjaro last year, my mind was filled with all sorts of questions. Most of all there was this worry whether I was fit enough for the climb and whether I’d make it to the top”.
“I put aside all my doubts and misgivings and started my physical training in right earnest with practice hikes in Oman to build up my stamina and endurance. Later, I included basic cardiovascular exercises at the gym, such as running and cycling in my training regimen”.
About the climb itself: “During the climb we would trek around 5-7 hours a day. I soon discovered that the mountain had different climatic zones; therefore layering of clothes was an absolute must for warmth and comfort”.
“Dehydration is a key cause of Acute Mountain Sickness. The more fluids you can drink the better. Also the importance of having the right equipment for the climb cannot be overstressed”
“Like other hikers I found that trekking poles are a helpful aid for balance. It takes the pressure off our knees, especially when we descend. It also gives enough time for the body to adapt to altitude changes in keeping my balance and to avoid motion and altitude sickness because of less oxygen”.
“Getting to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro has a lot to do with determination. I suppose that is equally true for any other mountain. Or for that matter any sort of physical challenge. At times the stress and exhaustion brought me to the verge of giving up. But i was able to remain focused and steadfast, determined to get to the top – one step at a time”.
“The way back down can be as tough. “After the climb I learned that Going slowly at all times with the porters and guides and in rhythm with their chant “Pole Pole”, which means ‘slow slow’ in Swahili made me realise that sometimes breaking big journeys into baby steps helped a lot in pushing your limits”.
Being super fit is not the deciding factor for success. In fact many fit people struggle to reach the summit because they exert themselves too much during the early stages of the trek and therefore don’t give themselves enough time to acclimatise during the ascent. Mental preparation plays an equally important role”.
Nasser concludes: “To climb Mount Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime opportunity. People travel from all over the world to stand on top of the Roof of Africa”.
Nasser says the physical fitness training programme will be conducted by Muneer al Azry, a seasoned trainer. Additionally, participants will also receive lessons in breath control from experienced yoga therapist Prema Nagesh. This will help trekkers to cope with breathing problems people usually face at high altitudes.