The challenge of climbing Africa’s highest peak turned out to be a real family affair for a Goosnargh father and son, one which saw them raising funds for two good causes.
Retired consultant anaesthetist Max Fryer, 65, conquered Mount Kilimanjaro with his son Dan, 27,plus his son-in-law Mike Laing, Mike’s sister Amy Laing and Mike and Amy’s father Jim Laing, and in doing so raised £1,500 to help those who suffer from cancer and chronic pain.
Max, who worked at the Royal Preston Hospital for just under 30 years, says climbing Kilimanjaro was one of those “do before you die” challenges. He shared an ambition to complete with Jim, and after they both retired and Mike was also in a position to take part, they decided to go for it.
Even Dan, a former pupil of Goosnargh Oliverson’s and Kirkham Grammar schools and a graduate of Leeds University, who is currently working as a civil engineer in New Zealand helping to re-build Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake, was keen to take part and flew out to join them in Nairobi.
Max said: “I walk in the Lakes and I am quite happy doing 10 to 12 miles and I thought it sounded like a good idea, but I didn’t realise how high you go,” adding that the more he read up about 5,895m high Kilimanjaro, the more enthusiastic he became.
Not wanting to be the one left behind, Max spent an intense month at the Myerscough gym in preparation and believes this extra training definitely put him in good shape to “keep up with the young ones”.
“I think that made a big difference and my thanks go to the staff there at the gym for their advice and encouragement. I don’t think they even know I made it!” he said.
The group also set about raising sponsorship after friends exclaimed they could not possibly climb Mount Kilimanjaro without doing it for a good cause.
So two charities close to Max’s heart were chosen –Cancer Help, Preston (which supports Vine House, Ribbleton and Garstang’s Croston House) and the lesser known charity SMILE, a self help pain management group Max helped to set up around 10 years ago in Preston with a former colleague, Angela Lowry, who died at the age of 55 from lung cancer.
“SMILE stands for self motivation in lasting endorphines,” said Max, explaining endorphines are the body’s own morphine.
“If you get the right emotional and physical approach to dealing with chronic pain you naturally increase endorphine levels in the body and that reduces pain.
“SMILE is very successful in helping people cope with pain and it is a little known charity that people only find out about when they are in chronic pain.”
The “Fryer family party” of five joined four others on the Kilimanjaro adventure organised by Keswick based K E Adventure and also climbed Mount Meru during the two-week long adventure.
Max said: “Mount Meru is 4,566m and the fifth highest mountain in Africa. We did this first as an acclimatisation trek, taking three days to get to the summit. The last 1,000m is done at night with the aid of head torches. The aim is to make the summit at sunrise. From the top of Mt Meru the sun rises over neighbouring Kilimanjaro, an unforgettable sight.”
The group then returned to the hotel in Arusha for one night before setting off to climb Kilimanjaro, feeling “fitter and partially acclimatised.
This trek took five days and again, the final push to the summit was done at night.
Max said: “We all made it just as the dawn was breaking. The acclimatisation worked and we were all feeling very well. If people do not allow time to acclimatise often they feel very ill at the high altitude and 20 per cent or so fail to make it to the top.
“As dawn breaks the temperature at the top is around minus 15 degrees centigrade and oxygen levels are half that at sea level. You can see why acclimatisation is essential and why on the photograph of us at the summit we are all wrapped up in multi layers of warm clothing!”
Max described the whole trip as “exhilarating” and “magical”, as well as having been a wonderful time to spend with Dan.
And although it was back in February, Max still can’t stop talking about it.
Every time he looks at the photos he says he yearns to go back and having discovered the oldest person to conquer Kilimanjaro was an 87-year-old Frenchman, added: “Watch this space when I am 88!”
l The first SMILE group was set up in Liverpool. The Preston group, of which Max is patron, meets every Wednesday at St Martin’s Church Hall, Broadway, Fulwood, from 9.30am to noon. There is also a group in Blackpool.
For more information about SMILE, Preston, call 07582 535 715 or for Cancer Help, Preston, call 01772 793344.