My Challenge – Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro By Jos Reeves


On Monday, 1st July 2013, I will fly to Tanzania to begin my attempt to reach
the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. I’m going with my dad and older sister. Both she and I are doing it to raise money for charities close to our hearts, so obviously my choice is Diabetes UK.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in October 2006, when I was 9yrs old. I had been ill for a couple of months with all the symptoms of hyperglycaemia, as we finally learnt. I was drinking and eating lots but was losing weight and looked like a skeleton. I was being bullied at school and my whole personality had changed, not in a good way. When I was diagnosed I had ketone acidosis and was not far off slipping into a coma. I thought I was going to die. I was immediately put on insulin and saline drips, and only a couple of hours later I was telling jokes and feeling so much better. I started off using insulin injections, which didn’t work well. So in January 2010 I switched over to an insulin pump which has improved my blood sugars but not completely.

My dad climbed Kilimanjaro in August 2005. He promised before he left that he would take my sister and me when I turned 16, which I won’t quite be when I take on this challenge. I was diagnosed a year later and despite my blood sugars remaining unstable I’m not letting this stop me. I see it as a perfect opportunity to prove that my illness can’t stop me doing what I want and to raise money for research into diabetes. My sister is 20yrs old and suffers from asthma. We both see this as an opportunity to make a difference to our chosen charities.

Mount Kilimanjaro is 19340ft high and is described as the ‘Roof of Africa’. The Kilimanjaro National Park Authority estimate that only 40-50% of climbers successfully reach the summit, although the statistics I’ve seen put it more like 1 in 3. I am aware of the problems I will face on this climb and not only with my diabetes. Altitude sickness is one of the main reasons people don’t make it to the top. I will also be at risk of dehydration, hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia. I will be testing my blood sugars in temperatures as low as -25oC and I’ll have to store my insulin close to my body to prevent it from freezing on the final push to the summit.

Everything I raise will go towards Diabetes UK, as my parents are funding my trip. I know how necessary research into this disease is and want to support it as much as possible. I realise it may not make a difference to me, but hopefully it will for generations to come. Yes, I’m scared and I know what a challenge this is going to be, but it is a challenge that I’m going to face head on.

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Jos, his dad and sister arrived home safe late on Sunday night. Flight change meant a later arrival and Heathrow instead of Gatwick, but all that matters is that they’re home. I’ve seen some of the pics and they are amazing. Jos will do a blog soon about his climb, including pics, he just needs to find his feet first!


It was Jos’ 16th birthday yesterday and he spent it at a school on the outskirts of Mombassa that we support, teaching English to children his age. Then a birthday meal at a restaurant and when I spoke to him they were all lying on the bed eating chocolate! So a good birthday. His real present is on Friday, when he goes deep sea fishing. He was saying how hot it was out there so I asked what the temperature was. He replied ’28oC’ and couldn’t understand why I laughed! I don’t think he could believe it was hotter here than there. The frustrating thing is how close he is to the £1000 target he set. I so much want him to come home and find he’s broken it. For him this trip is more about the diabetes, in a good way, than anything else and all he wants is to reach that goal.


Thanks so much for your comment Stuart. Ella’s situation sounds so much like Jos’, same age and even the same time of diagnosis. I can also imagine what you and her mum are going through. We were told twice by our GP that it wasn’t diabetes so we were imagining the worst. In the last couple of weeks before we forced the issue and took him to hospital I couldn’t look at him without his clothes on because he was skeletal, and, the worst part, his dad said to me one night that he felt like he didn’t know his own son any more. Now we know its part of the symptoms of being high, but his whole personality had changed and it was horrible. I couldn’t believe how fast ‘my’ Jos returned once he was on saline and insulin drips.

It’s amazing that Ella is already wanting to do something like her walk. It shows how strong she is. I’m awful with computers, do you have a link to Ella’s page so Jos can comment when he gets back? I know he’d be happy to and would want to support what she’s doing as well as support her.


Dear Jos,

As I found your story, I read that you have already completed your challenge at the age of 15, i believe, what an incredible story it is and very similar to my daughter Ella who was diagnosed with T1 diabetes last year, in October aged 9. You give me so much inspiration for Ella who has battled as you describe from the diagnose stage, of almost slipping imto the coma, through to now learning to control the illness. In a few weeks Ella will embark on her first challenge also, with a very similar story, she will walk The West Highland Way over 8 days. Reading your story inspires me, to know it is possible, that T1 diabetics can have a normal life and are able to meet the challenges of the illness head on. I shed a few tears reading your story but had a huge lump in my throat of happiness that you were able to achieve your goal. Thanks for sharing your story. I wonder if you could post a comment on Ella’s page telling her what you have just done? Kind regards Stuart and Ella Locke

I”ve just talked to them and they all sounded great. They are back at the hotel and been given celebrity status by ‘Mamma Zara’, rooms with four-poster beds and free meals. Jos thought it was going to be worse than it was. He was low most of the time he was in altitude but adjusted his basal rates accordingly. Understandably he then went high on the way down, but again dealt with it. His sister found it harder. She caught the sun quite badly because she was looking after everyone else instead of herself! His dad struggled for the last bit, but found it easier than last time and they did it quicker. They were the last to leave camp and nearly the first to reach the summit. And they got to see the views! Jos’ dad is so proud, he could hardly find the words.


They’ve done it and they’re ok!! Had a text from Dave yesterday afternoon ‘All at Barafu all good all fit for summit.’ It was the first time I’d cried since they went, pure joy. Then a text arrived just after 7am – ‘All up! And back to Barafu safe.’ I have felt such peace about this and a true belief that they’d all make it to the top and be safe, despite the statistics. I knew that God went before them. He walked beside them. He was there to catch them if they fell. He kept His promises to me and I thank Him for that.


Thanks for your comments everyone. I’m Jos’ mum, who has been left behind for 3 weeks! I had a surprise phone call from the Machame gate at the bottom of Kilimanjaro yesterday morning. Jos’ dad said everyone was fine. Jos told me that even though they were at the gate they couldn’t see the mountain yet and his sister said the weather was ‘British weather’, not sure if that’s good or bad. Didn’t expect to hear their voices and they all sounded great.

Probably won’t hear from them now until maybe a text at the weekend and hopefully a phone call on Monday to let me know whether they’ve done it or not (they set out for the summit in the early hours of that morning).

I’ve only just seen these comments, unfortunately they haven’t been showing up on my iPad. I wish Jos had known about you, Fatema, it would have given him confidence knowing someone like him has done it and is supporting his challenge.

Thank you Roy and Gerry for saying he is an inspiration. He is my son and the battle he has fought to get to where he is now with the diabetes inspires me every day and it is so good to know that he can do the same for others.

The diagnosis is hard, isn’t it Michelle, especially if you are sport orientated I think. Jos is an absolute natural at badminton and was in a club about to be chosen for the team. He dropped out completely and it took him a number of years to start playing again. He still hasn’t returned to the club, I think he struggles with the fact he would be going back at a lower standard than he was (boys and their egos!) but he plays weekly at my husband’s club, regularly beating the adults, and also started going to the school club. He even landed up doing some coaching to help the teacher which was great for his confidence. You’re only a year in Michelle and it takes time to get to know your diabetes, how it effects you. Once you know that then YOU are in control and that makes you feel so much stronger.

Sorry for the long comment!


Wow! I think you are truly amazing and want to wish you lots of luck.

I was diagnosed a year a go (at the age of 27) in a way very similar to you. My confidence (particularly with sport) has been knocked tremendously and you are a real inspiration!

Good luck again! And enjoy!

Jos you are an inspiration for all and have already achieved much. Diabetes UK will use funds wisely in reasearch into making things better for people living with this dreadful condition. I earnestly believe that in your lifetime things will greatly improve for you and others like you. All the very best

Go for it Jos. You are an inspiration to all who live with diabetes. Hope you have an amazing time.

It’s so great that you’re doing this to raise money for charity – truly a noble cause!
I live in Tanzania, I’m a type 1 diabetic and I climbed to Uhuru peak – the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010. It’s a great challenge, and a LOT of fun!
Good Luck!