‘I roared like a lioness at the summit’ – Sutton woman climbs Kilimanjaro for chronically ill twin

By Shaun Flores
November 7 2019, 20.55

A River Thames marine technician with a ‘dogged determination’ climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last month to raise money for her chronically ill twin sister.

Sal Bolton, 36, from Sutton, hiked through five different climate zones in support of charity Action For M.E, a charity that ‘tackles ignorance, injustice and neglect for people whose lives have been stolen by Myalgic Encephalomyeltitis (M.E)’.

After a nine-and-a-half-hour hike through the arctic night, Sal reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on her final day.

She said: “I realised how tough I was when I needed to roar like a lioness at the summit with my Action For M.E. T-shirt.”

Sal added: “Before my sister was diagnosed, my sister like myself led a very active, interesting lifestyle, many dreams, many ambitions and aspirations.

“She was derailed by the onset of M.E and the years of humiliation, neglect and injustice that followed from ignorant views of society and the medical profession, her condition worsened, robbing her of energy to live a normal functioning life.”

Sal endured torrential rain, freezing weather and altitude sickness during her climb.

TOUGH: Sal endured extreme weather and conditions during the challenge

Armed with the mantra ‘breathing and believing’ and using the power of the people who believed and supported her, and for all the sufferers of M.E like her twin sister who has suffered for more than ten years.

M.E. is a long-term neurological condition that causes symptoms affecting many body systems, more commonly the nervous and immune systems.

Sal’s sister, Helen Bolton, said: “M.E. is widely misunderstood. The attitude of ‘everyone gets tired’ needs to change. Chronic fatigue (M.E.) needs to be recognised as a serious long-term illness.”

Helen added: “It affects you living a normal, functioning life. I have headaches, low energy, muscle pains, nausea and struggle with my concentration on a daily basis.

“It can be very stressful to live with and the ignorance of society and the medical profession has caused sufferers of M.E. a lot of anxiety, mental health issues and feelings of neglect.”

Standing at 5,895 metres, Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest point and the world’s highest free-standing mountain.

SELF-BELIEF: Sal had various techniques to help her complete the climb

Sal said: “I had the opportunity to be in Africa, my sister didn’t, she goes through the same fatigue and hardships everyday of her life.

Helen stated: “The hardship of the altitude sickness and fatigue you can suffer on the mountain, is a small insight to how sufferers really have to live on a daily basis.”

Sal continued: “I temporarily endured this.

“I had never been at extreme high altitude before, my body had no idea what to expect.”

Sal spent more than six months training four times a week with the help of The Gym Group, Sutton, weekend training walks in Box Hill, Surrey, a hiking week in the Lake District and a session at the Altitude Centre in London to prepare for the momentous challenge ahead. 

PREPARATION IS KEY: Sal had a rigorous training regime to ready herself

Sal has so far has raised over £1,000 for Action for M.E and is welcoming post-trip donations via the Just Giving page so the charity can continue its work of raising awareness.

Helen said: “I hope Sal’s Kilimanjaro climb will raise more empathetic awareness and funds for ‘Action for M.E.’ to help more sufferers like myself.”

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