The past few months have been a truly epic journey – now less than 2 weeks remain before I depart the UK to Nepal for my two month expedition on the 28th of March. I was involved in the April 2014 tragedy where 16 Sherpa people tragically lost their lives in a huge avalanche on Mount Everest. As a result my expedition was eventually cancelled and I returned home, having not stepped above base camp. I would have to raise the entire expedition costs, over £30,000- for a second time. But I’ve learnt to turn obstacles into opportunities and thus the EPIC7 project began…
To build momentum, fundraise for the Sherpa victims, attract sponsors and get into the best possible condition for Everest 2015 – I’d devised a series of seven ultra endurance challenges called the EPIC7 to push myself mentally and physically. I realised I would need accommodation across the country for my challenges/training and the YHA were one of the first to sponsor my journey. Having access to complimentary accommodation has greatly reduced my costs and the location has always been ideal for my challenges. As the Active Lifestyle Ambassador for Active Cheshire, trying to get 50,000 people more active more often across my county by 2017, I’m passionate about inspiring people to get outdoors so couldn’t be more proud to promote the YHA and its work too.
My first EPIC7 challenge was the toughest cycling sportive in the UK – the Fred Whitton Sportive. I didn’t enter the organised event with marshals and feed stations… I just hopped on the bike and did the route. Over 113 miles with over 12,000ft of ascent up all the high passes in the Lake District in one day including Hardknott pass, with a 1 in 3 gradient – after 9 hours on the bike I caught the final train home with four minutes to spare!
A few weeks later I enjoyed my first stay at a Youth Hostel – the Pen-y-Pass in Snowdonia. I was really impressed by the quality and range of the facilities, and the food! Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the comforts for long as I was out the door at 3am for EPIC7 number 2 – the Welsh 3000s. This involves climbing the 15 highest mountains in Wales over 3000ft within 24 hours. That’s over 12,000ft of ascent and 32 miles of walking, starting on Snowdon. I completed it in 18 hours 45 minutes- completely solo and unsupported, the youngest person ever to do it solo.
For number 3, in late August I then cycled from my hometown of Chester to Chamonix in the French Alps in just 8 days – about 880 miles. Once again fully unsupported and solo, carrying my own gear on the bike. On day 1 I stayed at YHA Stratford-upon-Avon, which was very friendly, warming and had a nice traditional feel to it. Not forgetting the awesome coffee. The next day I stayed with a friend in Portsmouth, but I stopped at YHA South Downs for a shower and a proper meal on day 3 before boarding my ferry. Fish and Chips and Bakewell Tart were just what I needed whilst burning over 4000kcal a day!
Once in Chamonix, bruised, elated and about 7lbs lighter, number 4 was then the highest peak in Switzerland, the Dom des Mischabel at 4545m high. I can confirm that the Swiss Youth Hostels weren’t quite up to the same standard!
Photo by Giles Babbidge.
EPIC7 #5 was epic in every sense. At the end of October, I then cycled the National 3 Peaks Challenge… walking the 3 highest mountains in the UK and cycling 440 miles in between in 4 days. It had never been done so late in the year – nor entirely solo. I originally planned for 3 days but suffered a bad crash on the first day which shook me up badly. On day 1 I set off from YHA Pen-y-Pass at 1am, climbed Snowdon then cycled 160 miles to YHA Ambleside which was extremely popular. The food was great as always and the self-catering kitchen extremely useful for my bucket full of Porridge and coffee the morning after with a stunning sunrise over Lake Windermere practically on the doorstep. After climbing Scafell Pike I stopped at YHA Borrowdale where I’d sent a parcel of extra snacks and supplies. With the roaring fire and lovely Lakeland remoteness I didn’t want to leave into the cold darkness – I grabbed a packed lunch and pushed on to Carlisle. I climbed Ben Nevis 2 days later (after 5 punctures!) at about 10:30pm.
Since then I’ve also stayed at YHA Keswick and YHA Pen-y-Pass for my general training, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to relax at the hostels without any of the premature middle-night departures or drama associated with the EPIC7 challenges, and look forward to staying in more in the future.
As well as supporting the Himalayan Trust UK for the basic needs of the Nepalese mountain people, I will be supporting the Alex Staniforth Adversity Fund, administered by Active Cheshire. My combined charity target is £30,000. This fund will directly support people in the Cheshire area with mental health, bullying and disability issues to live a healthy active lifestyle, three aspects which have had a major impact on my life where I feel there is not enough help.