Just a quickie! Wanted to give you some more info about my next EPIC7 challenge which has approached very quickly.
But first of all, I’m extremely excited to announce my second charitable cause to be supported by the Everest expedition/EPIC7 Project. The Alex Staniforth Adversity Fund has been launched, which will support people in Cheshire facing profound adversity, in particular supporting projects to help people with mental health, bullying and disability issues lead a healthy and active lifestyle. This is incredibly powerful as I’m extremely passionate about making a very real difference and it’s an amazing opportunity to create a legacy in my own name, which will aid people through difficulties in their lives, particularly those I myself faced in my earlier life. The fund will be kindly administrated by Active Cheshire, who as well as one of my joint expedition sponsors, are the county’s lead body for sport and physical activity and a registered charity. The total sum of money raised by the Alex Staniforth Adversity Fund will be taken to a select panel headed by myself and 100% of the money raised* (no management fees taken) will be used to support local people who have been impacted by bullying, mental illness and disabilities.
Alongside the Himalayan Trust UK, supporting the mountain people of Nepal, I will be aiming to raise £30,000 between both charities.
On Thursday I will be heading up to Inverness to stash my climbing gear at SYHA Inverness before getting the bus down to Fort William. I’ll be loading up on calories then at 5am on Friday 13th I will depart from the Old Fort in Fort William- the start of the Great Glen Way, one of Scotland’s four long distance routes. Due to my focus on mountain specific training recently, I knew my next challenge had to be on foot and without the same logistical nightmares like in my previous challenges- but doing something that involved lots of mountains has too much risk of popping an ankle and the EPIC7 without Everest- the holy grail- would be more of an epic fail.
After a ridiculous amount of pondering, I’ve gone for the following itinerary. The first day will be the flattest and easiest terrain, heading along to Gairlochy, along Loch Lochy (which lazy bugger named that one?) then to Kilfinnan and Laggan, then Aberchalder and finishing in Fort Augustus- approximately 35.5 miles in total and approximately 13-14 hours. This is quite a big day, but I’ve opted to get the distance in whilst it’s flat and my legs are strong. I’ve walked this sort of distance a couple of times before- once of which was the EPIC7 Welsh 3000’s- and the mental aspect tends to give up well before your legs.
Saturday will be a more leisurely start, leaving at 7 or 8am, passing through Invermoriston and Alltsigh, finishing in Drumnadrochit- approximately 24 miles/8 hours. The reason I only mention two villages- is that’s pretty much all I’ve got. The Great Glen has large sections where I’m totally away from the safety of roads. As the hills start to hit home, my speed will drop but stunning views over Loch Oich and Loch Ness should make up for it.
From research, the final section to Inverness is navigationally quite difficult and heavily forested with a steep climb up to Abriachan. My plan is to risk getting lost (after all, there’s got to be some sort of epic!) and leave the hostel in Drumnadrochit about 4am by headtorch. This final 20 mile section past Loch Ness should take no more than 5 hours and so I aim to be arriving at Inverness by midday or earlier, providing I don’t bump into Nessie… to hit my 60 hour deadline I’ll need to finish by 5pm. Then I’ll rest for a couple of days before heading into the mountains.
I remember last October how I was sick to the stomach with the anticipating of my last EPIC7 challenge, the 3 Peaks Cycle, as I looked outside at the grim Autumn weather, dark nights and bare trees. Once again I have the same questions and doubts but my priority is not just to complete the challenge, but to stay injury free. This is no time for an ego or to prove anything, so I will be taking my time- if doing it in less than 60 hours counts… Bearing in mind the walk is normally completed in 5 or 6 days, hopefully it will still suffice as a challenge. Maybe it’s the enormity of the past challenges, and learning a few bits about logistics along the way, that have made this one less daunting. Either way, I just want to get it over and done with.
Leaving support for people facing adversity both abroad and closer to home with every step towards Everest will add further meaning to my journey. Leaving muddy footprints in the corridor as I stagger into SYHA Inverness on Sunday won’t be quite as philanthropic…