The week before a challenge is a feeling I know too well. You plan to have everything boxed off so that you spend the last few days in a state of zen sipping tea and readying yourself for the off. The reality is this is only wishful thinking, and you’re knackered before race day even begins.
There is so much to do and at times even going back to Everest would have been far easier! But once I get on the bike tomorrow then all of that is quite literally behind me for over 5,200 miles, 100 counties and two months. And whilst the crow flies – it’s 4,700 miles from Chester to Everest…
On Everest everything is taken care of: I just turn up and give it my best with a support team. The logistics have been my own responsibility this time. It’s a strange sensation that I’m exiled from home for two months, sometimes close, but not once will I visit home. I’m excited to see the most beautiful parts of the UK and meet people along the way.
To get everything good to go it took a few 3:00am finishes and some great help off my friend Ste, both of us trawling through gpx co-ordinates and route files.
“Mate, you’ve only got 96 peaks on the list?” Ste messaged me with concern.
Oh bugger. Had I really gone through months of preparation to have missed some and made a false claim? Had Pilot Hill took off? Had Whitehorse Hill galloped away? Not again!
Soon enough we found the little blighter – three of the counties share the same highest point, too.
You can now watch my live map as I’m passing close by (or further afield). When rain lashes the windows you can revel in comfort as my little icon keeps moving through the middle of the night on the bigger days where I inevitably fall behind schedule and the Scottish weather gives me what I probably deserve…
Training wise I don’t think you can train for something like this. I’ve always believed it’s 90% mental and 10% physical, and being able to draw on experiences to find a reason to keep on going. I don’t have a great deal of flexibility in my schedule for the first month due to ferries and so I’ll be relieved when I make it to the east coast of Scotland. We find a way or make one. That’s adventure, after all.
After various suggestions, my new Genesis Tour De Fer bike was officially christened Bikey McBikeFace. Big thanks to Ali and Dad for sorting this out at such short notice. We’re going to have lots of fun.
So, Bikey is ready to roll and the kit is almost packed, barring an ultra-light 600g sleeping bag which I’m picking up from Steph @ Marmot Clothing on Scafell Pike next week!
Everything weighs something and I’ve even gone to the extent of cutting my toothbrush in half. The one major advantage of this challenge is I’m never too far from supplies unlike Tibet where it’s six hours by Yak to the nearest road. I have the benefit of spending my first week adjusting and settling into a routine, adapting accordingly.
To save weight I’ll be using Inov-8 trail shoes for all the walking sections. I’ll only be running when on my own, with runners, or if being mugged – they have the flexibility of doing everything. My panniers weigh just 10kg which isn’t much for two months (albeit sending some stuff in parcels ahead). I’m using a rugged CAT S60 smartphone for my updates and the Viewranger app. It also happens to boast a thermal imaging camera – which should at least make cycling through Milton Keynes more interesting…
The inspiration for this challenge came from a number of things. At base camp on Cho Oyu last year I was sat in the solitude of a tent with a pack of Hobnobs, questioning: “what am I doing here?”
As my journey has unfolded over the years, the most powerful thing for me has been the power of inspiration to others. More recently, since speaking out about mental illness – by giving people an example to push on and overcome their own Everest in life. Something I feel has more impact when closer to home than on a far away mountain in the cold.
Last year I was hugely inspired by Elise Downing, a young British adventurer who ran 5000 miles around the coast of the UK, also for Young Minds UK. People joined her as she persisted and kept smiling through both the triumphs and trials, and this for me seemed such an amazing way to inspire others – and there was so much of my home country that I had yet to explore and experience.
I could have gone off to do another mountain, but that would be about me, and not what the journey has become. My friend Mike told me that over a brew a few months ago – a lightbulb came on. Thus, Climb The UK was born. And here we are today.
It’s all for a reason. To show that mental illness is not a sign of weakness in anyone. I hope you can spare a few pennies to make the challenge worthwhile… over £8,000 and counting, you legends!
But first – a few special thanks…
– My Mum and Stepdad, as no challenge like this holds together without a solid ‘base camp’.
– Paul, Steve, Mike, Chris, Rich, Ste, Hems and more have been sounding boards throughout and when I’ve needed it most.
– Westgrove Group, head sponsors, for making it possible, getting their community behind me and supporting all I do.
– YHA England & Wales, SYHA and Hostelling Northern Ireland for generously providing my accommodation across the UK in some stunning locations.
– Oli and the Viewranger tech gurus for providing the navigation system for Climb The UK and a tracker to share the journey, thanks to all-hours technical support and the patience of a Saint!
– Everyone who has sponsored my county tops and donated to my fundraising page. I cannot thank you enough.
So folks, I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got time for. Time to go #ClimbTheUK!
(P.S. Did I tell you I’m starting on the 13th of the month?)