Sunday, 8 September 2013

The road to Route 66: Gale Force winds and Love Hope Strength

I wanted to blog about the weekend I have just had for several reasons.  Firstly to try and give people an idea of why I have become so involved with Love Hope Strength Foundation, to show you some of the things the charity does to raise money and to continue with my tale of fitness preparation for Route 66.

Ben Nevis Rocks - one of the events where people who support the charity, Love Hope Strength Foundation, come together, walk a mountain, and raise money and awareness for the charity.
What the above doesn't tell you is how I have made lifelong friends along the way and shared an experience that is difficult to put into words.

So the weekend began after a night shift - racing home and getting there just in time to find Steve Webster ready to shove all the swabbing kit into his car to start the journey up to Scotland.  On the way we swung by to pick up my step-daughter Anna, who was about to experience not only the mountain for the first time but also her first Rocks event.  Then onwards and upward - eventually getting  through the traffic - to Glasgow to pick up Brian finnie.  Steve is a dedicated volunteer abumbed into each other a lot of  Alarm/Big Country/Rocks events over the last few years. Brian i met on Ben Nevis last year and it seems like we have been friends for a long time.  With such good company, the journey flies by, but we do arrive late to the pre-rocks gathering of walkers.  However the scenery of the A82 made it all ok!

We headed off to our campsite, set up the tents and prepared for an early start!
03:30 to be exact and by 04:30 we were starting to gather at the base of the climb.
It was at this point that Mickey Collins arrived.  I shared the walk down Ben Nevis last year with Mickey and I think it is safe to say that we have become firm friends.  so much so that the madness has rubbed off on him and he cycled from his home in Lochmaben to Ben Nevis - a distance of over 250 miles - to raise money for Love Hope Strength Foundation in memory of his brother Stevie. As they say in Cycling - Chapeau Mickey! He and his family raised a grand total of around £5000.  Mickey is a good example of the kind of people that I was lucky enough to share the weekend with.

We then got treated to a song from Mike Peters, the founder of the charity and inspiration to many of us - before setting off in the dark, headtorches on - up the mountain.  It was cold and wet and the wind was such that the chill of the night air reached the bones pretty quickly but we all had smiles on our faces and before we knew it the daylight arrived.  Anna set off at quite a pace, although not as fast as Mickey who practically ran up!

The walk provides us all with an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones and if you have the tendency to think philisophically like i do sometimes - it is one of the few times when I can say that everyone present was there to do a good thing which is one of the reasons why I find it life - affirming in a way. It confirms that there are a lot of genuine;y good people out there who will give up time and effort to do something for others.

However this year the mountain decided to throw all it had at us.  It got so cold near the top that people's hands were swelling up (my knuckles have only just been found), extremities were numb, and if you took your hat off - brain freeze (as my step daughter so aptly put it) followed.  then the wind made itself known - lets just say that if the wind can blow an adult off their feet - it's gotta be gale force.

This meant that time at the top was curtailed but am proud to say that Anna made it up there and didn't give up when it got tough. We managed a few lines of a song and a photo with Mike Peters before setting off at a reasonable pace - with the knowledge that the quicker we descended the quicker we would warm up.  NB - tying up shoelaces with numb hands is an interesting exercise!!

Post the climb, when we all got back, we headed to the campsite to dry clothes, and get ready for the post-climb gathering!

This is where the swabbing comes in...

So we set up a stall and signed people up to the bone marrow donor list, it's easy and takes just 5 minutes of your time and you could help save a life!
Once again Anna made me proud by learning how to GET PEOPLE ON THE LIST and jumped in to lend a hand along with the other volunteers.  23 people signed up to the list, which was a great result.

Then the music - Mike was fantastic as people shouted out songs that he hadn't played for years in some cases but after a few seconds of thought off he went and entertained us with his guitar that people had signed on the way. The Deceiver, True Life, The Message, 68 Guns to name but a few.  Mike was kind enough to get me up to tell people about the bike ride - and following that I was blown away by the support of people who I had just met who were kind enough to donate and offer their support in this crazy challenge.

All good things must come to an end however and too soon it had all wound down.  The stall was packed up and we are all left to reflect on how a group of people, many of whom didn't know each other before can all get on so well, and create a 'magical thing' ( for want of a better way to describe it).

So I probably speak for all of us when I say to Mike and Jules, thank you very much for a wonderful weekend. Let's do it all again sometime soon!!

(SNOWDON ROCKS takes place next weekend!)