It’s a long way from John O’Groats to Lands End, especially if you take in the highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales along the way… Doing it on foot, for a fantastic cause, is an epic challenge that Nick Roxburgh from near Liverpool is currently undertaking.
What is the challenge and why did it appeal?
I am midway through a 1,014 mile epic that will take me the length of Britain and to the highest summits of Scotland, England & Wales by foot alone. I set out on the trek from John OGroats at the start of September and I have just completed the Scottish leg of the trip with Ben Nevis in the bag and Scafell Pike next in my metaphorical (and soon to be literal) sights. I will then be heading down through the rest of North West England, across North Wales to Snowdon and should eventually reach Lands End in mid-November as the winter rolls in.I had a craving for adventure, for challenge, for pushing my limits and testing myself against opposition. It is what makes me feel alive. John OGroats to Lands End and the Three Peaks are two of the classic challenges this island has to offer so I thought why not mix things up by combining them. It seemed to fit the bill!
What training methods would you recommend?
Most people who set out on long-distance hikes do not get very far. When you are pushing your personal boundaries the margin between success and failure is always going to be slight. Thats what makes it a challenge and it is what makes it all the more rewarding when you look back at the obstacles you have overcome. However, preparation and planning make a huge difference to your chances of success and your ability to enjoy the weeks and months of hiking.For starters, fitness is essential. You are walking all day, every day, often with significant amounts of ascent and decent and all the time with up to 20kg on your back. It means you need strong feet, ankles, legs, knees, back, shoulders and neck essentially full body fitness. Your body adapts remarkably quickly but without prior preparation the early weeks will likely be dominated by pain and injuries will be more likely than not. All of that will only add to the mental stress when you are already playing mind games with yourself.In terms of training you need to look at building good aerobic fitness, strength, balance and stamina. It is also important to get out of the gym so you can train your body for the uneven terrain you will be walking on and get used to how your rucksack affects your balance adding 25% to your body weight is not without consequences.That said, I think even more important than fitness is psychology. Such long-distance challenges will completely dominate your life for several months and require you to put your all into them so you have got to have a burning desire to make it, the mental toughness to deal with the lows and an absolute belief in your own ability before you even set off. If you are doing it solo you also have to be comfortable with solitude and have the relentlessness, resilience and resolve you need to push on through the hard times as there will be no one else to share the burdens or pick you up. That means you need to be able to manage your own mind and keep your morale high even when theend goal seems so distant.
I think key to all this is having purpose behind the challenge and that for me is the fundraising I am doing for the East Africa famine appeal. Thinking of the people walking hundreds of miles in search of food and refuge is a great way of wiping out any self-pity I may have. Another thing that I can really draw strength from is the messages of support I have been given from friends I have seen and people I have met along the way. I have a flag that I carry which they have written their messages on, that I take out to read occasionally. Its an idea I got from some of the competitors on the Vende Globe who write motivational mantras on the inside of their yachts. It is simple but phenomenally effective.
What kit would you recommend?
Deciding what equipment to take is always a matter of compromise between performance, weight and budget. First you need to determine what kit is necessary for the conditions you are likely to encounter and for general day-to-day living in the wild. After that it is all about getting the best performance to gram ratio you can your back will thank you for it later and it will show in your daily mileage.It is well worth investing in getting decent footwear, warm gear and waterproofs as well as a quality solo tent and sleeping bag these are the items you will use and rely on the most and they are also where you can save most weight if you choose carefully.If you are buying new items its well worth looking at the outdoor forums, blogs and magazines to see what others recommend and there are numerous kit lists out there to help you decide on the essentials.
What are the highs and lows?
You experience daily highs and lows from catching a glimpse of clouds rolling over mountain ridges in the morning to feeling the rain start to hammer down with no shelter in prospect. Overall, though, it is the people I have met along the way, each with their own stories, dreams or quirks who have really made it for me. I climbed Ben Nevis with a bloke who had attempted the Matterhorn, met a lad trying to climb all the Munros in a single year, was fed by a formerly homeless Liverpudlianturned crofter and chatted with a Welshman in a ramshackle outdoor cafe who had walked the length of Ireland as hens clucked around our feet.
Is it in aid of a cause?
I took up the challenge in order to raise funds for the Disasters Emergency Committees East Africa crisis appeal. More than 10 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and the newly-formed Republic of South Sudan have been left in need of food, water and emergency healthcare because of one of the worst droughts in 60 years.The crisis may be out of the headlines but it has not diminished so I am looking to raise 1,014 which is 1 per mile I walk to help the DEC continue their work in delivering relief fast and effectively to those in need. You can find out more and donate by visiting my website at www.walking.gb.net