One Virgin Strive Challenge leg down, four to go

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Frank A. Clark. After five days and 66 kilometres, we have completed the hike from the base of the Matterhorn to Northern Italy. The path we’ve taken has certainly had obstacles!

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It has been a beautiful but absolutely brutal hike, with Sam and my nephew Noah devising a route that brought all of us Strivers closer together and tested us to the limits. As I said to Holly: “You can tell Noah planned all this. He doesn’t realise we are not all superhuman like him! Anyway, everyone is certainly striving.”

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One day we got stuck on bad weather on the mountain. It was hellish for Holly’s group; the weather got really wet, windy and dangerous. They had to turn around and go a different route, which added three hours and a lot of tears. 

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The next day I did the same journey in dry weather and it took me 13 hours. I started out at 7.30am and arrived at 8.30pm. I finished dead last, my legs completely stiffened up and I had to drag myself down the mountain. Very sweetly, when I arrived at our hut, all of the Strivers came out to clap me in. It was the first time in my life I’ve had a round of applause for being last – one of the advantages of being the oldest!

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On the last hike leg I decided to leave early, and not hold anybody else up. My legs had recovered well, no longer feeling like jelly, and we covered the ground quickly. Near the end, I thought: “We were last yesterday, let’s try to be first today!” I soon realised Sam was not far behind. While he could see us we ambled along, when we turned a corner we raced ahead! He caught us, but we graciously crossed the finishing line together (a well brought up son!) That’s the way it should be on a challenge like this.

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There have been near-vertical cliff climbs, natural ice baths in the glaciers, some stunning views and a lot of laughter. One Striver, Dominik Jackson, even completed the hike with a broken nose. We've climbed over 5000m of vertical over the course of the week and many people struggle with exhaustion at the high altitude.

Despite the less-than-romantic conditions, from the lodges to the toilets, a couple even got engaged! My injuries have held up well, with the help of physio and massages. You can see how I’ve been getting on in this little video – all it needs is the Benny Hill theme music! 

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Now we have a day off to rest and for me to spend time with the grandchildren - here I am racing to meet them at the finish line. Then we just have to cycle the entire length of the country, swim from Italy to Sicily, mountain bike to the foothills of Mt Etna and trail-run to the summit of the active volcano. Simple! 

 

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We hope to raise over £1.5m for Big Change, a social impact accelerator that helps young people thrive in life, not just exams. Head over to the website to find out more, and if you can afford it, consider donating. 

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