It was 2am and I was wide awake. I wasn’t alone. We were ready to climb Mt Toubkal, in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I was joined by a wonderful group of Strivers, including my son Sam, nephew Noah, friend and mentee Sara Blakely, and the wonderfully inspirational Simon Sinek.
As we set off everybody had torchlights on their heads, and we wound up the mountains in the dark. We reached the top just as sun was coming up, and took in the breathtaking views of Morocco. As you can see from these amazing photos, it was the most incredible landscape. Kudos to the brilliant photographer Adam Slama for repeatedly striving ahead to get these shots.
But the journey was anything but easy, and a lot of people experienced hardships. Some suffered injuries and altitude sickness, one fainted, while one young lad, Jeremiah, stood up to the challenge at the last minute having done no training, and had to be carried down the final leg on a donkey.
In some ways, for me, it was tougher than climbing Mont Blanc – a feat I completed with the Big Change crew in 2013. This time, we climbed for 17 hours, scaling up the mountains then coming all the way back down again on foot.
Striving is tough. But it’s completely worthwhile. Sam and Noah established the Virgin Strive Challenge in 2014 to encourage young people to chase their dreams. Since 2014, they’ve held two major Strive journeys – one from London to the summit of the Matterhorn, and another from the base of the Matterhorn to the Summit of Mt Etna – and two “smaller” events – climbing Ben Nevis and this challenge in Morocco. All have been incredibly eye-opening, and proved the huge power of humans to push ourselves, overcome adversity and achieve great things.
Another great thing about Strive is the fascinating conversations that happen, with everybody feeding off each other and coming up with new ideas. We all went away feeling we could lift our game further. It was great to have an 18-year-old lad telling everyone they had only reached 10 per cent of their potential, with another 90 per cent still to go. That certainly got me thinking!
What’s more, Strive has been a wonderful catalyst to get us debating about how we can encourage young people to meet their full potential. After the climb, we jumped on bikes for the cycling part of the challenge, and Simon and I got talking on the longest bike ride of our lives about rethinking education. We had a lengthy discussion about dyslexia and why it needs a rebrand – more on that to come.
While I’m now weary and a tad bit sore, I’m looking forward to next Virgin Strive Challenge and many more inspiring conversations to come.