Reading David’s wonderful account may give you an idea of what you have to go through to complete a challenge like this – the lack of sleep; the discomfort; the constant psychological battle involved in being up against what must sometimes seem like an impossible time limit; the grim determination to keep going despite physical pain, exhaustion both mental and physical, and whatever the weather throws at you. The actual experience, of course, is David’s alone – the rest of us can only imagine. Imagine and be awed and inspired by his commitment, his endurance and his achievement. Because he did it. Despite all, despite getting lost on Scafell, despite inadequate footwear and unexpected snow and all the other obstacles, David made it back to the final car park – and what an extraordinary relief it must have been to see that – within the 24 hour time limit of the challenge. A great achievement executed with true Bader spirit.
The Douglas Bader Foundation is deeply indebted to David, and to Tony, his trusty driver, for their immense efforts to raise funds for the BADER BRAVES. David’s wife, Angela, has set herself a fund-raising goal for the challenge and we are indebted to her also for her efforts in attempting to achieve this. A hard battle and often a thankless one in this uncertain financial climate. Despite the efforts of the team, they still have a way to go to reach the fund-raising target. Please, please help them and thereby this very worthy cause by donating to David’s Just Giving Page. There’s only a short time left as the Page closes on the 23rd of the month. It doesn’t matter how small the donation – every penny helps – and it’s a small effort compared to David’s.
* You can learn more about the important work done by the Douglas Bader Foundation BADER BRAVES initiative by going to the BADER BRAVES section of the DBF Website *
6 am Sunday morning, 22 April. Cold grey morning. Had 1 hr sleep and I’m getting closer to my neighbour than need be at this time of morning. Me and and my neighbour, Tony, are about to embark on our journey to Fort William, Scotland, from the borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. We are setting off earlier than planned on website due to poor communication on my part and Tony’s work commitments. We were originally planning on driving up slowly on the Sunday, staying in a hotel, then starting the challenge the following day at 6 pm on the 23rd, completing the challenge by 6pm on 24th, then on to a nice pub for a beer, football and hotel for a good nights sleep before heading back to Berkshire. But now the task that faced us was driving up to Fort William, starting the challenge when we got there, completing it by the following day, then driving back to Berkshire straight after on the Monday night. So with that in mind we set off on our journey, which was going to be physically and mentally draining to both of us given the time frame which now faced us. It could only be done on that day – pulling out was not an option. We made good time with Stirling (Tony) Moss behind the wheel and before we knew it we were hitting Stoke with both of us surprisingly jolly despite the time.
As we were coming to the potteries I see a thick cloud of smoke coming from the bushes and thought it a bit early for a farmer to be having a bonfire by the side of the motorway but, as we passed, we see a car in the bushes with a lady by the side and the driver trapped. We pulled over onto the hard shoulder. Luckily Tony being a lorry driver knew the exact location and got onto the emergency services while I ran to the car to see what help we could give. There was already another lorry driver on the scene but none of us could risk moving the driver in case he had a spinal injury and he had suffered trauma to the head as there was a lot of blood. Luckily help was soon upon the scene and we left him in the hands of the professionals. We were in somber mood as we headed back off to Scotland but it shows you how quickly in this life you can be the one helping one minute and the one needing help the next and how important charities like the Douglas Bader Foundation are. It can only take a second for your life to be turned upside down. A few rest stops along the way and we were soon making our way through Scotland, through the outskirts of Glasgow, then on and past the beauty of Loch Lomond – with no time for fishing. We were both excited to be seeing the mountains as we headed into Fort William. Tony had made great time. We got to the Ben Nevis Centre full of curiosity to see what lay in store – pictures can never do natural beauty true justice. It was becoming grey above but dry. We talked to the lady in the Centre and I discovered I was not well prepared for the snow on top of Ben Nevis that was forecast. I was in old Timberland boots and had no walking poles. It was going to be fun… I bid farewell to Tony who was hopefully going to get some rest after a massive effort to drive from Berkshire to Fort William.
I started off across the bridge and on to Ben Nevis. I made good time and the views were spectacular. It was a hard slog up the rocks but was going well until I hit the ice and snow, that’s when it become fun. There was a few slips and tumbles as I started to regret not taking my footwear seriously. On top of that it was starting to snow heavily and visibility was very poor. I could barely see in front of me. Luckily for me there was boulders called cairns up near the top to guide you the way to the summit. I could just about make them out and followed them to the top through the thick snow my legs were sinking into. I was surprised by the amount of snow on top and probably very naive. It was a great feeling to get to the summit and a privilege to be there for the Bader Braves. Coming down was going to be fun and there was a few more tumbles in the snow and ice. It was a relief to get back to the ordinary boulders and was glad to see the back of the snow. Once on to the normal track and rocks I skipped down in no time. Four hours and forty minutes had passed since I last saw Tony and I was back pestering the poor man to drive again. A quick change and we were on the road back to England and Scafell Pike. It was going to be a tough long drive through the night.
The night was a bit of a blur filled with dark roads and service stations. Maybe we got 20 minutes sleep. We rolled into Wasdale Campsite at an ungodly time and I was quickly lost not knowing where to start. It took my tired brain some time to work out where to start my trail and again bid farewell to Tony and leave him to the hygienic delights of the campsite shower, which he got for a bargain 20pence (10 pence cheaper than the toilets at Paddington Station!). Again I was making good time but the walk I had chosen seemed far more isolated than my time on Ben Nevis where I had come across some different characters. Despite the solitude and rocks going up I was lucky enough to stop for a drink of water and to take in the stunning views. It was dry so far and that was a relief. I had reached the end of my path and had to start making my way over some big boulders and was starting to wonder if I had gone the wrong way which would not be the first time on Scafell. Luckily I see a couple of walkers in the distance walking towards the summit so I knew I was heading in the right direction. It gave me a focal point to focus on. That’s a good motivation to have when you’re feeling a little mentally tired and starting to feel a few blisters. It was a bit deceptive at the top as I kept thinking I had made it and again I suffered from poor choice of footwear as, near the top, the boulders and track become slippery with ice.
I was happy to be at the summit in very good time in anticipation of the third leg on to Snowdonia. I reached a point in my path where I could have gone one of three ways and either down to my own stupidity or tired mind – it was Monday and I’d had 1 hour and 20 minutes sleep since Saturday morning – but I was not sure which way to go and for love nor money could remember the way I had come. It all looked the same to my unprepared eye. I chose a path and chose badly. It was not long before I realised I didn’t have a clue where I was but kept on my merry way hoping for a go home sign. I had very little drink left and was worried about time. I didn’t want to jeopardise the next walk on Snowdon by wandering in circles. I could not get a signal on phone to use maps but could use compass and knew I should be going north, which made sense because that was the way the water was flowing. So I decided to go north than follow the water once I got to ground level. It seemed like forever as the pressure heated up in my mind that I was going to be ruining my time and compromising my challenge. I just kept following the trail of the water in blind faith. After a while I was on ground level but still without a clue where I was. ‘Phone was dead. After passing sheep and cows I come across some other walkers which was such a relief when time was becoming so precious a commodity. It was an even bigger relief when they told me I was close to my destination – maybe a 30 to 40 minute walk following some path and road. It was such great and motivating news that, now I knew I going in the right direction, I could start burning some energy by jogging so I could make up lost time even though I was a lot slower than normal because of the blisters. It seemed I had gone in one big circle rather than going up and straight down. I will go back soon to work it out – it still annoys me as I got up in such good time. In the end it took me five hours, having got to the summit in around two hours. I have never been so happy to see a campsite – not a feeling I normally get on seeing tents. I’m a man who likes his luxuries and a hotel room. As I walked through the campsite towards the car park I came across three lovely girls at a tent with a barbecue burning and they offered me tea and food which I had to decline as I had a driver to find and another country to get to. If that’s not giving to all to charity than I don’t know what is! I got to the car park and Tony was not in it. He was in the girls’ tent. (Only joking!) I wandered around with bottom lip quivering for a while and when I spotted him, ran and give a way big hug. Challenge was still on. Poor Tony had been kicked out into another car park by campsite and he had been worried I was taking too long so had been looking. Luckily his ‘phone was dead too so I avoided the embarrassment of the Royal Marines coming to find me. It was time to kick on to Wales.
It was great to be driving on to the final leg but again, whether it was down to adrenaline or excitement at seeing pastures new, I just could not sleep. More roads, more petrol, more Vaseline on feet and in no time it seems we was at Pen-Y-Pass. My feet were in bits – a harsh lesson on the use of proper socks and footwear for next time and for anyone who bothers to read this. The weather in Wales was shocking. The rain was falling and it was blowy and cold. I greased up the feet one last time, told Tony to get some needed shut-eye as, unlike anyone else I come across, there was no hotel room for us at the end but another long drive home. I started up the Pyg Track just wanting to knock it out as quick as I could and again started really well but the one which I thought would be the easiest was to become the one I felt hardest. My feet were killing me with every step and I was trying hard to ignore the slicing pain. The rain was starting to get harder and it was harder to think properly with the lack of sleep I had. My coordination and balance was also getting very bad when clambering over boulders and rocks. I was starving too and had not took the time to refuel properly as I was just too eager to start and thinking of time which had been more of an obsession of mine than the more important factors of sleep, food, hydration and proper mountain wear. I had only snacked on bars and my body was feeling it. I started to see people that I had sailed past at the beginning going by me as I was being slowed by blisters and lack of fuel. I was running out of petrol and starting to regret not making the most of pit stops and not taking more pit stops. I trudged on secretly angry with myself. I tried to get some raisins and bars out of my bag, which was soaked, but I could not open anything – my hands were just too cold and not working. Very frustrating. It wasn’t till after that I thought I should have used my teeth or the knife in my bag but, as I said earlier, the grey matter between my ears was not working properly due to lack of sleep. I tried putting on gloves, which were also soaked, to get some warmth. Another lesson – take waterproof gloves. Reading this back I must sound really stupid, but most of my mistakes were down to complacency and a total lack of interest in ever being organised as anyone who has ever known me would testify. The clouds come down and it was so misty at the top I could hardly see a thing which was surprisingly scary in my current state. It was just a relief, to be honest, to get it over even though due to awful weather conditions and mist, I couldn’t see a thing by now. I just wanted to get down safely as it was so narrow and slippery on ice near the top of the ascent. Coming down I decided to cut across a little waterfall and climb down the steep rocks so I could make my way to the Miners Track because it was mostly tarmacked and I could maybe get one last run out of my feet and body to chase time. It was great to see the car through the grey pouring rain sitting in the car park when it came upon my horizon. I banged on the window to a startled Tony who told me the time had flown by. If only he knew. Ha ha! He had got some good shut-eye and it was time to kick off the Timberlands one last time and warm the hands so I could use them to get some food in my body. Tony started the car and we bid adieu to the mountains. We didn’t say much on the way home – we were shattered. It had been a great shared effort and we had shared an adventure.
I want to say thank you to Tony for sharing his time and effort with me for the cause. I also want to thank Angela who has tried tirelessly to bang the drum for charity and has liaised with the help of Wendy, Keith and David. Angela has had a lot of knock-backs and her faith tested in people to try and help raise money. Perhaps we are finding out how hard it is for the smaller charities to keep existing in these times of austerity. Also Bader Brave, Morgan, and his brother, Sammy, who have rattled the tin and badgered adults for money. And, of course, everyone who has given a cent to the charity. Thank you. I’ve seen first hand what it does and the love and commitment that goes into it. The Flying Days, weekends away, the effort of the people involved. It would be easy to bury your head in sand and just enjoy the riches of your own life but they don’t, they share the most precious commodity of all and that’s time. They help change kids’ lives for a short time and I’ve seen the smiles and confidence that those kids take from those experiences. It’s a great reason and cause for people to give money to. Thank you to everyone that did. And lastly thank you to the bravery of the Bader Braves.
Here is a selection of dramatic photographs taken by David during his challenge. This collection will also appear in the Bader Braves Galleries: