Emma joined us on our winter ascent of Ben Nevis to fly the Commonwealth Flag on the summit. Here are her thoughts from the weekend.
Those true famous words “I am not looking down” became very vocal by myself over the 3 days I spent with Help for Heroes, Summit for Heroes and other fundraisers whilst mountaineering training and taking on the winter ascent of Ben Nevis.
Heights don’t frighten me but there is something about being a woman who lives in heels to swap them for hiking boots, then zig-zagging across mountains in crampons that is literally terrifying, especially when you can see where you will end up if you fall!
So why set myself the challenge climbing Ben Nevis to raise the Commonwealth Flag and raise money for Help for Heroes? My brother is a recently injured solider from his tour in Afghanistan. He as an individual, and we as a family received the initial and continued support from Help for Heroes. The amazing work they do goes unnoticed by so many, but deep down it’s a charity that the majority of people hold close to their hearts. Being on the receiving end and seeing the progress my brother is making, I thought was time to relinquish my rights to being a girly girl and hike mountains!
Upon arriving in Fort William, the other fundraisers and I were introduced to Summit for Heroes team; Darren Carew, Pete Bowker, Paddy Gallagher and Duncan Hook, also known as “Four Men with Five Legs”, to be briefed on the weekend itinerary, collect hired mountaineering kit and spend time to get to know each other.
Following late nights of watching grown men drink “English Tea” to their hearts content, day one and two of training began at 7am - being introduced to the qualified instructors and tackling Aonach Mor in what can only be described as a blizzard of wind and snow. We learnt ice axe arrest, techniques of climbing in the snow and how to protect yourself and team if needed. It was an experience... no women will ever feel like it's remotely socially acceptable to go to the bathroom on a mountain in front of a team of all men, or find the hilarity in someone ice axing snow in your face! Shaun, Head of Challenges and Events, and Duncan, Challenge Co-ordinator for Help for Heroes, both deserve a medal for listening to my moaning along the way but also for the constant encouragement they provided!
The big day arrived so quickly; before we knew it after 2 days of training, it was 2am on Monday 10th March. All 11 of us wrapped in multiple layers while the world slept to begin our ascent to reach the summit of Ben Nevis and raise the Commonwealth Flag; all you could see were 11 head torch lights paving the way.
Whilst we braved the cold, rain and snow, the moral between the group was on high form with the recurring same three-word swearing statement made by Paddy when he believed we were higher than we were! After scaling a frozen waterfall just beyond half-way loch, the views became outstanding. The snow covered mountains you could see spread for miles now that the night was drawing to an end.
The delight amongst the team when we made it to the summit of Ben Nevis just before 10am was sensational and it was amazing to see nothing but snow everywhere you looked. Raising the Commonwealth Flag on Commonwealth Day was an achievement most dream of and to be a part of it was incredible, something I will never forget.
It was a lot harder to come back down then to go up! I caught glimpses of the views that no amount of pictures would ever give justice to, it was absolutely breathtaking. From the start to the end, the team spirit was always there and we couldn't have been happier.
I would recommend anyone to climb Ben Nevis or to take on any challenge listed with Help for Heroes. To experience what I did with the wonderful men I met or to spend time in the company of the Summit for Heroes team really makes you realise how unbelievably inspirational they truly are. I wouldn’t trade that weekend for anything! To meet such amazing men and to see the positivity they portray is so overwhelming; they definitely put a lot of things into perspective and I wish them all the luck in the world for their continued training for Mt Everest.
Really cannot thank them all enough x
Emma is still fundraising for Help for Heroes following her climb, please support her here: http://www.bmycharity.com/EmmaBrien
Check out our current trekking challenges and have your own amazing experience!