December 18, 2023

As Christmas approaches and the year draws to a close we thought we’d take a moment to take stock of the past year and regale you with some stories of our favourite highlights of 2023 from our Founder Simon Albert and some of our amazing Challenge Leaders.

Grab a warm drink and lose yourself in these wonderful tales of grit, determination, camaraderie, and bravery!

Dog Sledding Challenge

In March I had the privilege to head out to the Arctic to take on our Dog Sledding Challenge. It was my first time to the Arctic, to attempt Dog Sledding, and to witness the Northern Lights. And best of all, I got to do it with a great bunch of guys and girls from the North East who kept the humour on full power all week.

It was minus 30 degrees Celsius, and very remote and wild, and we saw moose, reindeer and Arctic hares. We each had the task of working with a team of 3 or 4 powerful huskies to sled through the Arctic wilderness. We learnt about the indigenous people, the Sami, and stayed one night in a Sami tee pee sleeping in minus 15 degrees. Lunches were cooked on an open fire, and in the evenings, after a plate of moose stew, we lay on the frozen lake on reindeer skins, watching the stars above including the odd shooting star.

But to cap it all, we watched streaks of green in the sky one evening and out of nowhere, a light show began that left us in complete awe. It’s hard to put into words, and even the photos and videos don’t really do it justice, but the entire sky lit up and danced magically in an array of colours, back and forth. I shall never forget that moment!

Simon Albert, Co Founder and Director

Trek Angkor Wat

This has been another busy year of UK and Overseas Challenges for me, with so many individual highlights.

Overseas trips included two trips to Jordan – one for the first Trek Wadi Rum and Petra Challenge – and there were also the ever-inspirational ‘CoppaTreks’ in aid of CoppaFeel! in Northumberland and The French Alps.

In the UK there were, amongst many others, trips to the South Downs, the Jurassic Coast and the Brecon Beacons along with the usual mix of daytime and nighttime mountain challenges in England, Wales and Scotland.

I have been asked however to pick just a single highlight from my 2023 calendar – and so, as hard as that task is, I would probably have to say that leading this year’s Trek Angkor Wat Challenge was my most memorable highlight. Having led a successful inaugural challenge last year I really enjoyed heading back with more familiarity of the itinerary, of the country and of the local people. This in turn allowed me to take much more in as we moved through the stunning landscape of Cambodia.

It really is a beautiful place to explore – and to do it with such a great group of people made it all the more memorable.

I’m now looking forward to even more adventures in 2024 – I still believe I have the best job in the world!

Ian Morton, Challenge Leader

Costa Rica Coast to Coast Challenge

2023 was another lovely year with amazing bike rides in both the Indian Himalayas and the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. However, my highlight was leading the Costa Rica Coast to Coast Trek and Raft challenge. A beautiful country with amazing biodiversity and environmental credentials. We were very much away from the usual tourist hotspots and camping in remote communities. The 2 days of adventurous rafting at the end was amazing especially the stunning camp sites. Finish it off with a stroll along the beach at Cahuita National Park spotting lots of wildlife – it was definitely a trip to remember. 

Colin Lovell, Challenge Leader

Challenge Leader, Lizzy Codd

I could write as I’ve done in the previous seasons and mention CoppaFeel! treks, of which there were three this year, but I felt I needed to branch out and diversify!  If you want to know how amazing CoppaFeel! treks are don’t listen to me: go on one and be part of raising tens of thousands of pounds to help early detection of breast cancer!

This year I’m going to write about my treks on the South Downs Challenge, walking between Brighton and Eastbourne; often overlooked because they are down south, where we apparently don’t have any real hills!  Try telling that to one of the amazing challengers as they head over the last 5 miles towards Beachy Head along the undulating South Downs Way.  If you’ve not walked here before, the scenery is stunning but the hills brutal.

We’ve always had wonderful weather from the start, albeit with a bit of a coastal chill high up on the Downs.  But it’s warmed up through the day and we’ve seen wild ponies, climbed to the top of white cliffs, peered down at lighthouses, marvelled at the river snaking out to sea at the stunning Cuckmere Haven, and explored Birling Gap whilst grabbing a cheeky ice cream at a handily placed NT café!

The people who’ve taken part have been raising money for a wide range of charities including The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, Shelter, Trekstock and Young Lives v Cancer.  The discussions that we’ve had as the day has gone on have been humbling and inspiring and I never tire of helping walkers achieve this challenge, finishing the day by receiving a well-deserved medal and celebratory drink on Eastbourne Seafront before making their way back to the start in Brighton with the enormity of the distance they’ve covered sinking in as the miles fly past!

Lizzy Codd, Challenge Leader

National Three Peaks Challenge in aid of Mind

This year Charity Challenge’s UK events seem to have been one highlight after another for me starting back in May with multiple events for Wetherspoons employees, raising funds for Young Lives vs Cancer. This was followed by physically and emotionally challenging night time ascents of Snowdon and Scafell Pike events for SANDS & Macmillan Cancer Support, before heading to the North West and Hadrian’s Wall Country in June for the annual UK CoppaTrek for CoppaFeel!, (made more poignant since it was the last time I got to see The Sycamore standing in The Gap in all its glory).

The middle of summer saw me leading and managing two National Three Peaks events for trekkers, this time raising funds for MIND. Then I was off on yet more ascents of Ben Nevis & Snowdon, plus a couple of marathon long treks along the Giants Causeway Coast and around the Edinburgh 7 Summits for a whole host of smaller, but no less deserving regional charities.

In September I took on the organisation and management of a 2-day 100km trek from London to Brighton, ably supported by an excellent 9-strong Walk Leader team, for 46 employees from Capital One who were raising funds for Rethink Mental Illness – whilst still not the standout highlight of the year this was most certainly the toughest Charity Challenge event I have ever had the pleasure of being involved with!

As the end of summer was fast approaching and the October temperatures were noticeably dropping off it was time for another night time ascent – this time of Ben Nevis. Due to the time of year it’s not an event where trekkers are rewarded with a view of the rising sun as they summit the UK’s highest mountain. However, on this occasion they were treated to, what was considered to be the best ever post event breakfast by Tom & Em Rumsey from the Two Collies (mobile) Café . A fitting way to end a season of highlights so here’s to many more in 2024.

Danny Barden, Challenge Leader

Andean Volcano Challenge

Working with Charity Challenge is always special.  We work alongside a great team of leaders who all want our participants to have a fabulous time.  Going somewhere new adds extra spice to a journey, and this year it was the Andean Volcano Challenge, in Ecuador.  This also saw the return of Royal LePage raising a staggering million pounds for their Shelter Foundation. Seeing people I met in Morocco in 2019, and chatting about some of the adventures we had there was wonderful.  

The challenge starts from the vibrant city of Quito which lies at 2850 metres above sea level, so you start acclimatising the moment you step off the plane.  With the proximity to the Equator, the weather is always changing depending on which trade winds are dominating.  This means the vegetation is incredibly varied, from cloud forest, to something that would be familiar within the UK, to the dry plains below Mount Cotopaxi.  

We had a fantastic local team, who were incredibly welcoming, and brought a wealth of knowledge about the region.  This was an opportunity to slow down and really notice where you were.  Trekking at altitude makes you slow down, and the stunning scenery of Mount Pasochoa (4200 metres), and the Cascades de Fuego, are dominated by the splendour of Cotopaxi itself, was well worth taking the time for.  Every so often Cotopaxi will send up a puff of smoke to remind you that it is still active.  

People make it memorable.  One participant had her 76th birthday during the trek and walked with a floral crown made form the flowers around us by one of the local leaders.  The camp crews cooked local cuisine fresh each day, giving us all a taste of regional culture.  

Participants become friends.  So I plan to visit Ecuador again and have more adventures, and catch up with the trekkers in Canada.

Ian Waddington, Challenge Leader

Snowdon At Night

As the year draws to a close it’s time again to reflect on various challenges that I have had the pleasure of leading over the last 12 months.

So what challenge/event have I enjoyed the most this year?

Well I’m not going to pick a single one, I am going with what some might think as a strange choice. I have really enjoyed the Night challenges this year, they have become more and more popular so much so that I reckon that I have climbed Snowdon (Yes I know that it should now be referred to by its correct name Yr Wyddfa) more times in the dark this year than in daylight hours. 

Some would say what is the point and when the wind is howling in and the rain lashing down you can wonder why. But then isn’t that the point? It should be a challenge and it’s not always like that, sometimes the skies are clear and yes you get to see the moon rising a full house of stars which gives me the opportunity to bore anyone who’s foolish enough to listen and if you’re very lucky the odd meteorite will flash across the sky and if all of the stars align them you’ll get a magnificent sunrise.These night events allow you as a leader to use all of your skills, decision making, group management and yes sometimes even a bit of navigating.  

These events also seem to bring out the wacky side from participants from the ones that go Ninja so wrapped up in black gear that you can barely see them, to the ones that are bedecked with lights that you can probably see from low Earth orbit. The conversations that you have with participants about why they are doing the challenge can be both very humbling and extremely uplifting after all it’s the participants that make the event what it is. 

In short your challenges for next year really should include a night time wander to the summit of Snowdon, Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis, a meander over the Yorkshire 3 Peaks or a jog along the South Downs. So buy yourself a head torch, some spare batteries and give up that night at the pub…..

Richard Simpkin, Challenge Leader

CoppaTrek with Gi - Tour De Mont Blanc

One of my highlights of 2023 was leading a half marathon trek for The Care Workers Charity. This took place in the stunning a picturesque South Downs Way. The route was varied with some great inland trails as well as stunning coastal paths with the highlight being the Seven Sisters (cliffs). The group were a fantastic bunch to work with and had plenty of bubbly characters. What was quite fascinating to witness was a few of the participants doubted whether they would be able to complete the challenge as they’re not avid hikers and the shear jubilation they felt at the end when they crossed the finished line. They really pushed themselves, wanted to really challenge themselves and make their sponsors proud. Just seeing the utter sense of pride and accomplishment was a thing of delight. 

The CoppaFeel! Mont Blanc trek was the highlight of the year.  It was my first international trek with Charity Challenge and I was grateful to lead a group in the beautiful French Alps. Having our campsite with a view of Mont Blanc was utterly breathtaking. As always, the vibes on a CoppaFeel! trek did not disappoint. Lots of laughs and jokes and some tears too as we had a truly inspirational group who all shared their personal experiences on how they were affected by cancer.  There is something truly special about these treks both in terms of the destinations chosen and the people that sign up. 

Sameed Asghar, Challenge Leader

CoppaTrek with Gi -  Hadrian's Wall Country

I love being a part of the Charity Challenge Family.

The highlight of my year was the CoppaTrek Hadrian’s Wall Country. Being involved with my husband, John to plan the 5 routes and walk them in my home County of Northumberland. Showing diverse and amazing landscapes.

The photo was just before Cheviot summit with a small group who didn’t think we would reach the top. They did! How Awesome!! All smiles

Louise Allen, Challenge Leader

Trek Wadi Rum and Petra

This was a really busy year for me with Charity Challenge a lot of my events were on National Three Peaks duty, total of 8 all of which were unique in their own ways, clients, weather, etc. I don’t have one individual experience, but a month.

The month of September in which I had the pleasure of being on my first two international events with Charity Challenge. The first was to Mont Blanc with the CoppaFeel! charity, my first overseas with them. I have led on a lot of UK challenges, and this didn’t disappoint, these girls are truly inspirational the effort they put into their fundraising and to actually partake in the events is incredible.

Six days later I was leading a group in Jordan, on the Trek Wadi Rum and Petra Challenge. This was a huge shock to the system having been in the French Alps and now in the desert with temperatures topping 45degrees each day. This was a corporate event for HSBC who were equally passionate and committed to raising funds for their charities. Both events were 100k challenges over 5 days camping and absolute dream to work on both.

Duncan Turnbull, Challenge Leader

Just can’t wait to make your own memories? Visit Charity Challenge to choose your next challenge!

Believe Achieve Inspire

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply