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The Best of 2018 – from the Charity Challenge Leaders

Leaders are the heart and soul of any Charity Challenge event. They laugh with you, cry with you, push you to achieve things you never thought you could, and celebrate with you. It takes a very special person to be a leader on a Charity Challenge event.

Looking back on 2018, these are the moments that hold a special place in the hearts of the Charity Challenge leaders. Read on to find out from your favourite leader what made 2018 awesome.

Ian – Trek Transylvania

Trek Transylvania with Charity Challenge

Over the last 12 months or so I have developed something of a specialism for the Transylvania Trek – which is a great short itinerary challenge. In July 2018 I was delighted to be a leader on the Coppafeel “Trek Transylvania Challenge”, helping almost 60 challengers reach the summit of one of Romania’s highest peaks at 2200m – Batrana (The Old Lady). This trip offers spectacular views, picture-postcard alpine villages, acres of colourful meadows, friendly locals and rugged mountains, along the possibility of spotting brown bears, lynx, wild boars and wolves! Throw in a visit to Dracula’s Castle in Bran too and you have a very special challenge indeed – I love it!

John – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Charity Challenge

In 2018, I was lucky enough to be a leader on the Great Wall Discovery Trek and what a great experience it was for me and the group. As with all Charity Challenge treks, you get to meet some amazing people doing amazing things for charities and this was no different. Not only did I get to meet some great people but I also got to trek on five different sections of the Great Wall with some incredible views. The areas we visited were steeped in history and at the end of our day we would arrive at our inn to see some great local culture and eat some lovely local food. It’s hard to say what my favourite day was as they were all amazing, but the final day does stand out; we stopped for lunch and the group congratulated each other on all of the hard work they had put in to complete the challenge, we all just took the time to look around and take in the amazing scenery below us and knew we had shared some experiences with each other that would make us friends for life.

Colin – North South Vietnam Cycle

North to South Vietnam Cycle with Charity Challenge

My favourite challenge during 2018 was cycling across Vietnam. The trip offered lots of diversity from the empty beaches, beautiful cities and lovely scenery. The history and culture is very interesting and the people are generally very friendly and welcoming. The cycling is really varied. Riding around busy cities with lots of other cycles and scooters is very different and entertaining. The riding along the costal roads can be very hard particularly with the heat and if you’re riding into a headwind. The 9kms of continual climbing up the Hai Van Mountain Pass is really challenging but a 10km descent on good roads is the reward for all your hard work. Overall a lovely country to cycle in and a place that I keep getting drawn back to.

Ray – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Challenge with Charity Challenge

The most rewarding and challenging challenge I’ve ever lead has to be guiding “Blind Dave” as he is known as, on the Albion Foundation Great Wall Challenge in 2018. Guiding him up and down the steep terrain on the wall in all it’s states of restoration was a challenge within the challenge. He was an inspiration to us all as he tackled crumbling steps, the steep paths amongst thorned bushes and the slippery paved sections without so much as a single complaint. For most people this is quite a challenge but for someone with no sight just imagine how difficult it must have been for him. With his wife and family with us I learned a lot from them about guiding someone who is blind. Having to describe the paths and our surroundings also helped me take in more of the challenge than I have ever done on my previous two occasions. Our team of local leaders ensured everything went smoothly from checking into our rooms, organising each day on the wall and having that all important celebratory meal on the final night. It was a challenge I shall always remember.

Penny – Trek Patagonia 

Waking from a restless sleep, I was aware of my nose being numb from the cold while I lay warm in my sleeping bag. I had strongly recommended digging dig and getting up at 5am to enjoy the sunrise in this spectacular location. I hoped I had inspired the group enough but it was silent in the woods outside my tent. Best I get myself up so I struggled into several layers including hat and gloves and wandered across to the banks of the glacial and fast flowing Rio Blanco. Impressively the vast majority of the group stood transfixed staring with admiration at the austere and dramatic east face of Mount Fitzroy as the rising sun on the opposite ridge cast its spell onto the granite slab turning it first a pale pink to crimson and to amber before the daylight colours took over. This magical sight was further enhanced when the image was reflected in the pools of water on the edge of the river inverting and doubling the spectacle in front of us. We remained in silence, spell bound for several minutes before gradually moving off to prepare for our imminent climb further up the side of this awe inspiring peak to look down onto its hidden turquoise lake at Lago de Los Tres. An emotional, unique and very special experience never to be forgotten. Patagonia – challenging but unbeatable!

Richard – Madagascar Trek

The journey to the Andringitra National park in Central Madagascar is an epic one but the travelling is well worth it as the trek is spectacular. The first two days are spent meandering beside rivers gradually gaining altitude through small villages and farmland. This part of the area is rarely visited by trekkers, so we soon gathered small groups of locals who were pleased to show us their houses and exchange songs. By the third day the settlements are left far behind and we entered the mountains proper, for me, the best day was still to come. Summit day meant an early start after an interesting night listening to the thunderstorms rolling around the nearby peaks. A quick breakfast and then a tough trek up to the summit of Pic Boby, after the descent there was still another 4 hours of walking, but everyone pulled together and supported each other through the hard times. That 4 hours is spent traversing some of the finest granite landscape that I have ever had the privilege of seeing, it’s a hard day, a long day but truly rewarding and joining in with the porters singing and dancing is a real hoot.

Danny – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Challenge with Charity Challenge

2018 was a year of contrasts for me on the Great Wall of China with scorching hot temperatures in May taking our trekking stamina to the limits and a bitterly cold wind on our last day in late October making things feel as though we were half way up a Himalayan mountain. But there were also plenty of elements of similarity between the two trips which undoubtedly helped contribute to their overall success, such as the dedication and professionalism of the local team. However, the biggest factor which always leaves me in awe is the shear grit and determination of the participants to push on through the Challenge particularly when they are at their lowest points in terms of energy and belief in themselves. It’s a pleasure to have played a small part in helping them to achieve their goals and an honour to see them battle through each day’s challenges and then witness their well-deserved feelings of elation at the end of the week. Truly inspirational!

Steve – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Challenge with Charity Challenge

It’s been 4 yrs. since I began to work with Charity Challenge as an expedition leader and during this time I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited some amazing destinations Worldwide; sharing amazing experiences with some truly inspirational people. Personally; 2018 has been yet another unforgettable year! During September 2018 I travelled to China to trek parts of the Great Wall with a group of Challengers who were raising money for The British heart Foundation. For me, autumn time on the Great Wall is the best season to visit; the colours are truly breath-taking and the weather was perfect; which is always a welcome bonus! The team were great fun to be with. Clearly some were ‘out of their comfort zone’. However; we all worked together helping others who needed it, and having the help of our two amazing local guide’s Miko and Hastings, who were always on hand to entertain and impress us with their knowledge about the Great Wall, meant that we all had an unforgettable experience. I count myself very lucky to be able to help people realise their dreams and share in their success. Every one completed the Great Wall of China trek safely, with no dramas. Yes: there were some tears; tears of joy… after finally completing their amazing challenge in China!

Laura – Greenland

Arctic Circle Challenge Greenland

The Arctic Circle Challenge (to Greenland) was one of those truly life-changing experiences, where you live your days to the rhythm of nature and the walk ahead. We trekked 100km through the wilds of Greenland, rough camping in stunning remote locations. Each day held something new – surprise spottings of wild caribou, braving the glacial river crossings and trekking over mountain passes. The sheer scale and rawness of the landscape is breathtaking – one day we walked next to a lake that is 80km long. I was lucky enough to have the camaraderie of a truly amazing team – Go Yellow! And there is surely no better way to start a trek than being flown in to your remote start point by helicopter…

John – Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp Trek with Charity Challenge

When I was asked to lead a group to Everest Base Camp in 2018 I had to read the email twice! I couldn’t believe it. It was an amazing opportunity and I was thrilled to bits! Then 3 months later, I landed at Lukla Airport with 25 clients to begin what was a beautiful journey and an incredible challenge. We climbed through pristine forests littered with small villages and crossed glacial blue rivers on swinging cable bridges. As we climbed higher to Namche Bazaar, we felt the altitude and had to slow our pace whilst we acclimatised. But a slow pace was the perfect way to take in the scenery and the monasteries, to get to know my fellow adventurers and the local Sherpas. One day we stood and watched as three lammergeyer eagles circled one of the many shrines that we passed on our ascent, and we listened whilst the local guides told us stories of snow leopards living close to the path! We continued climbing higher, past 4000m then past 5000m.  Finally arriving at Everest Base Camp was very emotional for us all, we had all worked extremely hard to get there and there were plenty of hugs, a few tears and massive smiles all round! Despite all the hard work, on the way back down, I definitely overheard someone saying that they would do it again….

James Marriott – Kilimanjaro to Ngorongoro Crater Bike Challenge

Charity Challenge

I was fortunate enough to be a leader on the British Asian Trust’s ‘Most Exotic Tour’ for the third year running this year. In 2016 we tackled Rajasthan, in 2017 Cambodia, and now it was time to experience Tanzania. The portents were great as on the first day we had incredible views of Mount Kilimanjaro from the hotel. The highlight of the tour for me was the day spent cycling around Lake Manyara. We set off from our tented safari camp in Tarangire National Park and cycled down to the lake on the dry salt flats that surround it, spotting our first wildebeest and antelope in the distance and growing increasingly excited.  Cycling through a makeshift fishing village we saw flamingos parading on the lake shore and marabou storks flying overhead. As we continued around the lake we passed alongside herds of zebra, the odd ostrich eyeing us quizzically and then through Maasai camps, all before lunch. It was the quintessential East African experience, made all the more vivid as we experienced it on two wheels with every sense stimulated long the way – certainly a day I will never forget!

Lizzy – Great Wall Discovery Challenge

China Great Wall Discovery Challenge with Charity Challenge

One of my leading highlights of the 2018 season was in China, on the Great Wall.  Participants on open challenges come in all shapes, sizes, ages and levels of fitness and I find it particularly rewarding to help those who maybe struggle a bit more than average in achieving their goals. Marion was an inspiration to the whole group; despite suffering from a serious health issue she stoically plodded on, taking shorter breaks than the rest of the group so that she didn’t fall too far behind and regularly thought setting off whilst others were still enjoying a well earned rest. She was an absolute pleasure to lead, highly amusing and frequently kept us all in fits of giggles.  Anyone considering a challenge should go for it in my opinion. It will certainly be life changing!

Andy – Trek to Machu Picchu

Trek to Machu Picchu Peru with Charity Challenge

In 2018 I was lucky enough to be a leader on Trek Machu Pichu. The experience of trekking in a remote area of the Andes, and interacting with local people in the villages that we passed, really made this trip for me. The local team were fantastically supportive and I particularly remember after one long day battling the altitude we all reached camp to be served incredible fresh Peruvian nachos and mountains of guacamole.  Our last day of trekking was on the Inca trail and started in heavy rain and continued through thick cloud right until we hit the sun gate where suddenly the clouds parted and there was Machu Pichu directly below us. A magical moment.

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