Highland Heroes Challenge Event
Canoeing 60 miles along the Great Glen, cycling 200 miles across Scotland and summiting 7 highland mountains all in 7 days to raise funds for Standing Voice
Standing Voice is an international NGO promoting the social inclusion and wellbeing of people with albinism www.standingvoice.org
Standing Voice Project and Fundraising Officer Jamie Walling reflects on his Highland Heroes experience: Photographs by Harry and Johanna Freeland
Earlier this month our team of seven completed the Standing Voice Highland Heroes weeklong fundraising challenge! What a week it was…
Over the first three days we canoed the entire 60-mile length of the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness.
Experiencing the Great Glen on the water was incredibly humbling; the scale of the landscape was almost incomprehensible.
None of us had canoed before and so we were all rather nervous, but gave it everything we had!
The conditions were perfect on Day 1 and we managed the first 20 miles in just seven hours.
Day 2 took us to Loch Ness, where we battled a headwind that kept us canoeing for ten brutal hours both on Day 2 and Day 3.
After the canoeing our arms were burning so we were glad to be getting on the bikes.
Days 4 and 5 saw us cycle 115 miles through mind-blowing mountain scenery.
The hills were epic: cycling up them was a mixture of total elation and stinging pain.
Cycling downhill afterwards more than made up for any pain, as we clocked up to 45mph sailing down incredible roads that snaked their way through remote highland glens.
We were even lucky enough to see golden eagles and seals!
Day 6: The cumulative effect of punishing daily exercise was taking its toll. My legs and arms felt like they were ready to drop off but we had to keep going
Day 6 was a big day for us all: it will live long in my memory as one of the hardest days of my life as our team climbed seven highland mountains each over 3,000 ft.
Climbing these monuments to man’s insignificance was both inspiring and humbling
It took ten hours to summit all seven peaks as we were met with 50mph winds on the summits
Day 7: As we woke at 6am and looked into each other’s eyes we knew we were close to achieving something special.
Only one final 85-mile cycle now stood in our way and we weren’t going to be defeated.
We began our last cycle at the head of Loch Duich and then continued on to the Isle of Skye. From there we took the ferry back to the mainland for one final push in the driving rain back to Fort William.
We survived the final day on a mixture of adrenaline, Lucozade, companionship, singing, energy gels, jelly babies, ibuprofen and team work.
It was a mammoth effort but we did it. With smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes we made it back to Fort William in one piece and finally attained the status of true Standing Voice Highland Heroes.
I could not have done this without all those who have supported me and I can’t thank you enough. Your contribution was more than financial: it was amazing to think of all the people who were behind me, backing me to succeed. This was a huge motivation through the difficult times when I felt I couldn’t go on.
I personally managed to raise £3,769.70 and as a team the seven of us have passed the £23,500 mark, with money still coming in.
This achievement is utterly staggering. I really can’t quite believe it. £23,500 is the equivalent of funding 235 surgical cancer operations. That’s 235 lives saved from skin cancer!
Through this experience I have realised again the value of stepping outside of my comfort zone and into a place that seems daunting and unknown. This is the place where incredible things happen — things that surpass all expectations — and where experiences become bigger, more valuable and more important than you could ever have imagined.
By reaching out and asking people for support I have seen that generosity and kindness are alive and well among us. All we need to do is unite this aspect that is within all of us and we can really make a difference in the world.
It is my hope that by sharing this experience I can inspire people to step into the unknown and achieve something incredible by helping others: not just friends, or family, but those living on the margins of society whose lives can be transformed by compassion.
Written by Jamie Walling Standing Voice Project and Fundraising Coordinator. Photographs by Harry and Johanna Freeland
To take part in the next Highland Heroes challenge contact firstname.lastname@example.org