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Son completes epic two-month Pyrenees trek to raise funds for Hospice in memory of Mum

Charity / Thu 1st Sep 2022 am30 08:34am

A SON has completed a two-month long, 830km, solo trek across the Pyrenees mountain range in memory of his mother, and to raise funds for the Hospice charity who cared for her.

Craig Jenkins (age 49 years from Takeley and now living in Valencia, Spain) completed the challenge of walking the GR11 route, that runs through the Spanish Pyrenees close to the border with France, and covers 830km (515 miles). With the additional miles walked in getting to and from the trail each day, Craig actually completed a total of 1,136km!

The trek took Craig a total of 58 days, from Sunday 3rd July 2022 until 29th August 2022. Craig trekked on 43 days, the remaining were rest days. In total so far he has raised over £2,000, smashing his original £1,000 target. £2,000 is enough to fund more than 100 hours of counselling support for a bereaved family member at St Clare Hospice.

Craig was raising funds in memory of his mother, Linda Jenkins, who was cared for by St Clare Hospice in Hastingwood in 2015. Linda attended the Hospice charity’s Wellbeing Hub for day services, as well as receiving care on the Inpatient Unit, before her death from a brain tumour on 9th December 2015.

Craig commented, “This trek has been the fulfilment of an idea I have had ever since Mum came to be cared at St Clare’s seven years ago. It really was the trip of a lifetime, and I now feel like I could die happy having finally completed this long-planned challenge.”

“I had many special moments during the trek, but my highlight was the day I tackled the toughest section of the trail, with views of the Ordesa National Park. I just felt energised by the amazing views, walking through waterfalls and looking at the canyon. I shed a tear for my Mum and found the whole experience quite spiritual – it was the perfect day.”

During the trek, Craig faced 40-degree heat, with a heatwave covering Spain and causing the GR11 route to be closed behind him in case of bush fires. There was a drought, which placed extra strain on Craig who needed to find and filter his own water most days on the deserted trail.

Craig carried everything he needed on his back weighing a total of 12kg, including a tent, sleeping bag, cooking stove and food, and stopping at small mountain villages every 3 or 4 days for supplies. He is also vegan, so finding suitable food supplies in remote Spanish villages added another layer of difficulty.

Craig said: “The toughest day was near the beginning, as I covered 29km on one day in 40 degree heat, it was relentless. It was also very lonely at times, as I walked the route in the opposite direction to most people, so spent a lot of time on my own. Camping in the wild, with animals roaming around, was also a challenge. I often had to get up in the night to scare off wild boar, cows, or goats, so they didn’t steal my food or get caught in the tent’s guy ropes. I certainly won’t miss the sound of cow bells waking me through the night!”

“I also found eating enough calories to sustain me, with a vegan diet and a number of allergies, one of the hardest things. In the remote villages, on some days all I could find that I could eat were potato chips and bread. My rest days in the bigger towns were when I fuelled up and ate a week’s worth of food in a couple of days.”

Craig continued: “I met a number of incredible and generous people on the route. I found people to walk with on some days, and was offered a place to sleep and eat by some kind strangers on the route. It really was heart-warming to be welcomed and given shelter and support throughout the two months. It shows you how wonderful humanity is! And the challenge taught me just what the human body can achieve when you put your mind to it. Just before I started I had an Achilles injury, but I managed to work through and overcome it. Your body really does adapt to what you make it do, and in a way my body was craving the walking in the end.”

Craig walked a total of 1,136 km averaging 19.5 km per day over the 58 days. The elevation change was one of the biggest challenges, with Craig ascending a total of 48,152m which is equivalent to climbing up Mount Everest 5 and a half times, or Ben Nevis 35 times.

Commenting on the difference St Clare Hospice’s care had made, Craig said: “The whole experience at St Clare was really positive. From the moment you walk in to the Reception, to the people who work in the kitchen, to the staff and volunteers you meet. The whole Hospice has a really good energy about it, and you come away from there feeling that energy. It’s an amazingly happy place.”

Craig began his trek on Sunday 3rd July 2022 starting at Cap de Creus in Catalonia, the most easterly point of mainland Spain, on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. He finished 58 days later (29th August) at Cape Higuer on the Bay of Biscay, the western-most edge of the Pyrenees. The total GR11 route was 830km, but Craig actually walked a total of 1,136 km during the challenge.

You can see more about Craig’s adventure on his Instagram page at: Instagram.com/ahimsacraig/

You can sponsor Craig on his Just Giving page at: justgiving.com/fundraising/gr11mum

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