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Climb Of Life

Walk of life 2019 view

On Friday 7 November over 100 supporters of the ICR got together for the 2 million step Climb of Life. This is an annual sponsored walk in the Lake District where groups each walk a route of different lengths and levels of difficulty. This year the target was for the supporters to walk in excess of 2 million steps and to raise over £100,000 for the ICR.

Institute of Cancer Research ICR

Caroline and I set off with 9 others from Old Dungeon Gill Hotel carpark at 8:45 on Friday. Starting at the bottom of the Great Langdale Valley in glorious sunshine, it looked the perfect day for our little stroll -what little we knew! The temperature was amazing for November ( 5°C) . However Jason, our team leader, pointed out that as we walked we would move from the shelter of the valley floor to the exposed upper slopes some 800m above us. He expected this to be sub-zero.

Walk of life 2019 caroline 1
Walk of life 2019 caroline 2

After just 10 minutes with our new friends we reached the valley side and Jason pointed to the dry gravel path that seemed to lead directly up without an obvious end. The path called The Band winds steeply up 700m in the next 3km. At this point you are just 200m below the summit of Bowfell.

Walk of life 2019 route

The path was torture. It felt like an infinite set of steps between 100mm and 500mm tall. Any early chill we felt vanished in a puff of steam (at least we were panting pretty quickly and hats and gloves were packed away for later). Only the team dog, Ruby, seemed to be dealing with the slope with ease. At the top of the Band we were pointed at a fork in the path to the right where the slope picked up some more. It was just another 50m rise. Then Jason advised us to start wrapping up properly against the wind, as now we are going to feel the breeze. We were stepping onto the “Climber’s Traverse” a short 200m of walking along a narrow path. No pressure here – it was just a 300m drop to the right and a 100m vertical cliff to the left! On the picture below the red line is the Traverse and the Green line the scramble up the boulders that we were faced with next.

Walk of life 2019 kevin banner
Walk of life 2019 caroline boulder

The rocks were now covered in ice in places and all of the moss was frozen white. There was no turning back – we had to push upwards into the cold and up into the cloud. After the scramble where we had to pull ourselves up, rather than stride, we reached the relative safety of the pre-summit plateau. We were told it was just metres short of the peak of Bowfell but it still looked a long way away. By 11, having negotiated snow covered boulders and crunching through frozen puddles, we made the peak. It was shrouded in freezing cloud and the wind was blowing hard. As you can see in the picture the temperature wasn’t so balmy as on the valley floor and ice started to form on Caroline’s hat in a matter of minutes.

After a few photos it was time to seek shelter on the other side of the mountain and the hard walk down started.

We walked down and quickly came out of the cloud to a view of the coast and wind turbines in the sea some 15km away. After 10 minutes of decent we had the view below looking NE and Angel Tarn some 300m below where we would (finally!) stop for lunch.

The route home was over the lip on the right hand side of the picture and down into Langdale below. The way down made the yomp up seem like a picnic. The path was down the gill, often flooded with water and consisting of a stone walkway of steps dropping quickly 500m in just over a 2km. Fine for the first few steps but after that a real trial for dodgy knees.

After 6 ½ hrs of walking and talking (and very little whimpering) we were back down to the Old Dungeon Inn for some lubrication and rest.

Evening event

In the evening, before our celebratory meal, we had a presentation by Professor Paul Walkman CEO of the ICR. He gave a clear and concise report on the latest breakthroughs in research and why YOUR sponsorship of our walk is so important.

The ICR is a separate research charity but is part of the University of London and is co-joined with the Royal Marsden Hospital. This puts the ICR in a unique position to develop treatments after clinical trials in the lab and also in a working hospital.

This year the ICR has had breakthroughs in

  1. BRCA 2 (the gene Angelina Jolie has publicised)
  2. Sarcoma
  3. Prostate Cancer
  4. Treatments for head and neck cancer

We learnt that there is lots of money for cancer research but because of the desire to get the best return for the investment, funding usually goes to established research. Money to support the latest developments, the really ground breaking stuff just isn’t there. Without taking risks we don’t get the leaps of progress we all desperately need.

So the £100k per year raised by the Walk for Life and other fundraising of this type is targeted at the initial research. Once the concept has been proven, then other grant money pushes the idea from research to implementation.

Thank you all for sponsoring us both. We are so grateful that you have done so. Please read about the ICR and what they do and how their passion and efforts could help you or a family member. One in two people are now affected by cancer. We are proud to support the ICR in its work to understand and further treat these diseases.