A trio of hardy hikers inspired to undertake the 100km Bowland Walk for Pendleside Hospice got a little more than they bargained for as frightful weather conditions forced organisers to halt the event early.
Friends Ian Chapman (56), Ryan Trueman (41), and Andrew Pilkington (51) met the intrepid challenge, which took place on March 18th, head on, gearing themselves up to walk almost two-and-a-half marathons-worth of unforgiving terrain in just 24 hours.
Departing Slaidburn Village Hall at 8.30 am, the route involved over 4,000 feet of ascent - the equivalent of the height of the Empire State Building on top of the Burj Khalifa - which the soaked walkers were on course to complete before the event was called off after they reached a checkpoint at Chipping some 63km into the hike at 22.30pm at night.
"The mist and conditions were just awful and, because of the topography, it became really slippy underfoot," said Ian, from Padiham. "Many expierienced fell walkers said they had never encountered conditions like them.
"We were as prepared as possible, but night-time navigation got a bit scary," he added. "It was testing."
Having heard stories of other fell walkers on the trip sustaining injuries - a hiker walking with his ex-Army father dislocated his knee after being pulled out of a quagmire - the triumvirate were quick to act when they heard a person calling for help in the distance over Sykes Fell at around the halfway point.
"He was in a dire state, off the beaten track," said Ian, after they found a man trapped in a deep bog. "One of his legs had sunk up to his thigh. We laid his back pack down behind him and between the three of us we managed to pull him out.
"He was a bit distressed and visibly shaken," said Ian, who wanted to thank Robert Williams for delivering provisions and providing aid during the trek. "A group came along who accompanied him back down off the fell."
Pressing on, the rain and the wind grew so ferocious that they had to resort to using their head torches as hand-held lights to guide them as they sought surer ground, but before long, organisers from PureChallenge called off the event due to the path ahead becoming too dangerous and sent a car to pick the three men up.
In spite of the gruelling conditions, the three still managed to smash their fundraising target of £500, as they presented Pendleside Hospice fundraiser, Vikki Bassek, with a cheque for £2,701.40 on May 17th.
"I don't know how he's done it but Pilky alone raised £1,600," Ian said. "He's not just put the effort in physically, he's put it into raising money. Pendleside is amazing. Vikki gave us a tour and I was gobsmacked at what they do.
"There's no barrier to who they help - faith, religion, creed," Ian finished. "It chokes you up a bit."