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Key Account Director Ollie looks back to an epic charity challenge weekend of biking & hiking across the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada in support of the Youth Adventure Trust.

Photo: The home straight. Last few KMs off-road before descending 2678m into Granada.

Since 2018, we’ve partnered up with the Youth Adventure Trust to support on their marketing, fundraising and to conceptualise the now infamous industry challenge, Hike Bike Paddle.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to join their board as a Trustee. It really was a no-brainer; strongly believing in their values on a personal and professional level.

One locked down evening after a call with the YAT team, I found myself also unexpectedly signed-up, along with three other trustee’s and intrepid adventurers, for what turned out to be one of the toughest physical and mental challenges of my life so far…

  • Biking and hiking over the 3 highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada
  • Travelling over 150km off road
  • Ascending to 3479m
  • To be completed in 72hrs

Looking back on that weekend in October, here’s five things I learnt that will stick with me forever:

What’s a bivvy bag?

Generally, I’ve got a good idea when it comes to kit. On this occasion I had little clue what I was getting myself in to (quite literally) when it came to overnight on-mountain accommodation at 10,000ft. I had visions of a lovely mountain hut, fireside anecdotes & hot pot dinners. Especially with the temp outside dropping down to -5c.

In fact, we were under the stars and it was utterly awesome. Despite a wily mountain fox breaking into camp looking for provisions in the middle of the night.

Lesson: Never underestimate the importance of good kit on the mountain. Props to the Alpkit Hunka here, you were toasty and kept the ice at bay. #notanad #notaclient just great gear!

Photo: Setting up camp for the night, before nightfall and the temperature dropping.

Photo: Replacing carbs is key.

What’s it like cycling at over 10,000ft?

Bloody hard work.  Anywhere up to 8,000ft, most people who live at sea level won’t notice any difference. Go above this and the altitude begins to take its toll, the effect it has on your cardio fitness is phenomenal.

Lesson: It really put into perspective how incredible high-altitude mountaineers are and what they can put their bodies through at over double this. Hats off to you, Nims Purja and all the skilled mountaineers out there. If you haven’t already, read his book ‘Beyond Possible’.

Photo: 20km climb for breakfast on day two. 1636m elevation gain.

Pacing, schmacing, let’s smash it. Surely?

Absolutely not. As I’m sure all of the incredible athletes who take on epic multi-day races & challenges will profess to, it’s ALL about the pacing. It’s a marathon not a sprint and all that…

Lesson: Listen to Mark Davey, our challenge leader and YAT Chief Exec. As an experienced mountaineer, he knew, at this kind of elevation we needed to keep some energy left in the tank to make it safely back down to Grenada. This meant pacing ourselves strictly to cover 10m of ascent per minute towards the summit. It’s also sometimes better to lead from the back of the group to make sure everyone is a-okay on the trail.

Photo: Push for the summit of Mount Mulhacén 3479m.

Mountains and headspace, a match made in heaven?

For sure. When you’re turning the pedals and hiking for over 12hrs a day back-to-back you get a lot of time to think beyond the aches, pains and thorns poking out down the single-track.

Lesson: Now it may all sound a bit philosophic, but sport in all its various forms has always and will always have this inimitable ability to provide you with a mass of headspace and perspective. Muchas gracias Sierra Nevada for reminding and reinforcing this.

Photo: The reward after two days of uphill on mountainous fire roads; 40km of sweeping tarmac switchbacks.

Why cycle and hike across Spain’s highest peaks?

We took on this challenge to raise much needed funds to give vulnerable young people who don’t have the opportunities in life that many of us have had the privilege of enjoying.

The YAT provide these opportunities and the skills kids need to help them remain resilient all by challenging themselves on adventures and having a tonne of fun outdoors.

Lesson: There were moments on this trip of needing to dig deep physically but most importantly, to remain mentally resilient throughout. Especially when we were low on snack provisions, out of water and our last hopes of dinner on the mountain were pinned on a water source we were unsure would still be there.

Photo: Thankfully this lake, our only potential source of water, hadn’t fully dried up.

Photo credit: Youth Adventure Trust – Mount Mulhacén Summit

You can check out more on our adventures here in the full wrap-up movie.

A huge thank you to everyone for all the awesome messages and donations of support received.

If you haven’t and you’d like to show your support for the Youth Adventure Trust and donate, please head on over to the fundraising page by clicking the button below.

Oliver Robinson