REPORTER Tom Cotterill follows the up and downs of a band of charity trekkers from Sussex as they walk the Great Wall in aid of the county’s only children’s hospice, Chestnut Tree House.
Day four: Challenging boundaries and stunning scenery
SHE has conquered marathons and half marathons.
But trekking the steep inclines of the Great Wall of China almost proved too much for 73-year-old Mary Goodchild.
The great-grandmother from Stenying did, however, admit that tackling the eight hour, ten mile hike was, as she put it: “The hardest thing I have ever done.”
She added: “I like to find out what my boundaries are and I was close to finding out today. But I think that is good for you.”
She was the oldest fundraiser to complete the challenge.
Fellow Chestnut Tree challenger and Army veteran Simon Poland, 33, of Fareham, was with her every step of the way.
The former Afghanistan and Northern Ireland veteran was stunned by the pensioner’s pluck.
He said: “I think today was a little challenge for her but she showed great determination and spirit. Even at times it was tough she still managed to overcome it.”
She was part of a team of 50 trekkers that traversed some of the oldest section of the wall today.
The terrain was at times both stunningly beautiful and truly deadly with the trekkers often inching their way along a narrow mountain trail - no wider than a two foot at points - with sheer vertical drops of several hundred feet on either side of you.
Simon added: “The trek was inspiring but difficult. It was the type of terrain that was hard.
“But everyone was working together to get each other through it.
“Some of the footpaths weren’t really footpaths at all. They were more like cliff faces.”
For some, the challenge proved too much, with either old injuries hindering their efforts or just the arduous conditions preventing them from completing the day’s route.
However, for those that were able to cope with the death-defying heights and sweltering arid heat of the hill tops, the reward was nothing short of breathtaking.
The first hurdle the charity fundraisers had to overcome was a steep climb up to the wall’s first watch tower.
However, once up on the top of the hills, the views were absolutely stunning.
There was not a cloud in the sky. The panoramic vista was filled with jagged mountain tops as far as the eye could see, all covered in rich green trees and wild heath.
The wall itself was a sight to behold; it snaked off through the rugged terrain well into the distance.
Every five or ten minutes many of the charity cohort stopped to snap pictures of the idyllic Chinese countryside.
The day’s first phase of the challenge saw the team traversing a total of 27 watch towers before pausing for lunch.
Then, they came off the historic battlement and dropped down into one of the valleys, scrambling along a series of winding paths through dense woodland before emerging into a field filled with harvested crops.
After some six hours walking, the group finally made it to a small rest point at the base of the wall - where they were treated with some well-earned ice creams and beers.
The final phase of the trek was an hour-and-a-half long trek back up to the wall and along a further five watch towers.
The China Challengers managed to reach the final watch tower just as the sun dipped below the horizon, casting inky black shadows in distant valleys.
They then walked the last 15 minutes into their lodge close to the base of the Great Wall.
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