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Matt climbs mountains

Inspired by the treatment and care his father-in-law received at The National, Matt Line braved snow and extreme weather to take part in the South Wales Three Peaks Challenge. He’s since thawed out his fingers and written a piece sharing his experience.

My name is Matt Line and I’m a Specialist Biomedical Scientist in Haematology and Blood Transfusion at Gloucester Royal Hospital. My wife, Grace and I have a beautiful five month old daughter called Rose and we live in a small town called Monmouth, located just over the Welsh border between the Wye valley and the Black mountains.

My father-in-law has suffered for many years with what was an undiagnosed neurological condition. This had quite a detrimental impact on his life – and he was under the care of several different consultants at different locations across the country before being referred to The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. It was there that he was finally diagnosed with a form of Parkinson’s and Multiple System Atrophy. He regularly visits The National and although there is no cure at present, his quality of life has improved greatly, allowing him to enjoy time with his granddaughter. When I discovered TNBA was the charity that helped fund The National, I decided that I would find a way to raise some money if I could.

I wanted to set myself a physical challenge and decided to take part in The South Wales Three Peaks Trial: I have always enjoyed hill walking and this event would allow me to take in one of the most breathtaking areas of Britain. I love the area where I live, it is an amazing part of the world, and have always felt truly lucky to live here. The ThreePeaks challenge would allow me to walk this fantastic area and raise money for a good cause at the same time. Although the event does not raise money for TNBA I decided to contact the organisers who were more than happy for me to fundraise for TNBA and even placed a link to TNBA on their website.

Designed for walkers who wanted to test their powers of endurance and orienteering skills, this is the oldest challenge walk in the UK and this year will celebrate its fiftieth birthday. I signed up to walk the Gold Route: roughly twenty miles long, with a total of about 5000′ of ascent, and which crosses the three prominent peaks of The Sugar Loaf, The Blorenge and The Skirrid.

Even though I was already a keen hill walker, my fitness wasn’t as good as it needed to be, so I started training in the Black Mountains and the Forest of Dean (some of these with my baby daughter strapped to my chest in a baby carrier!)

My friend Alex Fraser, decided to join the walk – so one became two. Once the word got out, others wanted to take part: another friend, Pete Richardson, my brother-in-law Ed Martin, his flat mate Paul Ferguson, and my sister-in-law’s partner Ben Harrison made our group six. Ed, Ben and Paul had decided they would raise money for the Multiple System Atrophy Trust while Pete, Alex and I would walk for TNBA.

The sponsorship forms worked their way around friends, family and colleagues at the Gloucester Royal who were all very generous and supporting. We also set up pages and I used social media to keep my friends updated with how preparation was going for the event. It was my mother-in-law, Alison who helped us raise even more money by writing to local papers to try and get us a little publicity and a few more sponsors.

After weeks of training and fundraising, the day of the event was almost upon us. Travel plans had been made and all members were to meet at the start line for 8am… However, the weather was determined to be against us!

The day before the event saw temperatures plummet and heavy snow coat the region.
News from the organisers started to appear on the event website; due to poor weather, mountain rescue were moving the mountain top checkpoints further down the hills and one of the other routes was cancelled altogether. However, we were determined to take part in the event so it was out with the winter gear and extra thermals!

By the next morning there had been more snow and upon arriving at the start point we discovered to our dismay that mountain rescue had been forced to cut the route short and stop walkers from climbing the Skirrid due to the continuing snowfall and the freezing conditions. The temperature recorded on the Sugar Loaf was -20c
due to wind-chill. Even if the routes were changing, we were excited to get started.

The snow had got to almost thigh-high in places, and had developed a layer of ice on top of it! Even with the poor weather conditions, there were just over 400 walkers taking part in the event, so the going was slow in places – compacted snow had formed into an ice rink and the view was more like a polar expedition at times rather than a walk in the Black Mountains! All of this however, just made the day more exciting! The climbs were difficult, but the feeling when they were behind us was fantastic.

The mountain rescue guys and the event organisers were amazing and were so dedicated to make sure the event went ahead. We all had a great time on the day, and were really grateful for the warming cup of tea afterwards!

If you’d like to take part in a walking challenge for The National Brain Appeal, we’d love to hear from you. We still have places for Ben Nevis and Hadrian’s Wall treks – or you might like to do your own? Contact Tallulah for more information


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