Before the #5in55 challenge, when I would tell people that a group of Dads from Ty Hafan were going to climb five mountains in fifty-five hours, I was always confronted with an expression of horror and disbelief. It was almost as I had asked them to join me.
There is no doubt that taking on a challenge that combined the National and Welsh 3 Peaks was going to be hard, but then all of us faced tougher challenges every day. As Dads and uncles of children with a life-limiting illness or having lost children, we have to overcome hurdles on a daily basis, of which many are emotional.
And that’s why we wanted to take on such a ridiculous challenge. Excuse the generalisation, but Dads and men are not great at expressing their emotions. Maybe it is society or just genetics, but us men are supposed to be the strong ones, taking care of our families and protecting them against any harm. But when your child has a life-limiting illness, you can’t. That power of protection is snatched away.
However, there are things that we can do. Like pose naked for calendars and climb mountains. Being able to do something, whilst highlighting the difficulties Dads face, and hopefully raising some money for the amazing Ty Hafan that helps us care for our families, actually helps.
That is why I spent four days with an amazing 19 blokes driving up to Scotland and then climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen-y-Fan. Many of the guys I had either never met or hardly spent any time with, and yet we were going to be travelling, sleeping, eating and walking with each other from 5am on Wednesday morning until 6pm on Saturday.
There is no denying that the challenge was tough, but I feel that I have made friends for life. 16 of us walked the mountains and I had a chance to walk alongside everyone at some stage. There were some difficult moments, where we had to help each other through the pain barrier, but there was never any doubt that we would do it.
There are so many highlights. The boys sitting on a jetty and splashing their feet in Loch Lomond during a rest break on the way up. Eating sausages at 3am in the morning as we prepared to climb Cadair Idris. Standing together in a circle, with arms linked, on the top of Cadair Idris as we all held a minute silence to think about our families and all the other families that have been supported by Ty Hafan. I could easily list fifty more.
What we, as a group of 20, achieved was something special. Not just completing the #5in55 challenge but being there for each other.