I was diagnosed with kidney failure shortly after I was married at 28 and on dialysis by 32, I was extremely lucky to be the recipient of a life saving kidney transplant in 2011 when I was 36, donated altruistically.
Having spent many years being treated at the renal unit in Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) I knew I wanted to do something to show my gratitude. When I heard that the charity Kidneys for Life were organising a trek through the Grand Canyon to raises funds, I knew it was a perfect way for me to show my gratitude and celebrate my good health.
I have a busy home life; with a husband, two young boys and also work so I was excited and anxious to set off on an adventure on my own from our local train station, I was waved off by family and treated to first class tickets to Heathrow where I boarded the plane to Phoenix!
Having arrived in Phoenix later that evening, I met my fellow trekkers for the first time and we travelled together to our first destination – a travel lodge for the night which I was delighted with I was so tired. We had our first taste of the Arizona heat, it was literally like standing in front of an electric fire! This was going to be tough….
The next day we went for an “acclimatisation trek” in Red Rock State Park near Sedona, it was hot, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. All the months of training in North Wales over the British summer could not prepare me for that heat. During our first gentle 3 hour walk, one person was sick due to the heat and 2 people fainted! It was a shock to us all….
The next night we camped; as I went to bed, in my own 2 man tent one of the locals said if you hear a “yip yipping” in the night, it’s the coyotes making a kill! I woke at 3am to the sound of yipping and dying for the loo! There was no way I was walking across the campsite on my own in the dark with coyotes around, so I decided to quietly go next to my tent! Only to be told the next day that other people heard the coyotes and were up going to the loo at the same time…. hope no one saw me!
The next day was to be the hardest trek of the week; Hermit trail. We were up at 5.30, ready for breakfast, packing up camp and filling our water bottles. We’d be trekking 8 miles in total, 4 miles down into the canyon and 4 back out again, in over 100 degree heat, carrying all 5 litres of water required and food for the day. The heat is draining, it took an hour to walk one mile. Canyon trekking is the opposite to what us Brits are used to; in the morning when it is coolest and you are feeling refreshed you trek down, the easiest in my opinion, the air getting even warmer as you descend. All the time thinking you have to get yourself back out of this, there is no rescue out there and you barely pass another person!
We were rewarded on this trail with stunning views across the vast 18 mile canyon to the other side and a beautiful spring of fresh cold water at the bottom, aptly named Dripping Springs as it really was just a drip. But it was heaven for us, we washed the ice cold water over our heads, wet our clothes and drank from it. It was idyllic.
That was my first experience of canyon trekking, it was tough, exhausting, beautiful, vast, breath-taking and extremely memorable. The next few days trekking were just as memorable; especially to Ooh Ahh point, which really was Ooh Ahh;, our late night swim under the stars in the turquoise waters of Lake Powel; Bryce Canyon with its amazing “HooDoo” rock formations and the Zion National Park were all just stunning. Nothing prepares you for the vastness of the canyons, the wilderness, the amazing scenery and the absolute stunning beauty.
I achieved all my initial goals taking on this challenge; to raise as much money as I could for Kidneys for Life who directly support MRI (over £11k) and to show my thanks to all the staff at MRI who have supported me over the years.
But I accomplished so much more; I was especially lucky on my trek to meet so many wonderful people, who had all been touched in different ways by sadness & tragedy in theirs or their friends or family’s lives. It sounds like we must have been a depressing bunch, but there was such amazing comradery and team spirit. We all shared our stories and helped each other along, even physically pushing people up rock sides at one point! I haven’t laughed so much for a long time, all this made it an experience to remember for the rest of my life. It just shows the old adage what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is true and I am stronger for all my experiences good and bad.
I wanted to challenge myself & show my thanks and I am very proud of myself for accomplishing these things, but I am especially thankful for all the support I have received from my friends and family (especially the 70+ who joined me hiking Snowdon!), I couldn’t have done it without them and we had such fun along the way!