Inspiration comes in many shapes and sizes. At a time where the world collectively faces the issues of a global pandemic and restrictions placed upon us, it’s fair to say we could all do with a little positivity and grounding.
Nick Gardner and his family’s life dramatically changed when his wife Janet was taken into care due to the combined acceleration of Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. Striving to draw some positivity from the situation, Nick set out to climb all of Scotland’s 282 munros in 1200 days. The challenge would provide him with something on which to focus him mind, as he deals with the obvious strain from the conditions of his wife raising vital funds and awareness as he went.
For anyone not well versed in Scottish mountaineering, a munro is a mountain over 3000ft. On April 2020, shortly after he turned eighty, Nick Gardner, an experienced hiker, decided to take on all 282 munros in 1200 days. In doing so, he set himself a target of raising awareness and £10,000 for Alzheimer Scotland and The Royal Osteoporosis Society, charities that had become essential to his wife’s daily life. By the time I spoke to him, he’d already smashed his target, setting a new goal of £28,200 and despite the inherent challenges of the on-going Covid-19 restrictions, he is still on track.
Munros are no mean feat, you wouldn’t be blamed for judging the situation before meeting Nick as I did myself. How could a man of 80 years complete what the majority of the population cannot? Be in his company for two minutes and the realisation, of the how becomes obvious. The bitter feeling of the cold and wet Scottish conditions, coupled with the toll on the body and legs is a major factor as to why most people stay clear of the mountains. Nick is not most people. In chatting with him, it becomes very clear how much the accessibility of the hills in Scotland and the outdoors in general means to him. As he spreads awareness and raises funds for these two charities, he is also spreading the message of how healing and soothing the outdoors can be.
How could a man of 80 years complete what the majority of the population cannot?
Since he started the challenge, his amazing family have supported him all along the way. His daughter Sally looking after majority of the communications, as well as being on the hill with him on pretty much every occasion. It is always such a blessing to spend time with those who are rich in life experience and strive for positivity, even when times seem so dark. Sally would tell me how he would sleep in his car in order to get up early enough to complete a munro and to ensure he could see Janet afterwards.
A community of munro walkers have formed with strangers immersing themselves in his efforts each time he takes on a mountain. It is that sense of community and spirit that moves people the most. Despite having all the reasons in the world to hang up his hiking boots, he is kicking on, full speed, full of character and full of life.
When I met Nick, I asked him how his body and legs were holding up. “My right leg is a little sore, my physio thinks I’m doing too much”, he replied. We laughed as set off to climb Ben Nevis, his second munro in two days.
I could write all day about Nick and how inspiring he is and right now, during a year that has been so challenging universally, I think we could all take a leaf out of Nick’s book. While we’re are unable to change aspects which are out of our control, we must try and take hold of what is.