The #WildWight Challenge - 'A Challenge Too Far... This Time'

Life is nothing if not a series of challenges. Challenge keeps you alive and kicking: pushing boundaries and training hard, so you can kick down doors that would otherwise be left firmly shut.

One of the hardest parts of a challenge though, is gauging where to set the bar. Too high, and you won't achieve. Too low, and it isn't truly a challenge.

The #WildWight was an adventure challenge of a new kind; for both myself, and for my trek buddy Fraser. It was ambitious… 114 kilometres of fast walking over two days, with a lot of elevation. I have done long treks, but nothing quite to this level. It was achievable, but unfortunately on this attempt it proved to be a bar too high…

We began at 06:30 at Ryde Pier. The sun was coming up, and a strong westerly wind was immediately in our faces as we turned onto the Coastal Path that we would follow for the duration of the day.

Past Quarr Abbey, through Wootton, and onwards to East Cowes. The time past quickly as we chatted about anything and everything: from business and bikes, to lifestyles and ladies.

A quick stop to get coffee, then we crossed the Medina; the town of Cowes was humming with excitement around the vibrant sailing regattas.

The hills really begin after Cowes, and so too did the exposure to the now 39 knot wind. We clung to the coastline, weaving along the cliff and stomping along the shore. By the time we reached Newtown we had been walking for close to five hours, and stopped just outside the village of Shalfleet for a quick lunch.

From Shalfleet to Yarmouth is only around four kilometres by road, but the coastal path takes you weaving northwards on the very edge of Newtown Creek - a loop that trebles that distance. This caught us out a bit, and it seemed like a long hot slog through the marshes before we eventually got into Yarmouth town, clicking over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles as we did so.

Fraser had run out of water on our long stint from Shalfeet, and was feeling the effects. He tried to undo the damage with coffee, Coke, Lucozade and salty snacks, but unfortunately it was clear the harm had been done. By 17:00 when we walked out of Yarmouth, he was suffering from cramp, and our pace began to decline.

At Colwell Bay we could see The Needles, the rocks being battered by the imminent storm. Fraser was feeling worse for wear, and my feet were beginning to complain. I took Fraser's pack for a while, to help ease the load, but it was clear that our target of the south west coast was looking increasingly less achievable by the minute.

18:00 - Totland Bay. The cocktail of energy drinks and crisps was violently rejected by Fraser's vulnerable stomach. We hobbled slowly up onto Headon Warren, the wind lashing at our faces.

It was here, with 33 miles on the clock that we decided we had to call it.

Sometimes 'the best laid plans of mice and men go astray'… with only three hours of daylight left, 20 kilometres before a suitable wild camp, and just a bivvy and lightweight tent for protection from the impending Force 9 storm, things were looking bleak. Add to the mix our state of tiredness, illness, and lack of energy, and it didn't seem sensible to continue.

Discretion is the better part of valour. We called it; flagged down a bus, and headed back to Ryde.

When Sunday morning arrived it was evident it was the right call. The Needles had registered 100+kph gusts throughout the night, and the Island had taken over two inches of rain before daylight even arrived. As I sat treating my blistered feet, and watching the news reports of cancelled music festivals and storm damaged roads, I texted Fraser… "Definitely the right call".

We set ourselves challenges to push our boundaries; but sometimes the real challenge is knowing when to quit. We do this for fun, and safety and health have to come first.

There will be another #WildWight attempt, no question there. We will come back stronger and better prepared. Stay tuned…


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