On the 19th July this year, Design Manager Neale Pickering packed up his hiking boots, waved goodbye to the office for a week & boarded a plan to Geneva to take part in the 2013 ‘Trekstock Great Gig in the Sky’.
What lay ahead was a challenging 6 day trek, crossing three countries. Flying in to Geneva (Switzerland) a short bus ride the next morning took the trekkers over the border where they could then begin the trek in Courmayeur (Italy). 6 days later, (and after several physically & emotionally heavy days) upon arrival at the beautiful mountain resort of Chamonix (France) the trek was complete.
As a well deserved pat on the back, trekkers were then invited to dance their aches & pains away at the Paleo music festival situated in the amazing surroundings of the Juya Mountains and Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
After touching back down in the UK we caught up with Neale to get the full details on this incredible challenge, from blisters to carbs overload, here’s what he had to say…
Who was the first person you told?
I told my partner straight away and then my mum.
Who else was on the trek with you?
There were 13 other people from various businesses and from Trekstock itself, including Sophie the founder of the charity.
Who was the best person you met on the trek?
Nic Addison, who is a personal trainer at her own gym Eqvvs, is quite possibly one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. She ran a stretch club at the end of everyday to help with everyone’s tired muscles. I found the steep descents very sore on my knees and hips, Nic helped massively to relieve the pain, by giving me deep tissue sports massages, which although incredibly painful, helped me get through each day. Also, Mark Harrop, Nic’s business partner at Eqvvs and side kick, was the best hiking buddy, he pushed me to my limit and challenged me everyday to push myself harder and climb faster, he was an awesome motivator, everyone needs a Mark on their trek.
What preparation did you have to do before you went?
I go to the gym 4 days a week and upped my cardio vascular training on the run up to the trek, including 3 spin classes per week, I would highly recommend anyone doing a trek to do something similar otherwise it would be very tough.
What were your thoughts on the plane over to Geneva and you realised it was too late to turn back?!
I was so excited, but also nervous about what injuries I might sustain, including dreading blisters as I hadn’t really broken my boots properly.
What did you think when you first arrived in Chamonix for your first night?
I was a little nervous meeting the trek group for the first time and being thrown in a dorm room with 3 other strangers, everyone was a little slow coming out of their shells at the start, but by the end of the trek, we all got along so well.
Where were you sleeping at night?
We slept in what were described as huts, dotted along the trek route, they were really large hostels with large dorm rooms, one of which was so cut off and isolated that their food and provisions had to be flown in by helicopter.
What were you eating?
Carbs, carbs, carbs. the huts provided us with a high energy packed lunch everyday, some of the group couldn’t wait to lunchtime to start theirs, but I decided that lunchtime would be when I’d finished the days climb and had time to sit at the top of a mountain, eat lunch and enjoy the incredible scenery, it also spurred me on knowing that at the top of the mountain I was going to have a big lunch. Evening meals, again were provided by the huts and usually involved lots and lots of pasta.
Did you have sore feet or any injuries during the trek?
My feet weren’t too bad, a good friend recommended 1,000 miles socks which have an outer and inner shell, preventing friction on your feet, I was so lucky not to get any blisters. The only pain I experienced was from pressure and burning sensations on the souls of my feel, literally from walking from between 8-10 hours a day, up and down steep climbs/descents. One poor girl had the most horrendous blisters and had to take 2 whole days off from the trek. as I said earlier, my hips and knees were incredibly painful from day one of the trek, particularly on the descents, which were incredibly steep, on a couple of occasions I was in a lot of pain, but with the help of trekking poles and reminding myself why I was doing the trek, I finished each day with a huge sense of achievement.
Were there any points when you thought you might not be able to finish it?
Day one was long and steep and around 3pm I was so exhausted climbing all day that I began to question if going on the trek was the right decision. However, after day one, it just got better and better, even with my sore knees by the end of the week, I didn’t want it to end.
What was the most amazing thing you saw?
This is a tough one, as to be honest, every single day we saw the most incredible, spectacular scenery.I think my favourite view was when we climbed to just under 3,000m to Fenetre d’arpette, where we were above a massive glacier and had an incredible view down and across the most beautiful valley.
How did you feel when you finished the trek?
I felt sad that it had come to an end, but also felt a massive sense of achievement.It was honestly, the best thing I’ve ever done, I absolutely loved it.
What did you do to celebrate?
We went to a musical festival near Geneva called Paleo the weekend after the trek, which was a very different, but fun end to an amazing 6 days
Has it inspired you to do more trekking or are you never going to do one again?!
Yes, absolutely, I want to go back and do the full Tour du Mont blanc, our trek was 6 out of a full 10 days, I want to finish it next year.
Any words of advice for anyone else doing the trek?
Do it!!! Be prepared, break your boots in, buy good socks, work on your cardio vascular strength and be prepared for an amazing yet challenging experience.
Describe the experience in three words?
Best experience ever.