It wasn’t until Jack Lee-Downward had the might of Mount Salkantay’s 20,000 feet staring him in the face that he realised that his Sunday afternoon jaunt up Snowdon on a warm summer’s day wasn’t the ideal preparation for his five-day trek to reach Machu Picchu, Peru’s much-revered and mountainous archaeological site.
But Jack, who works in our Customer Service Team, was determined not to be beaten. He and his Canadian girlfriend, Raveen, had taken on the challenge to raise money for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, in memory of Jack’s dad, Simon, who died when Jack was just six-years-old.
In their quest to reach Machu Picchu, Jack and Raveen didn’t go for the easy route. They took on the infamous Salkantay Trek which is listed as one of the best 25 treks in the world. It’s an ancient and remote footpath located in the same region as the Inca Trail where massive snow-capped mountains collide with lush tropical rain forests.
Jack raised an impressive total of £1,349 for Great Ormond Street and, as he highlights, the trip of a lifetime, is certainly something he won’t forget in a hurry:
“As soon as I arrived, I realised that I had fallen short on my training schedule when one of the other climbers asked me about the mountains I’d climbed before. He looked very surprised when I said Snowdon and I was even more surprised when he said he’d recently climbed Everest!
“I had been warned about the possibility of altitude sickness but nothing had prepared me for the reality of it when I was one of just two people in our climbing group who were hit by sickness as we made our ascent. I will never forget waking up in my tent at 2am in the morning, having had little sleep, feeling so ill and facing nine hours of hard climbing. Somehow, I dragged myself up the mountain.
“The climbing was much tougher than I imagined and we encountered extreme temperatures from tropical to cold, snowy conditions. I am very proud that I managed to complete the trek and it felt very special to reach the summit. Making the trip in my Dad’s memory and raising the funds for Great Ormond Street certainly made all the hardship worthwhile.”
Jack also encountered some other firsts along the way:
“Peruvian cuisine, killer spiders and meeting local residents were all real eye-openers, but the spectacular views and beauty of Machu Picchu were definitely the highlights of the trip.” explained Jack.
And has his great achievement given Jack the bug for more mountainous challenges?
“I think I will give climbing a miss next year after my Machu Picchu adventure,” he said. “The summer before I went on holiday to a resort in Mexico with two of my mates which couldn’t be more of a contrast to Peru. The thought of lounging by a pool in a warm climate enjoying a bottle of beer certainly seems very appealing at the moment.”