A woman who was at risk of her losing her foot after a fall on ice, has challenged herself to embark on a self-powered adventure ‘triathlon’ across England, Scotland and Wales.
Claire Hughes, 44, from Wylam, has spent her life engaging in several outdoor activities, and in April this year she plans to undertake a journey across the three nations by packraft, bike and on foot, incorporating the longest lake and biggest mountain in each and cycling between them.
Claire is no stranger to challenges, after successfully completing a 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic in 42 days in 2019, at the time breaking the world record for the fastest mixed-team of four.
She’s now set her sights on doing this gruelling challenge to raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), after she required our team’s help following a fall in the Pennines.
In November 2021, Claire and her partner James Mackay were walking in icy conditions around the Blanchland area in Northumberland, in the aftermath of Storm Arwen when she slipped.
Due to the ice and snow, it would have taken several hours for a road ambulance to reach Claire, so GNAAS was called, and their critical care team based in Langwathby, Penrith flew to the scene in just over 15 minutes.
The team found Claire to be at severe risk of losing her foot and developing hypothermia in the -20C wind-chill conditions.
As both of the bones in Claire’s leg were broken, as well as her ankle pointing in the wrong direction, emergency treatment was delivered in a temporary shelter at the scene to help with the blood supply to the foot.
Claire was then airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where she underwent surgery to treat breaks on the three main bones of her ankle.
She explained: “They said the air ambulance guys had done such a fantastic job of pulling my ankle straight they did me some major favours in terms of recovery.”
Thankfully Claire has made a great recovery and was able to return to her outdoor pursuits, which include rowing, cycling, hill walking, wild camping, swimming, paddle boarding, and snow sports.
She said: “My plan is to start in Wales, paddling Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala), cycle to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), hike Snowdon, cycle to Newby Bridge, paddle Windermere, cycle to Langdale to hike Scafell, cycle to Loch Awe, paddle Loch Awe, cycle to Ben Nevis and finish with a hike up Ben Nevis.”
Claire hopes to complete the challenge between 20 April and 28 April, but this will depend on how much the weather impacts her ability to travel, particularly for the packrafting sections where she may need to alter her direction of travel.
She said: “For me, it’s not about being the best, the fastest, going the furthest or being the first – it’s about finding your own challenge, enjoying the journey and finding the adventure along the way. It doesn’t have to always be about comparing yourself with others and measuring your success against their achievements, it’s about taking that inspiration to create your own.
“My measure of success will be to complete this with a smile on my face and some stories to tell. If it inspires others to have a try at something new or gives them the courage to step away from endless comparisons and self-doubt, then even better.”
Claire has created a website about her challenge and has also set up a JustGiving page where people can leave a donation to GNAAS. She would also be delighted to speak to sponsors who might like to sponsor larger sums of money in return for media coverage, website links, speaking or other benefits.
She said: “I think the work GNAAS does is incredible, life-saving and essential. It also costs a lot to run, and I can’t believe they are a charity, therefore I’m very mindful of the continuing need for financial support. By doing a fundraiser as well as a regular donation, it also offers a chance to raise awareness of GNAAS and the work they do and hopefully increase the network of regular support.”