My Machu Picchu training weekend

Our Communications Manager, Niamh Callan, shares her experiences on the first Team Machu Picchu training weekend on Ben Nevis.

Posted : 07/07/2017

- by Niamh Callan, Communications Manager

I’ll be jetting off to Peru to trek through the Andes for six days in September with a team of MND Scotland fundraisers to the Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Getting in training, I headed to Fort William last weekend to meet 18 of my fellow Machu Picchu trekking buddies and to climb Ben Nevis. I was looking forward to getting to know everyone a bit better but a little apprehensive about climbing Britain’s highest mountain.

My friend and colleague, Louise Earley (I’m sure many of you know her), picked me up at 11.30am – I love her even more for being the driver - and our road trip began. Two and a half hours of cheesy music, great scenery and ridiculous chat later, we arrived at our hostel in Fort William.

We were greeted by Emma from Really Wild Challenges, the company taking us to Peru, and after quick introductions with the team we headed out for a short walk to the castle to stretch our legs and take our first team photo.

After getting to know my new roommates, Mhairi, Julia and Keira, the group reconvened for a question time with Really Wild Challenges – you could feel the excitement for the trip building. There are apparently lots of potatoes in Peru, so the food situation should be good… the toilet situation, on the other hand, does not sound promising with talk of chemical toilets and long drops! If you’re one of our trekkers you should have received an email from Louise giving a rundown of the session. 

Then we all walked down to the local pub for dinner and drinks at the Ben Nevis bar. After a huge meal, some questionable sticky toffee pudding and a glass of red wine - I was off duty by then I promise – a lot of us headed to bed quite early for the big day ahead, while the wild ones made a pit stop at the pub! Although I wasn’t there, it’s been reported that Fort William turns back in time from 9pm onwards with Ghostbusters theme tune music and 80s discos… sounds like I missed an interesting night.

I think most people will agree it wasn’t the best night’s sleep we’ve ever had; getting used to sharing  (although I’ll admit to being the snorer in my room – sorry ladies!), small rooms and bunk beds. Nothing a strong cup of coffee and some fresh air couldn’t fix the next day.  The following morning we were up early to get some breakfast and pack for the day ahead.  The toss-up was between porridge or pain au chocolate – I don’t think I need to say which won.

The day started off quite nicely, despite the iffy weather forecast. We could see the mist ahead so knew the more clement weather wouldn’t last long but everyone was in good spirits as we headed up Ben Nevis with three mountain guides and two reps from Really Wild Challenges.

The day was long. The higher we climbed the less we all chatted and the worse the weather got. I thought I was mostly prepared but my gloves were NOT waterproof and as the rain started pelting down I could feel my hands getting colder and colder as they filled up with water – that’s the next item on my shopping list. Heading towards the summit was pretty miserable to say the least. We were tired, cold, wet and just wanted to get it done by this stage. At least the weather in Machu Picchu will hopefully be a bit better!

Here’s a clip for anyone wanting proof of the weather conditions:


But, we did it! We spent about three minutes taking photos at the top before deciding we just needed to get back down to food and warmth. In some ways the way back was even harder. The large rocks and uneven terrain were hard on people’s knees, including mine.

After seven hours the first group made it down and by 6pm we’d all arrived back at the car park feeling pretty proud of ourselves. Louise and I headed back to Glasgow while others stopped off at McDonalds for a well-deserved treat before driving home. It’s safe to say Sunday night was a feet up, take-away and wine kind of evening; Tuesday was a ‘I can’t walk anymore’ kind of day!

On Monday we totalled up the fundraising so far and cannot believe that the team has already raised £100,000! Well done everyone – you are truly making a real difference to people affected by MND and helping fund research for a cure.  Thank you.

Finally, thanks to everyone for making the weekend so much fun and to Louise for organising it all. Now that I’ve recovered I’m looking forward to seeing you all in September, if not before then!



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