Taking on The Cumbrian Challenge for Walking With The Wounded
Like the ground rush experienced by skydivers, the moment for the Cisco VETS ERO team to depart for Cumbria had arrived rather rapidly. As the first Cisco team to participate in The Cumbrian Challenge, there was a heady blend of nerves and excitement as the team departed the Bedfont Lakes office car park on the 600-mile round trip. Using Cisco’s Time2Give scheme, which gives employees ten paid days off a year for volunteering, the VETS were able to travel to the event on company time.
Arriving in Grasmere, surrounded by very big hills, suddenly made it feel very real. Pitching camp, team registration, safety briefing and a hot meal all happened in quick succession. A moment that stood out from the backdrop of energetic busyness was hearing one veteran’s story about how Walking With The Wounded (WWTW) helped turn his life around and brought a new purpose to living. It was a tangible example of the charity’s work and a reminder of the cause that all teams were there to support. Then it was time to get some sleep ahead of an early start the next day.
Following a hearty breakfast, teams were called to the start line and after an enthusiastic countdown to kick things off, the Cisco VETS took their first steps on a journey that was going to take nearly 12 hours to complete and make them dig deeper than they fully expected. The team spirited atmosphere carried the Cisco VETS around the route at a good pace, quickly dusting off old map reading skills whilst taking in the stunning vistas and villages of this beautiful National Park. All the preparation was paying off and the team made good progress to the halfway point where WWTW had drinks and snacks on hand to provide a much-needed energy boost.
It was after this brief pit stop that the Tough route started to live up to its name. The team continued along tough terrain and up Langdale Pikes which seemed more appropriate for climbers than walkers. Pausing for lunch on route to Loft Crag to refuel and inspect feet provided a welcome break before pushing on to the summit of Harrison Stickle which offered stunning views over The Lakes under bright sunshine and a beautiful blue sky. Striding on to High Raise and the highest point on the course, surely it was downhill from here! Well no, the team had to traverse a long rocky ridge topped with summits to test the weariest of legs and it drained what was left of precious water supplies. This wasn’t just a walk in the park, it was a proper challenge that required the team to pull together to go the full distance.
The final, and very steep, descent back into Grasmere and over the finish line was an emotional occasion with WWTWs beneficiaries handing out medals and cold drinks. The sense of achievement, the camaraderie and some unexpected physical hardship meant this unique experience will be an incredibly memorable event. But most importantly, the Cisco VETS team, with employee donations matched by Cisco, expects to raise over £3500 for WWTW’s work to help retired Armed Forces personnel and their families, whether mentally, socially or physically wounded, back on their feet and making a positive contribution once more. For that reason, a few sore toes and some shattered legs made it totally worth the effort!
To find out more about The Cumbrian Challenge 2023 visit: https://www.cumbrianchallenge2023.org.uk/
Look out for more stories from the Cisco VETS ERO soon, including life as a Reservist at Cisco.