80-Year-Old Man Climbing All 282 Munros In Scotland In Honour Of His Wife With Dementia
| Last updated
An 80-year-old man is turning an 'awful situation' into an epic charity fundraiser, having vowed to climb all 282 munros in Scotland in honour of his wife, who has Alzheimer's.
Nick Gardner found his happy life thrown upside down when his beloved wife Janet was diagnosed with the disease two and a half years ago.
They had moved to Scotland when Nick was 50, relocating to a traditional highland croft to enjoy a simpler, self-sufficient life, which would allow them to embrace the country's wild landscape through walking and gardening.
But as Janet entered a period of 'rapid decline' last year, Nick knew things were about to change drastically.
Speaking to LADbible, Nick said: "She went into hospital in the December last year, and it just threw me absolutely. I was in a mess.
"I thought, 'I've got to get something to focus on - I'll have to focus on something that takes a long time'."
Understanding that he needed much more than a quick fix, Nick turned to the great outdoors for inspiration, and decided to climb all 282 of Scotland's munros - the name given to mountains in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet.
He initially wanted to start the challenge to tie in with his milestone birthday, but the pandemic threw a spanner in the works.
"I was all ready to start when I was 80 in April, but of course the bloody lockdown came, didn't it?" Nick said when we spoke to him on Thursday (8 October).
"I couldn't start until the lockdown eased a couple of months ago, so I've missed all that good spring weather for climbing, but I've done 33 since then, and planning to do some more this weekend and next week."
While it's hard to map out a specific timetable due to weather, life commitments and, well, pandemics, Nick has set himself a goal to complete the ambitious challenge within 1,200 days.
"Doing it I didn't want to rush it," he explained.
"I did want it to take a long while because my wife is still alive - I don't think she'll last much longer. She just about knows me, but only just, so I've got to visit her.
"I thought I certainly couldn't do it in the year; I might be able to do it in two years but I'll give myself three years."
The current timeframe would take his end date to spring 2023, but the determined outdoorsman said he'd be trying to get things finished by spring 2022, if he can.
One of the hardest climbs on Nick's to-do list is what's called the Inaccessible Pinnacle on the Cuillin Ridge in Skye.
Nick, who grew up in Leicestershire, said: "It's not technically difficult, it's like climbing up a steep staircase with no handrails and a sheer drop on each side.
"You are roped up - you've got to be roped up so that you're quite safe if you should fall you wouldn't fall to the bottom."
As for the one he's saving until last, Nick explained he'll be heading to Cairngorm near Aviemore, as he hopes others may be able to join him for his final hurrah.
He said: "Assuming I succeed, the charities concerned will want to take maximum publicity and so I've picked Cairngorm near Aviemore because there's a cable car that can take people to the top if they so wish to do so for my last one."
While Nick still has some way to go, he's already managed to raise more than £5,000 of his £10,000 target, with the money going to Alzheimer Scotland and the Royal Osteoporosis Society.
He said the support so far has been nothing short of 'fantastic', adding: "I cannot believe the level of support that's there.
"I'm essentially a very quiet person, but I realised after the second day out that people are interested, and so whenever I'm on the hill now and I see anybody, I stop them and give them my business card - as it were - and tell them what I'm doing.
"They're amazed, [saying] 'I can't believe it, there's an-80 year-old who's setting out to climb all the munros'. And perhaps it is unusual; from what I can gather nobody else has done it.
"I've not finished it yet, but the support I'm getting is unbelievable."