We thought about many different ways to start this post on who we are. Our names? Ages? Professions? After a great deal of thinking, we thought the best way was to describe what gives us the most pleasure… after our families:
Mountains and beer. Beers and mountains. They have been constants in our lives, at least since we were legally allowed to buy a few pints in the local pub after having walked up and down mountains for 4 or 5 hours.
But low-level mountains. We have never tackled a major expedition, never climbed more than 1,500 metres high… we are amateur hikers, who love spending a day out enjoying the great outdoors, always willing for more. We spend as much time as we can in the outdoors and are life-long campers, from light backpacking and wild camping to comfortable 'glamping' with our families.
But between us we have lifetimes of passion and knowledge for the mountains. We each learned our craft on the slopes of Britain's Lake District, Peak District, North Wales and Yorkshire Moors and later brought that passion to Spain where we each discovered the majesty and grandeur of the different regions and their Sierras and Picos.
We’re also incredibly lucky to call the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award a core part of our working lives and have both embraced the new challenges and rewards of introducing young people to the great outdoors. Adventurous Journeys Spain was born out of a desire to enable DofE participants everywhere to experience Spain’s varied and stunning mountains.
Our paths first crossed on the beautiful island of Mallorca, working together at a school at the foot of the Sierra de Tramuntana. And the inevitable happened. What began as, “Fancy going out walking this weekend?” quickly turned into, “Let’s hike up a mountain this Saturday!” Our first 1,000m+ peak in Mallorca: Puig de Galatzo. And then we realised there are another 53 peaks in Mallorca over 1,000m high... “Let’s do them all” - we quietly said at the same time….
We have tackled a good number of 1,000m+ mountains (over thirty of Mallorca’s 54 but not yet all), the world-renowned GR221 (Mallorca’s ‘Dry Stone Way’) in sections, rambled the Sierra de Grazalema in Cadiz and strolled up the undulating hills in Aracena in Huelva. Our bucket list of mountains to hike is endless.
We are realistic. Around our 40s (Editor’s note: Ahem - one decidedly more so than the other!), with full-time day jobs and families to look after, we cannot dedicate our lives entirely to going up and down mountains. Our level of physical fitness is, to say the least, improvable. Our mountaineering technique would be laughed at by more seasoned climbers. We respect mountains, we know our limits and are happy to push our boundaries a wee bit. We climb mountains because we have fun doing it. It’s the physical challenge, the partnership, the sense of satisfaction when reaching the summit, the nice cold beers we pull from a stashed cool bag in one of our packs to wash down cheddar cheese & Branston pickle sandwiches whilst taking in the views… or the rain, or the sleet....
So, why the GR20?
It’ll be our 40th and 45th birthdays in 2021. We were inspired by seeing our DofE participants take on their own challenges. We felt we needed a challenge. We’re willing to push our limits, go beyond our comfort zone. The GR20 in Corsica has long been on our minds. Europe’s Toughest Hike. Why wait until 2021? It sounds so much better to do it in 2020 - the GR20 in 2020! Almost serendipity.
We were inspired by the work we have been doing with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, so we decided to make it in the spirit of the DofE. Self-sustained. No mountain huts, no meals being cooked for us. How long? 7 days is what most people take. Nah. Let’s do it in 5. Why the GR20? Because it is known as the toughest trail in Europe. Because we will be climbing the height of Mount Everest in 5 days. Because...
And without much further ado, it was settled.
Paul & Alex. Alex & Paul. Middle-aged men who enjoy the outdoors. The GR20 is not a dream anymore. It’s happening. In a year’s time. June 2020. We’ve started. Now. Game on!