Twenty-one year old adventurer and fundraiser Alex Staniforth is no stranger to a challenge like this. Hoping to inspire others along the way, Alex has just completed the Climb The UK challenge, scaling the highest peaks of all 100 UK counties within a record breaking 72 days, fully equipped with the Cat S60 smartphone.
We had the chance to catch up with him after some well deserved down time, to find out more about the challenge, and how he found it.
First of all, why Climb The UK?
I wanted to spread a message to every corner of the UK that together we can climb ANY mountain, and talking about mental health is a sign of strength, not a weakness. It’s hard to find unique challenges nowadays, and I was looking for something closer to home so it would give others the chance to take part and raise as much awareness as possible. The idea for Climb The UK came to me over a Roast Dinner and ticked all the boxes.
Was there a lot of preparation or training involved beforehand?
It took four months of logistical headaches to plan, and people don’t realise just how much goes into this process. Physically there wasn’t much specific preparation as I was already a competitive runner and cyclist. Subsequently, I paid the price with a crippling muscle strain injury just five days later as my knees weren’t used to the weight of a touring bike. My longest day was 18 hours, the furthest bike ride was 122 miles and I walked/ran as far as 20 miles. Obviously, general endurance training is important but the challenge was mostly psychological – “relentless forward momentum” was my mantra. If only I could have prepared for the saddle soreness…
Tell us about the charity you’ve chosen to donate to.
Young Minds is the leading UK charity for mental health and wellbeing in young people. Everyone has their Everest in life, but people with mental illness have an Everest to climb every single day. Having suffered with depression, anxiety and eating disorders, I have personally experienced the shocking lack of support and understanding available for young people. Through my fundraising, I hope to make a difference to ensure they get the support they deserve, and to inspire more people to get outdoors for better mental wellbeing.
What was the most challenging peak to climb?
Probably Snowdon, because I had cycled over 107 miles on about 2.5 hours sleep, so was utterly exhausted and it was a challenge just putting one foot in front of the other!
What was your best moment? And worst moment?
There were too many to choose from! One of my favourites was walking Beacon Hill in Norfolk with 29 students from a local school. It was so rewarding that they could achieve something and get outdoors in the process. The worst was probably climbing Ben Lawers in atrocious weather with a chest infection, feeling at my absolute weakest. I hated the world at that moment in time…
What coping strategies do you have for when times get tough?
One of many strategies is breaking things down into small steps, even if it’s just having a biscuit every five miles. Otherwise the scale of the challenge can easily become overwhelming. When things got very lonely talking to sheep is quite therapeutic.
Has this challenge taught you any valuable lessons?
Absolutely. I will be sharing them all within my next book, but one main lesson was the difference between excuses and genuine reasons. Sometimes we have a voice almost looking for an easy way out, when really we have no excuse, we just need to get our heads down and push on.
What tech do you recommend for people who want to take on challenges and adventures like this?
You need something reliable, simple and built for purpose. The last thing you want to be doing is wasting valuable time and energy trying to get things to work, and you don’t want to be worrying whether the phone is going to give up and leave you stranded or vulnerable.
How did you use the Cat S60 on your trip?
The S60 was my side-kick, I used it for everything from sharing the journey on social media, capturing photos and videos, communications, storing data and addresses but most importantly for the live tracker and ViewRanger navigation. It didn’t let me down.
Were there any apps that you found particularly helpful and would recommend to others?
The ViewRanger app was invaluable for navigating my way around the country and sharing my progress via a live tracker. Using pre-set routes, you simply open the route and off you go – it takes away the stress of navigation and saves time, even without mobile or data signal. I didn’t get lost once, which for me was quite a feat in itself. The Speaker Dry feature was also impressive. After the wettest of Scottish downpours, the phone can essentially dry itself out using vibrations, almost like magic.
Did you have the opportunity to/how did you use the integrated Thermal Imaging camera?
Unfortunately not, although I should have used it to check body temperature when I was bordering on hypothermia!
Would you do something like this again?
You always say ‘never again’ but you can never stop. Climb The UK will be hard to top but there will be even bigger challenges to come; I’m very grateful to have raised over £22,000 for Young Minds but there is so much more to be done. Mental illness can make it a challenge just to get out of the front door, but once we do, we are already winning.
Alex has now reached his exceptional target of £20,000 but is still welcoming donations. Head to his Just Giving page to donate, and follow his next adventures on social media: