For readers who would like to know something about me:
I’m now 27 and live near Penrith, Cumbria with my super family. I have a teenaged sister named Martha who is autistic. Martha is not in mainstream education, requires full-time care & is unlikely ever to be able to live independently. Ensuring people like my sister are still able to be valued members of society is something for which I will always strive. My parents are strong resilient people, but mum juggles a full-time career as head teacher of a small village school with the demands of daily life, whilst dad has limited freedom. Families like mine need support & understanding. I recognise this, and raising awareness is one of my driving forces.
I grew up & went to school in the Lake District. I performed well academically but was bullied because I was clumsy, a bit of an ugly duckling & never had the confidence to participate much in sports. Despite this, I’ve always taken my problems to nature, & felt most alive when I’m exposed to its forces. Early inspirations were my great aunt and uncle, who live in the Yorkshire Dales & know the Wainwrights like the backs of their hands. I also saw an exhibition of some of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s possessions at Rheged Discovery Centre, which captured my imagination.
After leaving my school in Penrith I went to Oxford University, where I studied English. Whilst there I experienced more problems with self-image, but I just about managed to cope with the work & was proud to achieve a 2:1.
I then completed a postgraduate degree in History from a distance, commuting weekly between Cumbria & Reading as I couldn’t afford the accommodation fees. Whilst doing this I applied for more than 1000 jobs and received only a handful of interviews. The negative impact of this on my self-esteem has been huge, and made me decide to stop allowing others to decide what I am worth. Only I should be able to do that. I spent 2 years volunteering for the National Trust, in one of their gardens. Anything and everything outdoors is my passion. I also discovered the joys of endurance racing and have competed several times in the gruelling Helvellyn triathlon. During the time when I was volunteering & trying to find a place where I fit, my cousin Jonny, who was 1 year 20 days my senior & also a beloved friend, became ill with malignant melanoma and died just 3 months after his diagnosis. I realised I only have one fragile life & that failing to make the most of what I have been given would be an unforgiveable waste.
So I turned my back on the corporate world. Fascinated with making things grow after a year of death & loss, I re-trained as a gardener. Now I earn a living carrying out routine maintenance work & creating planting plans for beautiful borders. It’s a joy to me that I can be active and surrounded by nature everyday. At Jonny’s funeral I acknowledged to myself a dream I’d always had, and promised myself that I would someday stand on top of the world. This journey will be the axle of my life. It’s what I have always wanted, and in my heart, and because of my physical achievements and ability to cope with adversity so far, I know I am capable. My dream is someday for my horticultural career to take second place to writing about, speaking of & sharing the adventures I have. You can read about my endurance challenges to date below.
*April 2015: The Lakes 3000s Kate climbed the Lake District 3000ers, that is, all the hills that exceed 3000 feet in height, and cycled 55 miles between them. She ascended Scafell and Scafell Pike before cycling over Hardknott Pass, the steepest road in Britain, and then hiking up Hevellyn and Skiddaw. This took her just under 20 hours.
*May 2015: The Fred Whitton cycle sportive Kate rode the Fred Whitton route, which enjoys a reputation of being the hardest bike sportive nationwide. It involves 112 miles and takes in all 6 Lake District passes. She did this in 9 hours 27 minutes.
*October 2015: The National 3 Peaks with a twist Kate hiked Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, but she didn’t do it the conventional way, as that would just have been too easy. Instead, she cycled over 470 miles between the peaks, in a total of 120 hours. Kate was completely alone & without support throughout.
*February 2016: Winter ascent of Aneto (3404m) in the Catalonian Pyrenees. The group got to around 3200m and were looking strong, but 100mph winds forced them to turn back.
*June 2016: “Everesting” cycle challenge. Kate continuously cycled the equivalent vertical height gain to Mt Everest (8848m) in 30 hours. She did this by completing ‘reps’ of Great Dun Fell in the Cumbrian Pennines, which has a road leading right to its summit and entails 5 miles of climbing, with a maximum gradient of 23%. 14 reps of GDF made up an ‘Everest’. Kate was supported in this challenge by a visit from Alan Hinkes OBE, the only British mountaineer to have summited all the world’s fourteen 8000m peaks.
*October 2016: Gran Paradiso (4061m) The idea was for Kate to summit a 4000m Alpine peak under winter conditions. She based herself in Chamonix for a week and got in several days’ quality climbing. She made a spirited attempt at the Paradiso, where conditions were best, but unfortunately the weather window was too short, and with the advice of International British Mountain Guide James Thacker, she turned back. She now has a score to settle with that mountain!