After seeing first-hand the difference charities have made to MS patients in Aberdeen, two north-east fitness instructors donned their hiking boots to help.
Over just four days this month, Gemma Milne and Nicola Crozier trekked the 98-mile West Highland Way, raising more than £2,000 for new organisation Aberdeen Independent Multiple Sclerosis (Aims).
The pair work with individuals suffering multiple sclerosis, offering chair-based activities to keep them active, meaning the cause was “very close” to both their hearts.
Gemma said: “The generosity we received to get over £2,000 is incredible.
“The members themselves have been speechless about what we put ourselves through to raise money for them.
“Unfortunately this money won’t take their pain or MS away, but it can help them lead a happier life with exercise and activities like art classes and yoga.”
The pair kept a daily diary during their trip, tracking the highs and low throughout their four days of gruelling trekking.
Day 1: Milngavie – Rowardennan
Calories burned: 3,935
Quote of the day: “Where’s Fort William?”
We started off at 7am. First part of the walk was a breeze along a flat gravel track in the countryside.
After that we took a road path through forestry all the way to Drymen where we got a wee bit lost.
We bumped into three nice chaps who were starting off from Drymen at the same time, and again a wee while later and told them our story about doing the West Highland Way for Aims.
They very kindly donated £10 into our fund. (They were very impressed we were doing this challenge in 4 days and still smiling at this point.)
From there we took another which lead us up Conic Hill which is 361m high (1,200ft) – instead of round it which we were supposed to do. We renamed it Blister Hill as we’re blaming that extra two miles for our blisters today.
We then started our final leg of today’s journey from Balmaha to Rowerdennan, we’re not going to lie, this bit hurt and felt like it was going on forever.
No map or tourist guide had told us how up and down this was.
Our feet were on fire for the last bit but we’ve safely made it to our lovely accommodation and are recovering so we are fresh and ready for day 2.
Day 2: Rowardennan – Tyndrum
Calories burned: 4,031
Quote of the day: “How many miles left?”
We both massively underestimated how difficult this stretch of the walk would be.
We started off along the loch up and down big boulders, very hard on the feet and it felt like it went on forever. At parts we were climbing vertically.
We made it to our first big stop 14 miles in and our feet were in a bad way.
From there we took on our next 11 miles which was constantly up and down through forestry and gravel paths.
Finally, 12 hours after leaving our accommodation, we’ve made it to comfort.
Physically and mentally the most challenging thing we’ve both ever done, every step of the way hurt today and felt like we were walking on razor blades at times.
Incredibly proud of how we managed to get through this.
When we arrived at the accommodation the owner asked if we were athletes as it’s the hardest stretch of the whole walk – crammed into one day.
Day 3: Tyndrum – Kingshouse
Calories burned: 3,052
Quote of the day: “I want to stop but the quicker we move our feet, the quicker we rest our feet.”
After a really good night’s sleep we started our day on a high from all the lovely messages and comments we’ve received cheering us on.
The walk was split into two halves today.
The terrain was OK, the majority of it was walking on small stones like chuckies and we had a bit of a hill before our first stop.
Second half was rather wet and we arrived at our next stop soaked through.
Our accommodation isn’t as great tonight and we are kipped out a bunkhouse with concrete floors and bunkbeds with shared toilets and showers.
But, it’s warm and dry and a pillow for the night.
Currently sitting waiting on our evening meal before our last push tomorrow. We know it won’t be easy but, one way or another, we will cross that finish line.
Day 4: End of the West Highland Way
Total miles: 98.4
Total calories burned: 14,515
Total blisters: 12
Quote of the day: “With how many people have walked this path, you’d think they’d have tarmacked it by now.”
We made what felt like the impossible, possible.
This was 100% the hardest challenge both of us have ever taken on before.
The pain in our feet is indescribable but we know it will ease over time.
We only managed to wear our hiking shoes for the first day and had to wear trainers the other three as our feet have swollen up so much.
We set off quite late this morning, just before 10am, and arrived in Fort William for 6.30pm.
A lot of ascents at the beginning as we took on Devil’s Staircase – the highest peak of the entire walk – which to us felt the easiest.
From there we started the dreaded descent into Kinlochleven, with loads of steep winding paths.
Afterwards it was a long slog and desolate until the end where we got a lot of encouragement from some locals which was just what we needed.
We finally made it back to our lovely hotel (with a lift!) and celebrated with a tear, hug and an ice bath for our feet – followed by a chilled Prosecco which Gems had carried the whole walk.
We’ve had a lot of laughs and giggles, and soul-searching moments over the last few days and it’s been an incredible journey we’ve shared together which we will never forget.