Why I'm walking the HRP

A week from today, I'm off to walk for around 2 months and 900kms along the border of France and Spain, using the high mountain routes of the Pyrenees, mostly the HRP, wild camping on the way.  I'm taking a week's detour into Spain and the Ordesa Canyon.  Most people take about 50 days to complete just the trail, I'm allowing 60 for this detour and some summits on the way.  I will be joined by others on specific legs of the journey, all of whom are getting to and from the trail-heads by trains, not planes.  Its also a walk for 2 great charities, about which more below.  I wrote about it first here.

To those of you who have already supported with a donation and generous mentions on blogs, very many thanks - It will make a concrete, lasting difference to young people, and you have poked a finger in the eye of the cynical - good for you!  Your support is also going to keep me on track in those moments when I've had enough and am feeling tired and jaded myself.

To those who haven't yet, I still need your help - If you like the blog, or have liked it, or even read it despite your better judgment whilst grinding your teeth and laughing, please support the blog by instead supporting 2 great causes.  

Donate whatever you can. A £10 donation gets you an illustrated pdf trail report - when u donate, also send an email to davepowered (at) gmail (dot) com with 'Pyrenees book' in the title, so I can send you the report when its done.

I should make it absolutely clear that all the walkers are paying for their own trip - none of the money donated is going to pay for admission, basecamps, porters, husky support teams, fancy hiking apparel or a PR campaign!  I don't have much time for sponsored events where the first £Xxx of money raised goes on expedition costs.  So, every cent and penny raised goes towards the two charities, 100%.  And, just in case your wondering, I don't have a trust fund, a pension or a silver spoon secreted somewhere private - I'm an community arts worker/manager (amongst other things), am walking during the summer school holidays and have fairly low expectations of my standard of living for the rest of the year, which to be honest is just as well.  I won't bore you with the details, but getting this much time off has been difficult - I don't have kids but I do have responsibilities.  But there are choices to be made, and life is for living, and that means for me too.  I sometimes forget that.

A few people have asked me why walk way in excess of 500miles coast to coast in some of the most glorious mountains in the world.  None of them hikers, granted, they already know why.  Of course, partly its the challenge, some adventure seeking, partly pure self indulgence in praise of high rocky places, maybe its a mid-life reappraisal (ahem, I'll be 40 whilst away, oh yes indeed!), and partly its for charity.  I should also tell you I haven't done anything on this scale before - the longest walk was last year in the Pyrenees, for 15 days.  I've been thinking about going back and trying for the whole thing since then, and its a good choice for my first long distance walk because I know a little of the territory. 
Maybe I should make a case for the 2 charities I've chosen, especially as one at least maybe considered by some to be slightly controversial.  Any money raised will be split 50:50 between the 2.  Lets get the easy one done with first.

1. The John Muir Trust is a conservation organisation that seeks to protect areas of natural importance, mainly in Scotland, UK.  It also aims to promote and extend National Park boundaries throughout the UK.  They work with local communities to safeguard the places many of us love, for the future. 

I chose to try to raise money for them because I've learnt alot from these places in the past, and wanted to give something back.  I'm convinced that remote backcountry areas are not a luxury or an add on, they are essential for our ecology in all senses.  They supply us humans with clean air and water, a place to restore ourselves both mentally and physically, and are vital for our present cultural health and the understanding of our own past history.  And that's just homo sapien -  there's also a responsibility to look after these places for the other creatures, flora and fauna that live there, not just for our benefit but because we are the keystone species.  If we don't, who will?  We have done enough damage.  We should aspire to greatness, to be better, and that means taking care.  In the end, that's good for our spirit, so we win anyway.  

Another reason I support the JMT is they are not naive about the role of Power in our dealings with the environment.  They recognise its not only about individual choice, prejudice or opinion, and are prepared to make a stand for the land, against vested interest and big money.  That's brave and principled, and I admire that.  But, its not just up to organisations - the outdoors online community has definitely been an inspiration, and might actually be a line of defence against blind development and destruction of habitats.  We are all stewards in a way, bearing witness.  A donation is not only a way of investing in wild land for its own sake, but also a way of investing in our future as walkers and backpackers.

By way of proof, check out this guy's photos, which make me remember how much I value it out there.  Do remember to come back here after though!

2. Soundmix is a charity I started in 2006.  We work with refugee orphans from around the world, mostly from the war zones familiar to many of us from depictions on the TV, and we deliver arts and music workshops as well as some basic advocacy - helping them with college, work and housing places.  We have helped hundreds in this way over the years, and have been rewarded with national funding, home office support and good evaluations, but are facing difficult times ahead as the cuts take hold.  

I realise for some the issue of refugees is contentious.  But If you have your doubts, please bear in mind that I have never met or worked with members of any radical organisation intent on destroying our way of life... only their victims.  Every child we have ever worked with has been incredibly keen to learn and integrate, make a good life for themselves and join in their local community (and in most British and European cities, that means a mixed community) - this reality is massively at odds with the noises coming from central government (some things never change, whatever party is in power).  Please also understand that these are children, without parents, who have sometimes experienced terrible things - they are fleeing from Terror and seeking Sanctuary in a way both legal and moral.  Its what you and I might hope for our families if we needed to.  The arts are for lovers not for fighters - our classes are a proven way of integrating, and about hope, not fear.  One of the most touching things a student ever said to me was 'music is my medicine'.  

Please visit our website.

By the way, please rest assured that by donating or otherwise promoting this walk, you are not paying my salary for the next year!  We are a tiny organisation with no office, no salaried posts and barely any overheads.  All the money raised is to be 'ringfenced' - it will go towards providing workshops in 2 (hopefully 3) mixed schools in south London where the highest need is concentrated, and where the schools themselves are under immense pressure.  

The link between these two charities is sanctuary.  Both provide the means to support dwindling places of refuge for those that really need it. 
If that sounds worth supporting, please leave whatever you can afford in the jar on the way out.
Thanks for reading this far,


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