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Deaf & blind 70-year-old’s Ben Nevis bid

Written by Fiona June 14 2011

Walking one of Scotland’s Munros is enough of a challenge for the average person. A Munro is defined as a mountain in Scotland that is more than 3000ft (914m) and many require a good level of fitness, as well as navigational ability to reach the summit – and then walk back down again.

Fiona, Dad and Nina at the summit of Ben Lomond

If you’re both deaf and blind, the bid to climb a Munro is obviously going to be a tad tougher. Next month, courageous Michael Anderson is planning to bag the Munro Ben Nevis (the highest peak in the UK) in aid of charity. Michael is registered both deaf and blind and hopes to raise £3000 for DeafBlind Scotland. Oh, and Michael is also taking on the challenge to celebrate his 70th birthday.

His daughter’s partner Nina says: “Dad is determined! Ben Nevis is a serious undertaking for most reasonably fit people, let alone someone who has entered his seventh decade, suffered a severe break in his femur 18 months ago and has had dual sensory impairment since an early age.

“Despite all this he wants to undertake this challenge in order to raise awareness of this condition as well as raise funds for DeafBlind Scotland.”

Born in Surrey, Michael is a widower after 35 years of marriage. He now lives in Larbert and is the father of three grown up children and grandfather to three doting grandchildren.

Michael says: “During a family touring holiday of Scotland, when I was 10, we stayed in a hotel in Dornie and on our first morning my brother and I climbed a hill behind the hotel.  I remember the day being a bright and fair one and we set off enthusiastically and soon came to the top of it, or so we thought.

“It was, in fact, a less steep part of the hill which was obscuring our vision of more to be climbed.  This occured twice more and when we eventually reached the top it was a lovely sensation, both in what one has achieved and could see.  That was my first ever climb and I believed a seed was sown then.  However, it was many years before it germinated… somewhere in the early 90s!”

Ben Nevis: The ultimate goal for Michael Anderson

As part of his training, Michael, his daughter Fiona and Nina headed to Ben Lomond (the most southerly of the Munros). Thanks to the generous support of walkers on the social media platform Twitter, the trio met up with walking guide Lucy (aka @snoweider), who runs Arran Wild Walks. Lucy has offered to help Michael with his training and with the Ben Nevis Challenge.

Nina describes Michael’s first Munro summit: “So, 9am on an overcast Saturday morning we met up with Lucy at the Rowardennan car park to walk Ben Lomond together.  The notion being it would give Lucy and Dad the opportunity to get to know one another, assess what support Dad needs and for Lucy to understand what it takes to guide someone with Dad’s impairments up and down a hill.

“While Dad can hear with hearing aids, the elements play a huge factor and if it’s windy or raining hard it really scuppers his hearing and as guides we can’t rely on it.  We therefore use a combination of walking pole for support and dad holding on to one of our arms so he can feel whether he’s being guided up or down.

“On uneven paths one of us also holds on to his backpack to stem a possible fall.  That said, he’s perfected the art of gracefully ‘sitting down’ on descents without doing too much damage!

“Lucy took to guiding Dad and within minutes we gave her a taste of what it’s like being guided blind across a rocky path herself.

“It was a fantastic day out on this magnificent mountain for all of us and we learnt a lot.

“I will stick to boots that I know are comfortable as my toes felt pretty crippled for the last three hours. Fiona will always carry an insulation layer and Dad will slow down a little when it comes to the steep scrambly bits.

“The only pity was that the mountain was swathed in cloud from about the 500m line so there were no views to be had.  That, however, did not detract from a fantastic sense of achievement and there were tears of joy when Dad touched the trig point of his first Munro.

“Having had this experience together, the ‘go’ button for Ben Nevis has well and truly been pushed.”

The team are now aiming to gather enough walking kit to make the challenge as simple and comfortable as possible. If any outdoor equipment companies can help with trousers, insulation layers, hats and gloves or hydration bladders, please contact me or Nina.

They are also hoping to raise as much money as possible for DeafBlind Scotland. Please give generously if you can here: JustGiving.

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