Q&A With Dale

25 Mar 2022

The Cumbrian Challenge- in conversation with long-term supporter, Dale

Dale served in the Royal Electrical Mechanic Engineers, supporting the British Army Attack Helicopter – The Apache. He retired to spend time with his new family and continues to support the Apache as a civilian contractor with Morson Technical Services.

He enjoys the outdoors and relishes opportunities to challenge himself and engage with peers and like-minded people, making the Cumbrian Challenge a perfect event. After receiving support from Walking With The Wounded, his commitment to the charity has re-doubled and it is has been a privilege for him to be able to give back to this precious community of people.

1.      You have taken on WWTW’s Cumbrian Challenge numerous times, what brings you back to Grasmere each year?

This question has so many layers to it, so many boxes that are ticked for me, how could I not be involved with this?

Whilst serving in the armed forces there was plenty of opportunities to be immersed in the great outdoors and push boundaries and have some space to test your limits safely. For me, modern family life is focused on my children and holidays are aimed towards their needs. The Cumbrian Challenge allows me to break away and find myself again, what is more, the Cumbrian Challenge calls to like-minded people, serving soldiers and veterans, supporters and their families. This layer helps to reconnect with my former life and to adventure with like people like myself.

I retired from Army Service not being aware that I was suffering from complex PTSD, after trying to ‘deal with’ my emotions alone I sought assistance and was helped by the WWTW Head-Start Programme, I received fantastic therapy at no personal cost to myself. I had already participated in the Cumbrian Challenge but now, being a beneficiary myself it felt personal, and I wished to raise cash to pay my own way, to support others and to continue to engage in fundraising support where I am able.

2.      What do you consider to be the top benefits of taking on the Cumbrian Challenge with a team?

If you are not already good friends with the people that you are on a team with, you soon will be. Teams thrive in adversity and this event can really present an opportunity for people to come into their own. This is recognised by my own management chain, teams are selected from different departments, so we can really get to know the people that are in our organisation that we otherwise would not have an opportunity to work with directly. This networking and the understanding of the roles of others as we get to know one another really does improve the relationships within our business. During the event itself, personnel that would normally not have leadership opportunities based on their role have the opportunity to show them.

However, after a long day of conquering peak after peak, fatigue sets in, human error occurs, mistakes are made, team dynamics change suddenly and this is when your team can really pull you through, I have seen people volunteer to carry rucksacks for one another, coax and push and pull and cross the line at the end, and no matter what the experience, I have never seen a team finish that was not smiling. Then we return to work, with new bonds of friendship.

3.      Do you have any tips to help people increase their fundraising for the event?

Start early, as early as possible. £2K sounds big… but it is a team effort, so break it down, focus on an individual £500 spread over a few months suddenly things seem more achievable. Don’t be afraid to be ‘necky’, go to the bosses, to local businesses, friends and family and just ask them to donate, either they will say ‘no’ and so everything stays the same, or they say ‘yes’ and you have helped somebody.

People like cake at work (normally) invite everyone to bring some in, even shop-bought. Then during lunch people donate and get a little treat, everyone wins. Top Tip- state a minimal donation. I went with £1 a slice. One year I threw caution to the wind and went for £2 (it is for charity after all) no one batted an eyelid and I could not help but wonder about how much I could have raised If I had just done that from the start.

4.      Do you have a favourite memory from past Cumbrian Challenges?

Of course, in 2019 Team Apache bought an Apache, it was epic. That familiar sound of the British Army’s Attack Helicopter, amplified, echoing through the mountains. Naturally, our team was elated having pulled this little stunt, the feeling spread, it lifted the morale of everyone in the mountains. Servicemen and veterans who felt they owed their very lives to the timely intervention of this machine met the pilots at the finish line and shared stories and their appreciation, and it was humbling to the core. None of us had any idea of the impact it would make. We still talk about it.

A smaller more jovial memory, Cumbrian Challenge 2018, the 4 of us each carried our nation's flag, we had the Team apache Flag, Union Flag, American and Fiji. we were heading to a peak where the Tommy statue was located, it was a hard climb, but I was being competitive with my American Peer, soon people at the summit were calling to us…calling for me to reach the top before ‘America’ this drove us both on but I had nothing left….. throwing away my integrity I tried for a ‘short cut’ to get ahead….it was so much steeper than it looked, and my legs began to give up, America was going to get to the peak first! I called for help and Chris had run around and took my hand to pull me up, the moment was caught by the WWTW film crew team, so cheesy but real all the same.  Despite my failed ‘short cut’, we were now neck and neck and it was a short sprint to the top. I don’t actually remember which of us got to the top first, we both deserved to. Great memories.

5.      What’s the one piece of kit you’d recommend people pack for the event?

A pair of those ramblers/walking sticks, without a doubt!

I had never used them before and had even completed 2-3 Cumbrian Challenges without them. But when I tried them out, I could not believe how much support they give, taking the strain off the knees, helpful for ascending, even more so for steep declines. You will never appreciate it until you try them. So just get some that retract and can be stowed in your pack, then bring them out as needed, but give yourself the option. I gave mine to one of my teammates last year, he was resistant at first, but towards the end, his needs were greater than mine. He was grateful, then he bought some for himself. ?