Climbing Wales’ highest mountain in a storm gave student nurse Claire Carmichael and two of her course mates the chance to test their resilience, teamwork and ability to cope under pressure
I had been searching for an opportunity to raise money for charity for a while. I didn’t want to just pick any old charity but one that meant something to me.
When one of my nursing lecturers, Anne Dodson, tweeted about organising a team to raise money for the Cavell Nurses’ Trust, I looked into who they were and what they did. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of this wonderful charity that helps out nurses when they’re in financial need. So I made the decision to sign up for their 10K Snowdon Challenge to raise money as well as awareness for them.
To prepare, we did some training with our sports coach at university and spent a day walking in the Malvern Hills. What I hadn’t realised is that this would be mentally as well as physically challenging.
At one point, Anne said she was going to go to the toilet and would be back in two minutes. When she didn’t reappear, myself and another student Kate decided to follow. This was when we came across Anne on the floor, looking like she had just fallen off a cliff!
Anne had secretly arranged this scenario to prepare us for the worst at Snowdon. We went over all of our nursing skills and how we would handle this situation if we ever faced it out there. It was an absolutely fantastic experience that gave us the chance to put our learning into practice.
On the day of the challenge, we woke up to reports of Storm Callum causing mayhem and, when we were just a couple of miles from the Cavell Nurses’ Trust meeting point, we came across a huge tree in the road blocking our way.
We had a decision to make. We weren’t going to be able to join up with the rest of the challengers and there was a good chance we wouldn’t make it all the way up to the top. But we wanted to at least give it a shot so we decided to attempt the walk on our own.
We fought up the mountain as best we could, laughing, joking, taking photos and videos along the way and almost forgetting we were in the middle of a storm. We had real team spirit and, despite being battered by wind and rain, I loved every moment.
We weren’t far from the summit when the storm took a turn for the worse with fog quickly dropping around us. We were at a peak point, with a very narrow, sharp climb upwards and a death drop below us, so in the end we made a group decision to turn around and go back to safety.
It refined my skills, made me think critically and strategically, and taught me to know my own limits
Despite not reaching the summit, we did complete our 10K and raised over £1,000. We’ll be taking part again this year; fingers crossed, Callum won’t be back and we will reach the summit this time.
I had the most incredible experience that day and one I won’t forget. It challenged me and has undoubtedly benefited me for my professional career as a qualified nurse. It refined my skills, made me think critically and strategically, and taught me to know my own limits and when to stop and turn back – or, as a nurse, ask for help when I need it most.
There was one moment where Anne stopped me and said “turn around and look how far you’ve come” – we had walked so far and hadn’t even realised. This was just a perfect metaphor for my nursing journey; I have come so far and stand proud today because of it all.
Birmingham City University nursing lecturer Anne Dodson, who has been volunteering with the Cavell Nurses’ Trust for several years, brought the students together to undertake this challenge.
Anne and Claire
“I was so happy students were interested,” said Anne. “I think it’s important for them to have space to develop outside of the academic setting, and undertaking a challenge like this can not only help them build confidence but also hone skills that will be useful for their studies and future nursing careers.”
Although the day of the climb saw the added challenge of Storm Callum, this in itself presented opportunities for building resilience, keeping positive in the face of difficulties and working together as a team.
“The conditions weren’t exactly ideal,” Anne says. “But we kept each other’s spirits up and still had a successful day.
“I kept checking in with the girls all the way through and telling them ‘one step at a time’. I think that is a useful approach, both for everyday life and for being a nurse. It’s easy to get overwhelmed but from now on I hope these students can look at every mountain and confidently tell themselves ‘I can do this’.”
This year, Anne and fellow lecturer Lee Potipha will be setting out again with the same students and two more teams. Anne and her ‘BCU Cavellites’ will undertake further training in the Malvern Hills before attempting two climbs, one at night and once during the day, for the Cavell Nurse’s Trust #10kForNurses challenge.
Raise money for nursing
If you want to get involved and raise money to support your fellow nursing professionals, why not organise a fundraising activity for the RCN Foundation?
The RCN Foundation is committed to supporting and strengthening nursing. We're here to support every member of the nursing team as they care for patients and improve the UK's health and wellbeing.
From a glittering gala dinner to a sponsored walk in the park, a daredevil abseil to a mouth-watering bake sale, there are so many ways to raise money and have fun while you’re doing it. Every penny you donate will support the nursing team when they need it most and help improve patient care.
Find out how you can get involved on the RCN Foundation website.