AN inspirational Larne man has gone to new heights to raise money for a cause that is close to his heart.
Bill Guiller is preparing to lace up his walking boots to climb the UK’s tallest peak as part of the Ben Nevis Challenge, organised by Cancer Focus NI (formerly the Ulster Cancer Foundation) to secure vital funds for cancer patients and their families in Northern Ireland.
This will be the 46-year-old’s second time taking part in the event, having completed it back in 2010 and raising about £1,500 in the process.
And in a bid to “up the ante” this time around, Bill also took part in the gruelling Annalong Valley Challenge on Saturday, August 25, climbing up and over six peaks in the Mourne Mountains in a single day.
Bill’s involvement in these events is particularly inspiring, considering that just five years ago he was unable to walk after undergoing a double hip replacement.
“Having previously conquered Ben Nevis, I can safely say that the Annalong Valley Challenge makes that look like a stroll in the park,” he said.
“I had six friends from Larne taking part in this challenge with me, which was a big morale boost. The hugely demanding route took us and over Slieve Binnian, Cove Mountain, Slieve Beg, Slieve Commedagh, Slieve Donard and Rock Mountain before returning through the Annalong Valley.
The terrain was very difficult in places and the gradient quite steep; all in all we walked roughly 11 miles over a period of about 10 hours and it was seriously tough going.
“It was definitely a day of mixed emotions for us, and there were a few occasions when I thought about turning back – before I realised that going back would be just as difficult as going on!
“Despite all the highs and lows – literally – we had a great time and I am glad I did it. The scenery was just amazing and it was an exhausting yet fantastic experience.”
Bill has now recovered from his ordeal and is gearing up for his upcoming Ben Nevis Challenge, which takes place on Saturday, September 15.
He has already raised about £900 and is hoping to boost this amount significantly by holding a movie-themed fancy dress event in Larne Masonic Hall on Saturday, August 8.
The evening will include a raffle with a variety of prizes donated from local businesses, followed by a disco. Tickets are selling fast and can be purchased at the Masonic Hall for £5.
Father-of-three Bill revealed that he has a keen personal interest in helping to raise funds for Cancer Focus NI, as he lost a close friend and a relative to the disease in recent years.
“Cancer Focus NI are doing great work and the Ben Nevis Challenge is an ideal way to support them and raise awareness about a cause that I am passionate about,” he added.
And while registration for this year’s event has now closed, Bill has encouraged local people to think about having a go at next year’s challenge.
“Taking part in this event is not only a great way to improve your health and fitness, but more importantly a brilliant way to raise much needed funds for local cancer patients and their families, he said.
The average ascent of Ben Nevis takes around five hours and three hours to come down. The maximum gradient is 1:5, so t
ere is no strenuous climbing involved, and most people should have no problem reaching the summit - which stands at 4,408ft - and enjoying the breathtaking views of the Western Isles.
Rosie Hassin, community fundraising officer for Cancer Focus said: “At Cancer Focus we understand that there is little that causes as much anxiety and stress as a diagnosis of cancer.
“There are currently 55,000 families in Northern Ireland living with cancer and around 11,000 people are newly diagnosed each year. Our role is to make that time of extreme stress a little more bearable by providing a range of care services for cancer patients.
“All funds raised for Cancer Focus are spent locally and help support people with cancer in Northern Ireland.”
Donations can be made to Bill’s JustGiving page at http://www.justgiving.com/bill-guiller0