Pensioner’s hearty trek across the Pyrenees

wet  Charity walker Keith Wilkinson.  (110810M3)
wet Charity walker Keith Wilkinson. (110810M3)
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A RETIRED college lecturer is putting his feet up for a well earned rest after a mountainous trek across the Pyrenees to aid two heart charities.

Collingham resident Keith Wilkinson fulfilled a long-standing ambition by completing an incredible 435 of the 525-mile GR11 route from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Keith, who used to teach technology at Harrogate College of Arts and Technology, said: “Some 55 years ago I expected to be called up for National Service.

“I had intended to do the walk and then my service but I failed my medical so never did National Service and instead carried on working and so didn’t have time for the walk.”

But Keith (77) set his sights on the trek after his 72-year-old wife Dorothy died three years ago after suffering heart problems for many years.

“I thought I would do it now to raise money for the British Heart Foundation and Take Heart which is a local charity which works for heart patients at Leeds General Infirmary.

“My late wife had three mitral valve replacements, two at LGI. The first time in 1977 was before Take Heart existed.

“Unfortunately she had to spend a lot of time (in total months) in the heart wards. I have, therefore, seen the benefit to patients of Take Heart.”

With the GR11 in his sights, Keith embarked on a training regime carrying a loaded rucksack to build up to the demanding Pennine Way.

“The Pennine Way I did alright but it was like a walk in the park in comparison to the Pyrenees,” admitted Keith whose route took him along the Spanish side of the Pyrenees where he encountered 100,000 feet of ascent and descent.

“The highest part of the walk was about 9,000 feet and I must admit it (the GR11) was much harder than I anticipated.

“One of the hardest parts of the walk was coming down to the refuges. It was very, very steep and very tricky.

“Although I did it on my own, I met a lot of very helpful people.”

Back on home territory after the eight-week long walk which he finished at the end of last month, Keith told the News that many of his friends thought he was mad but his family were proud of him.

But it was all worth the effort as he is expected to have raised about £1,000 from his arduous lone feat.