Scaling summits for people with PH

In 2023, Vicki Gibson and Kay Gracey trekked across the Alps; a gruelling four-day challenge that raised almost £2,000 for our charity. Here, Vicki (below right) explains what it all meant to her

“Kay and I wanted to do something to challenge ourselves both mentally and physically, and I was keen to honour my mam Ethel, who had PH and sadly passed away in 2021 as a result of contracting Covid. It was important for me to do something in her name, that would help other people with the condition.

I’d never done anything like this before, but we paid our deposit to the company organising the expedition, and that was it – no backing out now. And so, 18 months of training to cross the highest mountain range in Europe began.

Suffolk, where we live, is the flattest county in Britain so we spent many weekends trekking in places like the Peak District and Wales to prepare for the challenge. We did 28-mile hikes, we lived on the Stairmaster at the gym, and I even bought an exercise machine that mimics mountain climbing for my dining room.

We trained hard, and then suddenly it was time to go. We flew to Geneva, picked up the rest of the group we’d be walking with, and started the trek on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. It was a non-stop climb up to a hillside refuge where we would spend our first night.

There were 14 of us, all strangers, in beds side-by-side. But we quickly bonded, and everyone was just so lovely.

Day two was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was so steep, a six-hour ascent, in temperatures reaching 30 degrees. Days three and four were the same and each day there was at least a three-four hour decent.

We spent the final night in a gorgeous village and on the fourth day came the last climb, which seemed to take forever. In reality it was about five hours and when we reached the top there was a beautiful restaurant, with stunning views of Mont Blanc and the mountain ranges.

When things got tough on the trek I thought of my mam, who couldn’t even walk when she first diagnosed with PH, and of all the other PH sufferers going through the same thing with the disease. I did it for them.

I dug deep and channelled my mam (pictured below). She went through so much and was such a trooper. She had sepsis and was cared for in intensive care, and she then received her PH diagnosis. She was also a breast cancer survivor.

She was so strong and courageous for dealing with everything she had. She still kept all her feistiness and strength, yet she was so caring. My mam was under the care of the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle for her PH, and I know she thought the world of her team there.

When the rest of the group doing the trek with us found out we were fundraising for the PHA UK, they were all interested in PH and what it was. They even asked Kay and I to lead the last mile of the challenge in honour of my mam, leading the pack up to the finish. It was lovely.

I’m so pleased with how much we raised. We initially had a target of £350 so to get to almost £2,000 including Gift Aid is amazing. In short, the whole experience has been fantastic, and I know my mam would have been so proud.”