“The helicopter lifted off from Camp Barneo around 1am. Crammed in it with 14 others, we soared over the icy landscape.
I have no idea just how long the flight was: I kept nodding off, with the hum of the engines and the smell of fuel acting like a cheap dentist’s anaesthetic; but the next thing I knew we were landing.
The downdraught from the blades cut through our windproof clothing like cold steel razor blades – I was so cold I could have given up there and then. Fortunately, as the chopper lifted off, the temperature rose dramatically to -27c and calm descended on the group.
We were suddenly alone, like never before. Silence, sheer silence once the familiar ‘thuka thuka thuka’ of the copter blades faded into the distance.”
That is an extract from the blog Geoff Major wrote after he spent six days and six nights ski-trekking to the North Pole in April 2012; a blog that tracked his progress from the first faltering steps in 12 months of training, through to the traumas and triumph of reaching the Pole. It attracted nearly 17,000 readers from all over the world and was the catalyst for more challenges which have raised a total of £100,000 for charity over the last five years.
The polar trek raised £18,000 and also convinced Geoff he was capable of doing far more than he had originally thought possible. After all, when he first signed up for it, he couldn’t even ski, let alone ski and pull a 49kg sled of supplies for 56 miles in sub-zero temperatures.
Such was the level of interest in his polar exploits that when he returned he found a group of friends and business contacts keen to experience something challenging for themselves, so he organised a five-day trek across part of the Sahara; an adventure that not only took 18 people out of their comfort zone, but also helped forge some lifelong friendships.
That challenge raised £26,000 and the recent 100km row on the River Thames, in boats modelled on 19th century water taxis, raised a further £29,000. Once again, the challenge wasn’t just to raise money for some great causes, but Geoff wanted to recruit 11 other nonrowers to take part; giving themselves just eight months to be ready to row on the choppy fast-moving Thames for over six hours a day; two days in a row.
If, given all this strenuous activity, you think Geoff must be a rough-tough outdoors-type of person, he admits that couldn’t be further from the truth. Give him the option of a tent in the great outdoors or a nice cosy hotel and the hotel wins every time.
While he isn’t currently looking for mainstream challenges, he is keen to start to mix his offbeat fund-raising adventures with some mass participation ideas. That’s why, over the next 18 months, his spare time and focus will be on completing three very different fundraising activities. But with a full-time day job to do and a new married life to be excited about, the question remains why does he put himself under such enormous pressure?
“I love to have something to focus on; something to train for and achieve. The rush when you’vecompleted the challenge and seen the response from the charities is just so addictive. Besides, if I didn’t do this what else would I do – gardening and DIY?”
His latest fund-raising adventure is set to take place on 18 and 19 March, pitting the cities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield against each other in a 24-hour non-stop challenge. It promises to be his biggest challenge and yet also has the potential to be the best fund-raiser yet.
At the same time, Geoff will be trying to recruit another 10 people to join him and nine others who have already signed up for a five-day trek on the iconic Great Wall of China, and he hopes to finally complete a 21-day 950-mile ride on a seven-seat circular bike; from London to Edinburgh, via Cardiff, Dublin and Belfast. Geoff used the seven-seat bike twice in 2013, including a 150-mile
trans-Pennine challenge. It certainly is an eye-opener as it trundles passed at a steady 15mph.
On all of Geoff’s adventures, the people taking part with him are free to raise funds for whatever charity is close to their heart.
“It would be inappropriate for me to tell others who to fundraise for. After all it’s their time, their network and their passion that will make it a success”.
Martin Ladbrooke has been part of two of Geoff’s challenges so far, including pedalling the seven-seat bike on the Huddersfield to Manchester, via Halifax and Hebden Bridge leg; day three of the fourday ride. He was also part of the Thames rowing team and summed up the addictive nature of doing something ‘different’ by saying: “Whenever Geoff asks me to join in, I say I’m not interested, but you suddenly find yourself thinking about being part of it. Every time you’re about to embark on the challenge you promise yourself ‘never again’, but every time we’ve succeeded I find myself asking ‘What’s next, Geoff?’ You just can’t help but want to be part of it all.”
By 2020 Geoff hopes to have many memories and experiences to share about the raw human emotions associated with determination, temporary failure and fleeting success. He also hopes to have increased the total raised for charity to over £250,000.
Geoff has a favourite saying: “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives” which just about sums up his motivation. And, at 54 years old, he’s got no intention of slowing down just yet. For information about Geoff’s past and future challenges, visit involveAdventures.com.