Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Volcanic Cash: Blind trekkers show they’re losing their sight but not their bottle

Post Thumbnail

A group of blind and partially-sighted trekkers has defied the odds by completing a world-famous route in Iceland to raise cash for research.

Joe Churcher, who lives in Newtonhill, was part of the challenging expedition by people losing their vision to retinitis pigmentosa.

The inherited condition – which also affects Aberdeen’s paralympic champion cyclist Neil Fachie – kills off cells in the retina, leading to severe tunnel vision, night blindness and often the loss of useful sight.

Seasoned guides were nervous about getting the 15-strong group – which included sighted friends and family – through the famous 34 mile Laugavegur trail across the country’s southern interior.

The route through jagged hills, ash deserts, snow fields and fast-flowing glacial rivers is described as “an adventure only for the bravest hikers” but the team proved they were losing their sight, not their bottle.

After five days, Mr Churcher and his fellow walkers not only reached the end in on piece and with a smile on their faces but even fitted in an extra hill on the way to find the bus back to Reykjavik.

Mr Churcher, who works as a reporter for the Press and Journal, is a veteran of numerous challenges for RP Fighting Blindness – which funds research into a treatment or cure and provides support services.

He said the group was powered on by the knowledge that every difficult step meant another few pounds towards ensuring future generations might not face similar challenges from failing sight.

“I am lucky still to have enough central vision left to appreciate the magnificence of the Icelandic scenery – though not enough to see the huge rock right in my path that made a mess of my shins,” Mr Churcher said.

“All of us trekkers would agree though that such scrapes are a small price to pay for raising awareness of the condition and the cash to find a cure.

“Recent advances by dozens of brilliant scientists have been encouraging but the closer we get to a breakthrough, the more important it becomes to raise the money to sustain their research.”

Brian Jackson, the mountain guide who led the trek and who runs Expedition Wise, admitted he had been “excited and nervous” when first approached by the charity but overwhelmed by the spirit of the group.

“The trek involves wild camping and quite a lot of fairly technical terrain to walk over including river crossings, awkward lava fields and a hand over hand descent on a rope to a bridge over a gorge,” he said.

“However, I needn’t have worried as the group worked spectacularly well as a team overcoming all the obstacles and actually walking faster than any other group I had led on this trek.

“We met several other trekkers who found it hard to believe that the vast majority of our group were partially sighted or blind.

“I was constantly amazed by the group as a whole and privileged to meet every single one of them.”

To help the team meet their sponsorship target, visit www.justgiving.com/volcaniccash

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]