Karen Darke – Back-Up on Location

Snow on the mountains this morning: my fingers numb as the cold penetrates the gloves, heavy breathing fogging my glasses as I work hard to climb the hills, big puffy pants to stop my legs freezing, that extra bit of energy it takes to stay warm leaving me more tired than ever after training. Ah, longing now for the easier days of summer.

Had a hard training week with my coach from Fit for Purpose – who has generously been donated a very fast and cool leg-pedalled trike to ride with me by ICE (Inspired Cycle Engineering). Since then, have been wrapped up in a filming project these last few weeks, to help promote the work of the Back-Up Trust in the run up to the Paralympics, London 2012. It has involved photographers and film-making people nestled in heather at the side of the road, as I’ve biked around the Highland countryside. Whizzing along at high speed, the cameraman hung out the boot of the car, and I cycled as close behind as I dared without splattering myself on the bumper – only a few near misses.

Back-Up is a charity that helps transform lives after spinal cord injury, and the charity we’re aiming to raise £1million for by skiing to the South Pole in 2013. Back-Up helped me re-discover what was possible with a spinal cord injury, soon after I broke my back, through one of the courses that they offer, learning to sit-ski. It involved 14 of us in wheelchairs weebling around Alpine slopes, spending more time in and on the snow than gliding over it, having a lot of fun despite the bruises.

The experience, breathing in the cold mountain air and learning a new skill was a glimmer of light in what was otherwise quite a dark time, and I’m keen to support the life-transforming work that the charity does (which goes far beyond ski courses!). If you’d like to help, there’s a Just Giving link on the South Pole page of my site or at www.poleofpossibility.com