The North Face of Mayfield Cottage

Climbing the Eiger without leaving home
18th - 24th May 2020

The North Face of
Mayfield Cottage

Climbing the Eiger without leaving home
18th - 24th May 2020

The background ...

Whilst the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic led to a variety of challenges for us all, I knew that it would particularly affect many people's mental health. Mental Health Awareness Week under 'lockdown' seemed like the ideal time for me to do some fundraising for Mental Health Research UK (MHRUK) and to also support NHS Charities Together. I wanted to come up with a challenge which would be something that I would never have dreamed of doing had COVID-19 not come along to disrupt ordinary life, and that at the same time would hopefully make people smile - maybe even help improve their mental health during these uncertain times.

The idea ...

Opportunities for mountaineering having been somewhat limited by the lockdown, I began contemplating climbing up the outside of our house. The obvious route was up the north-facing wall, which led to my idea: to climb the equivalent of the North Face of the Eiger, on the North Face of our home, Mayfield Cottage. I decided to use a technique called prusiking (think abseiling, but backwards) to ascend a fixed rope. I needed to do 492 ascents of my house to climb the equivalent of the height of the North Face of the Eiger: 5,900 feet.

Normal Eiger route
Instead of this ...
(image taken from BMC website)
My route
... it was more like this

Up the rope ... in through the window ... down the stairs ... up the rope ... and so on ...

Video of my trial ascent
Timing ten ascents

I timed ten ascents to see how long they would take me: 40 minutes. On this basis, I calculated that I'd need to climb for seven hours a day for five days in order to reach the summit of the Eiger.

Building and testing my porta-ledge

As an additional challenge, for every £1,000 raised, I decided to sleep on a home-made porta-ledge, which effectively meant being strapped to the wall of the house.

The following videos chart the progress of the climb over the course of the week

Arriving at 'Basecamp'

Monday 18th May

Day 1: progress
Day 1: ascents 1 to 100
Day 1: coming in through the window
Day 1: a fly on the rope
Day 1: ascent #100

Tuesday 19th May

Day 2: progress
Day 2: ascents 101 to 220
Day 2: How to prusik
Day 2: first night on the porta-ledge

Wednesday 20th May

Day 3: progress
Day 3: ascents 221 to 320
Day 3: second night on the porta-ledge

Thusday 21st May

Day 4: progress
Day 4: ascents 321 to 410
Day 4: off the wall musings

Friday 22nd May

Day 5: progress
Day 5: ascents 411 to 492

Mental Health Research UK

The serious part

I have been fundraising for Mental Health Research UK (MHRUK) since 2017, in memory of Martin Sutherland, who sadly took his own life in 2011. Martin was a wonderful caring person, and a hugely talented musician, and is greatly missed by everyone who knew him. I have known Martin and his family since my early teens, and wanted to help support MHRUK as they have also done since Martin's death.

While there are many charities which support people experiencing mental health difficulties, MHRUK is unique in that it funds research into the causes and cures of mental illnesses. Many of the medication options available for mental health conditions have horrific side-effects, and much more work could – and should - be done to improve the treatment options available; people with mental ill-health deserve the same standard of care as people with physical ill-health.

Martin's parents, Ann and Andrew, described my challenge as "completely bonkers and totally wonderful ... in fact, right up Martin's street!" For some reason, "bonkers" is a word that has come up in many people's comments. But for me, the "bonkers" element is what I hope may make other people smile, and that's where the personal reward lay in this escapade.

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who supported my fundraising ... we have raised over £4,800!