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Wirral mum braves below-zero freeze in daredevil Arctic adventure with her son

1 month ago

Wirral mum braves below-zero freeze in daredevil Arctic adventure with her son
Judy Baigent on Kilimanjaro

An intrepid mum-of-three from Wirral is set to brave -20°C temperatures and guide a husky-driven sled on a 149-mile trek across the Arctic Circle.

Judy Baigent, 56, will make the epic week-long journey later this month.

And she says: “I’ve been told to keep my hair braided as it will snap off because it’s so cold, and people I climbed Kilimanjaro with have said that it’s the hardest and most extreme thing they have ever done.

“It will be tough.

“But unless I take myself out of my comfort zone, it isn’t a challenge!”

The Husky Dog Trail across Sweden is the latest in a long line of daredevil feats for Judy who, since 2014, has pushed herself to her limits to raise money for charity.

So far she’s taken part in the London Marathon, climbed Kilimanjaro, travelled the Freedom Trail which goes across the Pyrenees to follow one of the toughest WW2 escape routes from Nazi-occupied France into Spain, trekked across the Sahara Dessert, and undertaken a seven-day Alps challenge.

Judy Baigent at The Great Wall of China
Judy Baigent at The Great Wall of China

She’s travelled through the Grand Canyon on foot, done the Inca Trail in Peru, walked the Great Wall of China, and cycled from Vietnam to Cambodia.

And yet Judy, from Willaston, says she’s no adrenaline junkie and far from fit.

“Absolutely not. Someone described me as a sloth and that’s about right,” she says. “I was never into any activities in school, the gym is my worst nightmare, and I’m not – or I wasn’t – an active person.”

It all began about 10 years ago when a friend started a running group: “I said I couldn’t run because I have asthma, and she said ‘you can’. So I went out and ran a mile and I thought, oh my goodness, I can.

Judy Baigent at the top of Kilimanjaro
Judy Baigent at the top of Kilimanjaro

“It was the group, Mums to Marathons, that organised the trek to the Sahara and when some people cancelled I was asked to do it – and nominated my husband, Simon.

“When he could do it because of work commitments, I agreed to do it. And that was it.

“Me pushing myself out of my comfort zone and going from my role as a Slimming World consultant where I have to present a professional image with the heels and make up, to putting myself in a situation where I had no bathroom, there was no electricity, no mirror, no toilet, was unique to me.  But I raised a lot of money, around £9,000.

“And I thought look at what I have achieved and experienced, and how that has helped Claire House.”

The Children’s Hospice has been the focus of all Judy’s mammoth missions ever since, including the Husky Dog Trail.

“With all of my challenges, while what I have to endure is extreme, it’s short term. There is an end to it, and I can always laugh while I’m doing it and afterwards.  But imagine hearing the worst possible news as a parent, that your child is seriously ill and not expected to live to be an adult … there will be no laughter at the end of that.”

Judy Baigent and son Ollie
Judy Baigent and son Ollie

Judy, who has two other sons, Jake, 25, and Dan, 17, is undertaking the Husky Dog Trail on March 22 with her middle son Ollie, 23, who has chosen the endurance venture for them both to do together.

They’ll travel to Sweden ahead of the journey, which begins on Friday, March 22, and prepare to tackle the gruelling 240km (149 miles).

“We fly out to the husky dog centre and meet the dogs who are going to be our companions for the next week, and we get trained on how to ride with them and be a ‘musher’ –  and then we go off into the wilderness.

“We are camping, and in the daytime it will be freezing and at night it will drop to between -20°C and 30°C! There are two camps where we will have five or six in a tent, and for two nights there will be just two people in a tent.

“It’s going to be cold.

Judy Baigent at Machu Picchu - Peru
Judy Baigent at Machu Picchu – Peru

“We’ll have to put up our own tents, fish for tea and cook for ourselves, and fulfil all camping duties with the equipment provided. In addition to looking after ourselves, we’ll also be responsible for looking after our teams of huskies.

“The sledding will be demanding, especially when we’re travelling uphill and we’ll have to dismount and help push the sled when the gradient becomes too steep for the huskies to pull it alone – and I’ve been warned these dogs are working dogs, and as they run they ‘poop’ and the poop can (will) hit you (ME!) in the face!

“You can’t really train or prepare for something like this, other than mentally.”

But she smiles: “The thing is, we are going to see some wonderful sights. I thought Kilimanjaro was wild, and the Grand Canyon amazing and so beautiful, travelling through an Indian reservation in the middle of nowhere and jumping off a waterfall… but we are going to travel over the Arctic Circle and see the Northern Lights, if we are lucky.

Judy Baigent at the Havasupai Indian reservation at the Grand Canyon
Judy Baigent at the Havasupai Indian reservation at the Grand Canyon

“It’s going to be amazing.”

Judy adds: “I do get scared and whenever I set off from home I have butterflies in my stomach, but I also know that a challenge event company wouldn’t do anything that would put your life in extreme danger. 

“It’s living life to its fullest and what I love as much as the challenge is the ethos around them; you’re going to meet strangers who become the closest friends you’ve ever known and whose paths you would never normally cross, and you can be that free child again. 

Judy Baigent in Cambodia
Judy Baigent in Cambodia

“Normally when I go away I’m not a mum, I’m not a wife, I’m not a Slimming World consultant, or that person who used to pic the kids up from school. I’m just me. And I love hearing the stories about why other people have chosen to go on these adventures. It’s mind-blowing.

“And so far I’ve raised more than £57,500 for Claire House.”

This challenge will be different, braving fears and conditions with son Ollie who’s just finished his five-year apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer. “I will go a bit into mum mode and worry about him and that he’s okay.

“But it will be exciting.  There aren’t many 23-year-olds who will go off with their mum in the middle of nowhere; so it’s going to be really special and an experience we’ll share that few, if anyone, other mums and sons ever have.

“And hopefully we’ll get on,” she jokes.

Judy, who following her adventures has now got another role as charity accounts officer with Global Adventure Challenges UK, still has a few things on her bucket list including journeying through India and, when it won’t be unfair on her family, travelling to Everest Base Camp (‘it takes three weeks and that’s a long time to be away and out of touch’).

Even after this enormous test, she’s got a wing walk and a climb up Snowdon at night lined up.

“The reality of these things doesn’t kick in until just before, and that’s starting to happen now.

“I’m really looking forward to what will be an incredible experience and achievement, for me and Ollie.  And then I’ll look forward to the next!”

You can donate to Judy and Ollie’s JustGiving page here.

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