Climbing volcanoes was the latest adventure for the managing director of Sidlesham company Wagner Renewables.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, 44-year-old Mark Osborne joined a nine-man team for the Iceland Volcanoes Challenge to raise money for St Wilfrid’s Hospice.
He said he jumped at the chance when he saw a poster advertising the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to climb three volcanoes to support the Chichester charity.
Mark, who grew up in Selsey and now lives in East Wittering, had already taken part in the London to Brighton Bike Ride twice, completed the Three Peaks Challenge for the Anthony Nolan Trust, raised more than £11,000 through his company to help those in need in Japan and is currently heading a project to train people in Ghana to provide sustainable energy for their community.
He said: “It sounded like an incredible opportunity whilst supporting a wonderful local charity. I’ve been lucky in that my own company and the team from JA Solar in Japan sponsored a flag to go on the top of the volcanoes, along with donations from people far and wide.
“Once I’d signed up, the race was on to raise at least £2,500. St Wilfrid’s Hospice has operated for over 30 years, providing care and support for those in the last phase of their life and I can’t think of a more deserving charity. Thanks to the generosity of customers, suppliers, family and friends, I hit my target and as a team we raised over £17,000.”
After months of training, Mark left for Iceland on October 12 and met the rest of the team for the first time on the flight to Reykjavik. They were taken to Hengill the next day for their first climb.
“The minute we jumped out of the van, the cold hit us and I knew that none of the training I’d done would quite prepare me for the weather conditions we were about to face,” Mark said.
“The walk was hard going, incredibly steep uphill and then spirit-breaking drops down that were unmerciful on the knees; repeat for several hours.
“The rock formations were simply breathtaking, with deep glacial striations crossing the landscape. The wind and cold were even more breathtaking, making each step a challenge.
“Hitting the summit brought huge relief, and unfortunate cloud cover, but the sense of achievement for the team was immense and we, as we watched the Northern Lights from our hostel that evening, all felt positive about the next day.”
It was an early start the next day for a long drive to Heckla but on arrival, the team were told adverse weather conditions meant access had been denied to all walkers. Instead, they walked up the smaller Prihyrningir, which was incredibly steep and had incredible views from the top.
The third volcano was Eyjafjallajökull, best known for causing disruption in 2010 when it erupted, sending ash plumes into the atmosphere that grounded planes across Europe.
Mark said: “By the time we reached the halfway point, at the edge of the glacier, we had already lost three members of the team who felt they would not be able to continue.
“Those of us able to plough on donned crampons, harnesses and roped up for safety - an arduous few hours of plodding our way snaking across the icy plain to avoid deep crevasses. It was slow progress due to an unusually bright end to the season, which left snow bridges weaker and the sound of cracking hollow cavities below our feet.
“We could see the pre-summit for some time, however it seemed to be continually beyond our reach. When we finally reached it, we were able to look down into the snow-packed crater, with the main summit only another few minutes’ walk away.
“The views were impressive as you can imagine and I think we were all silently taking in the enormity of our achievement -normal folk, with normal day-to-day lives who had just climbed a volcano with a 1,651m elevation, more importantly we had to climb back down.
“Flying home, we must all have felt incredibly proud of what we’d achieved as individuals, the camaraderie we’d given to each other as a team and most importantly the much-needed support to a charity that provides essential care to those at the most vulnerable times of their lives.”