Paralympic silver medal winning handcyclist and Berghaus athlete Karen Darke is preparing for the start of a major expedition. Over three weeks, from the middle of September, she will handcycle 1,000km from Lhasa in Tibet to Kathmandu in Nepal. If she succeeds, Darke will cross six significant high altitude mountain passes, up to an altitude of 5,220m.
Karen Darke was paralysed in a climbing accident aged 21, since when she has embarked on a life of adventure. Once a keen runner and climber, Darke has discovered many new ways to explore the outdoors and push the limits of what is possible. She has also become one of the world’s best handcyclers and won a silver medal during the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
For her Himalayan Handbike expedition, Karen Darke will be attempting the journey with a small group of able-bodied female friends and athletes: Sinead McCann, cycling and outdoor enthusiast, trainer and life coach; Fiona Duncan, tandem pilot, member of the Scottish Commonwealth Games cycling team and policewoman; Vicky Sherwood, climber and teacher; and Helen Copeland, climber and physiotherapist. The five women have been preparing together for the trip, planning their route and assembling the kit that they will need in the Himalaya.
Karen Darke comments: “The high altitude journey from Lhasa to Kathmandu is one I have dreamt of cycling ever since I first became paralysed, so for 20 years! The attraction stems from a desire to experience big mountains, the remote and desolate landscape, Tibetan and Nepali culture, and more than anything, the opportunity to be in a wilderness mountain region travelling under my own power with a group of friends.
“The 1,000km journey will be a big challenge when done by armpower, and we will be crossing six major passes between 4,800m and 5,300m with amazing views of the Himalaya, including Everest and Choy Oyu. The journey will also include the world’s longest bike descent, from Tibet into Nepal.
“It’s a daunting prospect, especially as all my training lately has been for a race length of two hours at the World Paracycling Championships (29 August – 1 September, www.greenvillesc2014.com), but I can’t wait to get started.”
Darke and her team hope to send regular updates from the expedition, which will be shared on the Berghaus Facebook page and by @TheRealBerghaus on Twitter.