This year I’m gambolling down the Grande Traversée des Alpes from Lac Léman to the Mediterranean in support of Veterans Aid. 

I didn’t think I’d be doing this route for a third time! But, here we are again a week after deciding to go for a gambol and buying a plane ticket. Preparation time has been negligible to zero. But, when I discovered that it was the Veterans Aid charity’s 90 anniversary this year, it seemed the right thing to do.


Homelessness and crisis among Britain’s veteran community are nothing new. Much of the nation’s navy and army was laid off at the end of the Napoleonic wars.  Within ten years homelessness and destitution in this community were so acute that the government’s solution then was to pass the Vagrancy Act of 1824 making it illegal to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales.

Over a hundred years later the problem remained largely unresolved.  The Veterans Aid charity was founded in 1932 to address exactly the same problem. Astonishingly, nearly 200 years after the Vagrancy Act was passed, the problem still persists well into the 21st century.

This year Veterans Aid celebrates its 90th anniversary and continues to provide immediate assistance to homeless veterans in crisis.  As a veteran I consider myself fortunate to have a roof over my head and have my basic security and safety needs met.  Others I have served with in Northern Ireland, the Persian Gulf and the Balkans are not so fortunate.  They deserve our help.

Veterans Aid is one way to give it to them.


So, this year (in my 60th!!!) I am throwing myself back down the classic Grande Traversée des Alpes (GTA) long-distance GR5/55/52 hiking route from Lac Léman to the Mediterranean in an effort  to beat my 2019 time of 18 days.  

I’ve done this route twice before. The first time in 2018 at a sedate 37 days to get from the southern shore of Lac Léman to dipping our toes in the Mediterranean at Menton. I did it with a group of former army colleagues who go by the hiking moniker of The Fools, as in Fools On The Hills. Along the way we met a young French woman, whom we nicknamed the Ninja of the Alps on account of her alpine preparedness and black gear.

Two Fools with the Ninja above Chamonix, 2018

A year later I did the same starting off with the Ninja and her partner – both in their twenties and ultra lite fanatics. Their gear weighed about 7kgs. Mine was double that. Inevitably, it turned into a race to the coast. I got down to Menton in 17 days, 20 hours and 50 minutes, 22 hours ahead of them – a classic case of age and treachery overcoming youth and skill. But, it was touch-and-go all the way and extremely arduous.

On both occasions I’d been raising money for Children With Cancer UK on account of the death from leukaemia of my 14-year-old niece. On this occasion, on the 90th birthday of Veterans Aid I thought it would be a good thing to support them.

Of course, I now have the advantage of knowing the route so the only challenge left is to go solo sleeping rough under canvas (to ward off the corrupting influence of comfort) and race the clock in the hope of beating 17 days, 20 hours and 50 mins. The route is approximately 725km long with some 130,000′ of ascent and descent.


The last time I did this I was convinced it would be impossible to do it any faster.  I’ve managed to pare my gear down to about 9kgs (dry – add 2kgs for water). If there’s a time gain to be made it’ll be in hours if not minutes: I was three years younger then and I’ve spent much of the pandemic as a University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP) vaccinator with the Trust’s mass vaccination team in Plymouth.  I joined the mass vaccination programme at the end of 2020 and have worked mainly at the UHP mass vaccination hub at Plymouth’s Home Park football stadium. Fitness training has taken a back seat over this period.

Administering a pre-Christmas booster in 2021 to Johnny Mercer MP, Minister of State for Veterans’ Affairs

I’ve literally been jabbing instead of tabbing. But, I’m hoping that 12 hour shifts vaccinating or scurrying up and down the vaccination draw up aisle may have mitigated the worst of my inactivity over the past few years. I’m, therefore, under no illusions as to how challenging and hard it will be to better my 2019 time on the GTA. Strength through suffering!

So, I expect this to be extremely arduous. Speed will be of the essence and I doubt I’ll have time to sit down and write blogs. The odd picture and garbled sentence will have to suffice. Therefore, I’d be most grateful for any contribution you can make to help our veteran community.

In low moments you can always cheer yourself up by following the trail of blood using the live satellite tracking portal by going through the Garmin interactive map tab top right.

Many thanks for your support.