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Al’s Charitable Journey for Bereaved Friend

Al Sylvester MBE will pass through Penicuik in September as part of his walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

Marking the end of his diverse 31 year career in the Royal Air Force, Al Sylvester, of Shrivenham near Swindon, is trekking unaided from the furthest point south in England to the tip of mainland Scotland, all in the aid of charity. The nine hundred mile joinery, which begins on August 16, will see the RAF veteran pass through Penicuik on September 9 or September 10.

Whilst the walk between the north and south of the United Kingdom is frequented with charitable walkers, Al is completing a feat viewed as madness to many; he will be walking unsupported throughout carrying his 20kg backpack composed of his accommodation for the duration of the trek. Every night, after walking thirty miles, he will set up his tent for eight hours sleep before continuing with the gruelling challenge.

However to Al the challenge is worth it. Along the way he will be remembering his best friend and colleague Dean Singleton, whose life ended prematurely at just 43 years old, whilst he was in the outstanding care of the Prospect Hospice in Wroughton, near Swindon. As such Al will be trying his best to raise as much money in remembrance of his dear friend. To this day his fundraising page, viewable here, has raised just over £14,000, well exceeding his early target of £5,000.

The journey through the scenic heartlands of the country will not be unfamiliar to Al Sylvester though, having worked for over twenty years in the Royal Air Force’s Mountain Rescue Service. As part of his career he has led over fifteen expeditions across the globe, including ascending Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas. He has also led two expeditions to the base camp at Mount Everest. His largest feat to date was a 677 unsupported trek to the geographic South Pole, an expedition which saw Al lose both his thumbs to frostbite in the minus 35 degrees conditions. His services to the RAF’s Mountain Rescue Service gained him an MBE.

Al sees his 5 week trek as his toughest challenge yet but is looking forward to visiting Penicuik

Walking through Penicuik will give me a good opportunity to see a small part of this lovely town and I’ll hopefully get some support from the local people along the way. I won’t be the first person to walk the full length of this wonderful island, and I’m sure there will be others who will be attempting the walk this summer, but what’s different about my challenge is that I will be completely unaided. So I won’t be afforded the luxury of sleeping in a comfortable bed or have the extravagance of electricity and hot showers each night – instead I will be sourcing my food en route and setting up my camp at the end of each day, and cooking my meal on a stove, which I will have carried. I’ll no doubt be looking forward to bedding down near Penicuik for the night after a long day of walking.

You can cheer Al Sylvester on as he walks through Penicuik, along the A701, at around 2pm on Tuesday 9 September or Wednesday 10 September.