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Alpine Challenge 2017 – Day One Blog

September 10th, 2017

RPA Group CEO Damian Hopley brings you all the action from the 2017 Restart Rugby Alpine Challenge…..

Arrival Day – Sunday 10th September

I cannot believe a year has passed since I last pulled on my walking boots. And what a year it’s been. The Donald has swept to power as Teresa May stuttered; the music world has lost some of its brightest stars; the Lions drew an extraordinary series in New Zealand; our national women’s and men’s rugby and cricket teams march on magnificently, and to cap it all dear old Bloers said a fitting farewell to TMS after the most splendid innings. If I’m honest it’s all too much for me, so imagine my unbridled joy to be dusting off the walking boots after another wonderful year and heading to the Alps for the Restart Rugby Alpine Challenge, supported by RISE Management Consulting – thank you again to Gareth Stapleton and the team at RISE for their support. The trek is an important event for the Rugby Players’ Association’s official charity, Restart Rugby, as each year it raises vital funds for rugby players suffering from serious injury, illness or hardship. This year, our trek team is aiming to raise over £30,000 for our players when they need us most. But more on that later…



After a speedy transfer to our base in Chamonix for the next four days, I unpack my Alpine kit like a proper keeno and await the arrival of our fellow trekkers. This year 16 intrepid and amazing fundraisers are joining us on our trek, which each year is headed up by some of our rugby legends. Returning to the fold from last year are Bath, England and Lions hero Ben Clarke and Saracens, England and Lions legend Charlie Hodgson. Sadder news came in the week that Lee Mears had to cry off as one of his children had a nasty fall and dislocated a shoulder (things people do to get out of this Alpine Challenge..). Wishing a speedy recovery at home and Mearsy’s joie de vivre and little legs will be sorely missed. Replacing Mearsy is an absolute legend of the game – Tamara Taylor who has played in four Rugby World Cups and was part of the team that recently played the greatest women’s World Cup Final ever. Tamara has just returned from her Red Roses teammate and fellow World Cup winner Katy McLean’s hen weekend, so we are all looking forward to hearing the stories up the mountain over the next few days.



Welcome drinks at the chalet set the tone for the next few days. Whilst the Trek will be physically demanding, the emphasis is on fun, teamwork and we are all hoping that memories will be made and friendships forged on the mountains. Clarkey has had a hip replacement since last year whilst his gorgeous fiancée Amanda has had an ACL repair, so both are very quick to get their excuses in ahead of the off. Dinner is a triumph as the event team at CHX Hardcross talk us through the schedule for the next three days – we will be covering more than 60km and ascending a total of 4,500m, conquering Testa Della Tronche in Italy, Tete Ronde in Switzerland and Le Brevent in France. With the task ahead of us we all have an extra portion of pudding in the hope that we might actually burn off a few calories in the morning. The wine is also helping pre-trek nerves, significantly.

The buzz at dinner is excellent and also gives me the opportunity to thank everyone for their support in being here and raising funds for Restart Rugby. The bravery and support for our star trekkers has already raised over £40,000, which is quite incredible, so we are hoping that will increase as the week goes on. Events such as these are crucial for us to help and support players and their families who have suffered injury, illness or hardship. Amongst those players is Ed Jackson who sadly broke his neck earlier this year in an accident. Restart Rugby is supporting Ed with the costs of physiotherapy and Ed recorded a great thank you message to all the trekkers, to help show how their efforts can make a huge difference to our players. A relatively early night follows in anticipation for the early start and off tomorrow.



For more info on Restart Rugby and the Alpine Challenge and to show your support for the team and our players, please visit our Just Giving page.