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Alpine Challenge 2017 – Day Three Blog

September 12th, 2017

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

Day Three – Tuesday 12th September

Le Signal, France

In anticipation of this Trek, I am not ashamed to admit that I have been indulging in a bit of extra curricular training courtesy of Embody Fitness up in the City for the last four weeks. The introduction came courtesy of Gareth Stapleton, CEO of Rise Management Consulting, our Alpine Challenge Founding Partner and our very own mountain goat and Embody Fitness poster boy. The training has been mainly focussed on building up leg strength to cope with the downhill stages of the climbs. Embody have been fantastic and massive thanks to Chris and his team for all of their support, but it’s fair to say 104kg going downhill after a four hour ascent to the snowy top of Le Signal is still punishing on knees that have had eight operations and two reconstructions. The irony is that both Charlie Hodgson and Tamara Taylor have also suffered significant knee problems throughout their illustrious careers, so it is great to know that I am not the only person whose knees are screaming at them for most of the day.

Quattro Stagione

Our ascent into France sees us enjoy some more stunning scenery and as we climb up some 1,200m we experience four seasons in one day, with every half hour bringing a change in kit to try and cope with the rain, sun, snow and wind that keeps engulfing us. Francois-Eric is his usual absurdly chirpy self and the climb takes us to the train station and then ‘up, up, up’ to the summit of Le Signal at 2,400m to what appears to be a scene of Mordor. Barren cairns and rock formations sit up amidst the snow, wind and fog and I half expect Gollum to appear through this mist and start attacking us. Must be getting delusional altitude sickness.

The beauty of trekking is the opportunity it affords to spend time talking to fellow trekkers whilst taking in the stunning scenery around us. My star performer of day two is Tamara Taylor, who in the last few weeks has played in a World Cup Final, has been on a lively hen do in Barcelona and now finds herself up the Alps in borrowed kit. She has such an infectiously positive outlook and is settling into the trek like a seasoned pro.

There really are some fantastic characters in the group and each of them have very personal reasons for being on the trek. One of the most compelling reasons for many of the attendees is that the very lovely Amanda Johnson asked them. Not many people say no to Amanda, ever. Despite her recent ACL knee reconstruction she is a force of perpetual motion up and down the mountains and she has persuaded over half the group to join her in the Alps. Needless to say we are incredibly grateful to them all for being such brilliant guests on and off the mountains.

One of the key questions frequently asked is what Restart Rugby does and how the trek will be making a difference to the players we support. Quite simply, the charity is there for our professional players when the worst happens – at times of serious injury, illness or hardship. We provide:

  • Financial support: helping with cost of living, on-going medical treatment or the costs for equipment or home improvement to help with rehabilitation or disabled access;
  • Practical support: helping with the transition out of rugby into retirement, qualifications and retraining and providing opportunities for future career paths;
  • Emotional support: our 24/7 confidential counselling service is there to help players and their families cope with issues such as depression and anxiety.

Rugby players give their all for team, club and country but their lives and careers can change in a split second. When things go wrong, Restart Rugby is there to help rebuild lives.

With that motivation in mind, a long hike down from the summit is followed by a couple of cheeky celebratory beers in Bar Elevation in Chamonix.

It has been a very challenging day but a much needed dinner courtesy of our excellent chalet chef Phil rounds off another excellent day in aid of Restart Rugby.

Sante mes amies and bon courage for our final ascent into Italia tomorrow.

Steps: 37,005

Calories: 7,165

Knees: Going downhill rapidly


To read Damian’s blog from day two click here or alternatively visit his Just Giving page to make a donation.


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.