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81-year-old man climbs mountain peaks to raise funds for treating his sick wife

Age is only a number and Nick Gardner at 81 conquers mountains in pursuit of raising funds for his ailing wife.

81-year-old man climbs mountain peaks to raise funds for treating his sick wife

Sohinee Basu

Published: 6 Oct 2021 6:47 AM GMT

Age is just a number and the 81-year-old Nick Gardner is out there proving it as he remains an avid mountaineer, conquering one peak after the other - all for the noble cause of raising funds to treat his sick wife. Standing atop the Buachaille Etive Mòr, a Scottish peak more than 1,020 metres (3,350 ft) above sea level, Gardner finds the same enthusiasm and the adrenaline coursing through his veins as his lungs take in the gusts of cold, mountain air as his eyes lap up to the sight of clouds drifting in between the mountains.

"It's so exciting every time I still feel like a little boy," he said. "I need my hat and gloves on, and my windproof jacket, but it's absolutely magnificent. I'd much sooner be here than in a centrally heated house," Gardner mentioned to the Reuters.

Migrating from sub-urban England to the Scottish highlands with his wife Janet when he was just 50, Gardner transformed his boyhood dream into a realistic one when he started climbing mountains.

It was only when Janet, his wife, got diagnosed with Alzheimer's that Nick found himself at his wits end. It's very agonising to watch a loved one drift apart and for Nick it became excruciatingly difficult seeing his companion of nearly three decades move away, this way.

The first two years were still manageable since 2018 when Janet became an Alzheimer's patient but the situation kept growing worse so much so that the former teacher who also suffers from osteoporosis needed 24-hour care, which pushed Nick further and urged him to take up a challenge to cope with reality.

Nick Gardner (Source: Reuters)

"When it got too much for me to handle, when she went into hospital and care ... I just didn't know what to do. We've been used to each other's company all 24/7 for 30 years. And then suddenly it's gone," he mentioned.

Knowing that climbing can take his mind off the situation and not attract mental health problems for himself when he must remain the stronger of the two, Nick decided to climb 282 of Scotland's 'Munros' or the mountains which are above 3000ft high in a period of 1200 days - a whopping task that takes the breath away of young mountaineers, let alone that of an octogenarian.

"Doing this climbing has enabled me to refocus to some extent. I had to find something of this type, otherwise I'd have had ... mental health problems. I know that."

Remarkably enough, Nick has completed 177 so far and is far from letting go of this mission. In honour of his ailing wife, Janet, Nick is trying to raise money for the charities Alzheimer Scotland and the Royal Osteoporosis Society, so that even other patients can benefit.

Setting a target of 40,000 pounds for himself, Nick has already finished collecting 30,000 pounds. On his fundraising page, Nick, who is still trying to find his way around the new world of social media and regularly updates on his activities on Facebook and Instagram, he gets a lot of messages from the many people he has met on his mountain trails.

"I think (it was) the third mountain I climbed where I just happened to be chatting to other climbers and I just happened to mention what I was doing for this challenge. And they couldn't believe it ... They were amazed," he said.

Inspiring many with his tale of combining his boyhood passion for a noble cause, Nick is a standout - even at 81, deserving of every applause.

"Obviously, I thought, I've got something here. I really have. And I didn't realise the potential. And so ever since then, when I see people on the hill, I stop them and have a little conversation with them, tell them what I'm doing," he mentioned with a chuckle.

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