Trekkers scale dizzy heights for Hampstead Hospice

� A determined team of Hampstead Hospice fundraisers have raised close to �60,000 for the charity after trekking through the Peruvian Andes in search of the lost city of Machu Picchu.

Almost exactly 100 years after the Inca ruins were discovered, the hospice trekkers followed in the footsteps of American explorer Hiram Bingham who stumbled upon the ruins in 1911.

They are now regarded as one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

Among the hospice group was Ham&High editor, Geoff Martin. Like many of the trekkers, he was taking part in the expedition in memory of a loved one.

In his case, it was for his late wife, Sue Vasey-Martin, who died in Hampstead Hospice 20 months ago.

He said: ‘‘It was a gruelling, challenging and often poignant trek by 20 people who had never met before, but there was tremendous team spirit and ultimately it was extremely rewarding. The team had to contend with altitude sickness, fevers, cold showers, sunstroke, blisters and the pong from an indigenous plant known as ‘smelly socks’, but there were many hilarious interludes.

“The moment when we eventually passed through the famous Gateway to the Sun at Inti Punku and saw Machu Picchu glistening in the valley below will remain seared in my mind forever.’’

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During the trek the team followed the steep and precarious Royal Highway of the Incas, following the course of the mighty Urubama River before climbing to almost 14,000ft above sea level on the trail’s highest pass.

And when it was all over our editor received an unexpected accolade at a celebratory dinner in Cusco.

He inadvertently took the long way round on the trail to the Inca settlement of Winay Wayna, which translates as Forever Young, and received the award for travelling the longest distance, albeit by accident rather than design.