INTREPID students have set themselves a tough challenge, conquering 15 Irish mountains in 15 hours to raise money for Oxford’s homeless.
The students, mostly undergraduates and post-graduates at Keble College will attempt the Mourne Wall Challenge, hiking across 15 peaks in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland, in just one day.
Rachel Dewan, 23, from Canada, who is studying classical archaeology, said: “One of our group, Luke Martin, comes from Northern Ireland, and has done the challenge, and he suggested we do it as part of a series of fundraisers we are planning this year.”
The group is meeting in Belfast today and will stay overnight at a nearby campsite before attempting the hike tomorrow.
Miss Dewan added: “Many of us like hiking, but have never done anything as ambitious as this before and we have been told to prepare for rain. Needless to say we have lots of wet weather gear and are really looking forward to it.
“Some of us have been out running in the University Parks to prepare and one of our members has even been doing a 60-day squat challenge.”
The Mourne Mountains are in County Down, 31 miles south of Belfast.
The highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, its summits are crowned by granite tors.
The group will be walking the 22-mile long Mourne Wall, which connects the summits of 15 mountains in the Mournes, including the highest, Slieve Donard, at 2,790 feet.
The group did not have to look too far to choose a charity to benefit from their efforts.
Ms Dewan added: “We figured that if we are crazy enough to climb 15 mountains in 15 days, we would love to be able to do it for a good cause.
“And we all agreed that wanted to support the Gatehouse project for the homeless, especially since we are practically next-door neighbours in Oxford.
“We set ourselves the target of £1,000 to start with but we raised that pretty quickly. So we are now going for £2,000 and are already getting close to that.”
The Gatehouse has been helping homeless people in Oxford for 25 years. As many as 200 people of all ages and walks of life regularly volunteer at its base in Woodstock Road, serving food and chatting with about 80 guests each day, supported by a small team of permanent staff.
Gatehouse project director Andrew Smith said: “I'm just stunned that so many of these students are getting together to support our work. Every day I get a message to say that another fundraising page has been set up – and it's all completely unsolicited.
“So, I have to say – don’t believe all those negative stereotypes about lazy students who don’t care about the city they live in. Oxford can be proud of them, town and gown.
“I’m sure they’ll have a brilliant time and discover how rewarding it can be to make an effort on behalf of others. We wish them all the luck in the world.”