FOR Frances Mitchell undertaking a gruelling trek in the mountain scenery of Nepal truly was a life-changing experience.
Before she went on her two-week adventure, the 67-year-old Lightcliffe grandmother was terrified of heights. But after negotiating rope bridges strung across steep ravines and perilously steep tracks, she feels she has managed to overcome her lifelong phobia and is ready for anything.
Frances, of Wakefield Road, and her good friend Anne Royds, of Halifax, were in Nepal on a sponsored trek to raise money for the fight against leprosy. They got the chance to see at first hand the treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy sufferers in the hospital in Anandaban before walking through the Seti Valley.
Though a keen walker, Frances had never been camping before and was extremely apprehensive about coping with the heights involved.
“I can honestly say I would not have managed it without the Sherpas. They were so kind and confident. You just felt safe with them,” she said.
“For me to walk across a rope bridge with a raging river below was quite something. I had one of the Sherpas guiding me from the front and another behind me telling me not to look down. I would not have made it without them and the sense of achievement was tremendous.”
The two women were part of a team of 11 charity fund-raisers on the Trek for Treatment walk organised by the Leprosy Mission. They covered about 10 miles a day climbing to a height of 10,000 feet.
“It was hot by day, very cold at night, and the terrain was hard-going with huge boulders and steep and uneven steps cut into the rock. Our legs were just like jelly. But the scenery was stunning and there was a great sense of camaraderie among us all.
“We had four Sherpas, eight cooks and 14 porters with us and at the end of the day a delicious meal would be served up on long tables with tablecloths. Considering they had to carry everything with them on their backs, it was remarkable.”
The visit started with two days in Anandaban meeting leprosy victims and the doctors and nurses who care for them. Frances and some of the others were even given the opportunity to witness an operation on a patient’s deformed hand.
“There is still such a stigma attached to leprosy and some people are still treated as outcasts even though there is now an innoculation available which stops it being contagious.
“Being at the hospital was a very uplifting and humbling experience. It was great to see the way money raised by the Leprosy Mission is helping. All the treatment and care of leprosy victims is free thanks to the Leprosy Mission.”
Frances, a member of Central Methodist Church in Brighouse, has long been a supporter of fund-raising efforts for the Leprosy Mission - like her mother and grandmother before her.
“New operations are being developed and the dedication of the doctors and nurses is remarkable,” she said.