Take it easy in retirement? No way!
Since retiring four years ago at 60, Benenden member Dennis Flint from Datchet has taken on a new trekking challenge each year. Here, he explains why.
How did you get into trekking?
Around 10 years ago, when I worked at BT (where I worked for 40 years as an electrician, then an electrical maintenance engineer and finally an electrical planner), I joined a fell walking team for the company’s Yorkshire Three Peaks competition. I loved it and for around five years, we entered and got better each time. The last time we did it, the weather was awful, but we were the only team out of 100 that improved on their previous time and we won a trophy. I was the oldest, two were in their 50s and the youngest was in his 20s.
What about since retiring?
Since retiring four years ago, I like to set myself a new challenge each year. On the first year, I took on the National Three Peaks Challenge solo, with my brother taking on the driving. I completed it in less than 23 hours! It was a great adventure and not without its dangers. When I arrived at Snowdon at 3am, there was a gale blowing and my training really paid off.
In 2015, along with my friend and son, I took on the coast-to-coast trek following Hadrian’s Wall and adding a few miles to reach the coast. We each carried a tent, sleeping bag, stoves and the like. On the way, we met with youngsters who were trying to do the trip in four days with small packs.
So there we were, fully backpacked, and on the first day we walked 28 miles, on the second day we managed 25 miles and on the third we just kept going for the remaining 37 miles. So we completed the 90-mile trek in two days and 19 hours.
Last year, we trekked in the Alps and walked the Tour Du Mont Blanc in nine days. It’s often an 11-day trip, but I knocked off a couple of stops to make it a little harder.
This year, with my son and two friends, I will take on the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland, which takes you through hot springs and volcanoes. I’m not going to be the weakest link out of the four of us. People who do this seriously are always competing. I want to be extremely fit when the day come. I always have a backpack with me when I go out walking so that it’s never a shock to put on, and I power walk.
What’s the appeal?
It isn’t the journeys themselves, but the training that goes into them. On around five days a week, I slip on a small backpack and go for a walk, covering around 30 miles a week. There is only one hill where I live, so I’ve got a circuit that takes that in and I don’t slow down, as it really gets the heart going. If I’m on my own, I listen to rock music – something with a bit of bounce.
I often see people who are in a rambling club and they’re pottering along the road talking, but that’s too slow for me. I’d rather be at it. Really get going.
What does your family think of your trekking hobby?
My family are quite surprised to see how energetic I am. I have two grandchildren – one is two and the other was born last Christmas Eve. When my wife and I look after them, we play all day long with the two-year-old and she is worn out before we are. My wife is nothing like me. When we used to go on holiday, I’d want to be up and out, and doing things like swimming. She walked up Snowdon one day and quite enjoyed it, but didn’t take to it.
Have you always been active?
I played five-a-side football until I was 50 and I used to play with people more than half my age. Afterwards, some of them used to light up a cigarette and I’d say: “I don’t know how you can do that, but you won’t be able to when you’re my age”. I’ve also done caving, I go canoeing and I do a lot of mountain biking in the summer. I’ve always liked doing things outdoors.
What would you say to someone who might like to take up mountain trekking?
Sign up to do a walk. Choose one that’s well known and has marshals – 10 miles perhaps – and you’ll learn a bit about the gear and do the training. You find you have more and more energy from being in the outdoors. Training for an event is important, as you don’t want to let yourself down.
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