Sophie Hitchens

Sophie Hitchens


Madeleine’s CoppaFeel! Trek Journal

Sophie Hitchens Tuesday 02nd July 2024

Brecon Beacons 8th – 14th June

It’s been just over 2 weeks since I returned from trekking 100km with CoppaFeel! in the Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog).

It was the first walk since Kris Hallenga (the founder of CoppaFeel! died), and it was a profoundly moving, joyful and uplifting experience to be part of. It’s very hard to sum up into words and in the lead up to the trek the charity kept saying it would be difficult to describe until you’ve actually experienced it for yourself and they were right!

I’ve spent the last 6 months planning my training/fundraising and prepping all my kit for the trek and quickly the day came around to drive across the bridge into Wales, with nervous excitement to arrive in Brecon. It was the first time leaving my little boy and a long time since setting out on a challenge for myself so there were a few tears shared that morning. Upon arriving at a farm car park, I was met by over 100 others all waiting to get a coach into the campsite and I was welcomed by smiling faces all feeling similar to me, so quickly I felt any nerves disappear. I could tell it was going to be a very special week!

The first evening was spent meeting everyone, settling into our tents, meeting our teams and celebrity team captains – Harry Judd / Candice Brown / Faye Winter and Amy Dowden. Each team also had some other guests that floated around each day and then would swap to be with another team the next day. It worked really well as each new person brought fresh energy and gave us all a boost (which was greatly received when we were almost at the summit!). Gi Fletcher was one of the main organisers and has been on multiple treks with CoppaFeel! before, she was the nicest person and really made us all feel so welcome. We spent our first day walking with her and I enjoyed some lovely chats as we started to climb up the first incline of the mountain.

I was very happy to be in ‘Team Harry’ or Team Chill as we were later, aptly named! I shared my tent with two lovely girls Jess and Tara, and we quickly settled in to our new ‘home’ for the next 6 nights.

Day 1 we started with Table Mountain (approx 22km / 624m ascent) – The walk began from a lovely little town Crickhowell with an immediate (very!) steep incline for what felt like a solid 3 hours of climbing! We were told the views would be well worth it, and it was absolutely true – WOW! Breathtaking views of the whole area over the Black Mountains.

Very quickly I understood why the treks with CoppaFeel! are so special and unique – not only because the landscapes we were walking in are beautiful, but the people I was sharing the walk with were also just amazing. We all left our daily responsibilities behind for the 5 days, we were told what time to wake up, what to wear, what time we had to leave and where to walk… It was such a treat and welcome change to the daily tasks we all think about, especially as a mother (the mental load can be overwhelming sometimes!).

Within a short space of time, we were forming friendships, sharing a common bond that they or someone we love has been affected by or are still living with breast cancer. Many of the women have terminal diagnoses, others have lost loved ones and more are still going through ongoing tests, scans and nervously awaiting results…yet everyone threw back their heads and laughed with their whole bodies.

In rain, winds and sunshine we shared snacks, held out hands and supported each other. I was constantly in awe of everyone around me.  The energy, kindness and collaborative spirit of a group who are facing a challenge together is a force of utterly positive power. We were all coming along to the trek with our own story or reason for being there and immediately felt welcomed by each and everyone with open arms. We listened, shared hugs, tears and strangers became friends.

Over the next 4 days, we went up ‘Dragons Back’ (approx 19.1km / 674m ascent), weaved through rivers and waterfalls (21.5km / 354 ascent), climbed Pen Y Fan (approx 18.6km, 1174m ascent) and walked alongside the River Wye (18.8km, 232 ascent). We experienced a mix of weather and some very strong winds which made it quite testing at times!

Each day we stayed together as a group, it wasn’t about who could get to the summit the fastest… This was more about sticking together, looking out for each other and supporting. Each one of us had our own challenges, some more physical than others but we were there for each other. When someone stopped to check blisters, or peel off / or put on layers (this happened a lot!), we all stopped and waited for each other.

On Day 4 we climbed Pen Y Fan, and by this point a lot of us were really struggling with aches and pains and some very sore blisters (I was one of the lucky ones who managed to avoid any blisters, I’m thankful to my boots and K-Tape for this!), but this made it even more meaningful and emotional when we all reached the summit. I was one of the first to get to the top, and I was overcome with emotion as I stepped foot on the mountain summit  (886m). A realisation of what I had achieved, how far we had all come and how much this week meant for us all! My thoughts turned to my sister-in-law, Livvy who was finishing her final week of radiotherapy as I was walking…what a year it had been and what a resilient, inspiring women she is!

The final day of walking was more local out from the campsite and back, following the River Wye – We crossed paths with the other teams half way, walking through archways made with walking poles held up in the air and cheering with the other teams in celebration of the last 4 days walking. As we neared closer to the finish, we could hear the cheers from the first 2 teams to make it back before us…already celebrating and soaking in their achievements. We were welcomed back with open arms, hugs, tears and relatives for some waiting at the finishing line.

On our final evening, they laid on a delicious banquet with several courses and yummy apple crumble for dessert (which funnily enough we had all manifested on our walks, so it was a perfect treat for the final meal!) I’ve been missing having 3 meals a day prepared for me (hehe!)

We spent the rest of the evening dancing away to Fatboy Slim, ‘Praise You’, celebrating and honouring Kris’s legacy 💖

No matter how terrible the challenges you face, there is always some joy and laughter to be found in the moment you are in.

As a whole, we have raised over £400k which is just amazing and I feel so proud to have been part of that! Thank you to all the lovely people that have supported me and kindly donated.

Breast cancer can affect anyone.

Checking your chest could save your life 🍈🍈

If you would like to kindly donate there is still time. Click here which will take you to my Just Giving page.

Sophie Hitchens

Sophie Hitchens