On Saturday 7th July The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT) supporter Jane Willis and her team set off on an incredible fundraising challenge: to hike 40 miles over the Chemin de la Liberte in the Pyrenees Mountains. Renamed temporarily by Jane and her team as the ‘Freedom from Parkinson’s Trail,’ this iconic passage which runs from France into Spain was used as an escape route from Nazi occupied France in World War II. Neill, Jane's husband, describes the unforgettable experience:

"Jane has achieved something quite extraordinary by walking and scrambling every step of The Freedom Trail. With a first day’s trek of over 26km and temperatures up as high as 30C, the team took over ten hours to reach the gite. Jane’s night, as all subsequent nights, was then one of uncomfortable, often painful, broken sleep and the need to go to the toilet every few hours. Despite this, with the total care of an incredible support team she was given medication as early as four in the morning and then readied to start each day on time.

Leaving through bracken and beech forests on the second day and continually climbing, we committed to the high mountains, covering 16km over eight hours. No facilities, flea ridden mattresses, boil in the bag food and our longest, toughest day to follow is perhaps not the best preparation for anyone, let alone someone with Parkinson's. But again, Jane was up and ready to walk at 5.30am.

Day three was a mixture of rough paths, often no paths, boulders, slabs and steep ascents and descents in both bright sunshine and cloud. Jane astounded everyone by continually driving forward. A number of falls and a huge mental block on a snow filled gulley could not stop her. Another 13km and at least 11 hours later, we arrived at the mountain hut exhausted but unbroken.

Day four, and the push into Spain. Highlights included an exposed climb using fixed cables and a long ascent on crampons to reach the Spanish border high up on a col. Jane managed all of this, encouraged and supported by the group who remained in awe of her efforts. The biggest challenge however, was still to come.

On reaching this point the steep scree descent was unexpectedly covered by snow and ice, which is usually gone by early June. The surprise additional challenge required the team to be roped, and to use ice axes. Jane’s fear heightened her involuntary movement as panic set in, but eventually she calmed and again put trust in her constant walking buddy 'Big bear' and the rest of the team to carry on and complete the difficult 10km in under nine hours.

Her support team were brilliant throughout with a truly amazing doctor on top of meds and diet the whole trek. While walking, Jane was attached by sling and harness to 'Big bear' almost every step of the way and her achievement certainly would not have been possible without his care, strength and motivation.

Jane now hopes to reach her fundraising target, having proved that life does not have to stop because of Parkinson's and there are still ways to fight it while we search for a cure. Go The Cure Parkinson's Trust!”

Jane said:

"It was so much tougher than I'd imagined, but my fears gradually faded as I realised what a special group of people had come together to help me achieve this. I've walked past mountain lakes and waterfalls and seen brilliant star lit skies. I've climbed high and experienced incredible views and learnt new techniques for placing my feet when descending. I've learnt new ways to make the most of medication too. I've done things again I thought were lost to me and some of my confidence has returned through an experience that will live with me forever."

Jane's daughter Holly said:

"I am so grateful that I have been able to be a part of this incredible trip. My mum has done so so well and I couldn't be more proud of her. She is inspiring and so determined. This trip has proved to be a great success in raising funds for The Cure Parkinson's Trust and I'd like to thank everyone who has donated and supported my mum and the team along the way."

Jane Willis (fourth from the left) and team conquer 42,000 steps on day one of their 'Freedom from Parkinson's Trail'! 

The team reach their base camp for the evening

Day 2 and the team are ready to take on the next leg of their trek

Passing through stunning scenery and mountain lakes

Jane and team continue to navigate the steep mountain descents

Jane's daughter Holly enjoying the epic landscapes 

Incredible views of the Pyrenees 

The team prepare to tackle the unexpected ice on day four

With careful planning, teamwork and perseverance the team push forward on the last leg of their trekking challenge

Jane and team at the finish line having trekked 40 miles over four days through the Pyrenees 

The team celebrating their amazing achievement!

CPT would like to say a huge thank you and congratulations to Jane and team for your truly incredible fundraising efforts and support! If you’d like to read more of Jane’s story or support her fundraising please visit her fundraising page. You can look back on Jane's adventure at the Freedom from Parkinson's Trail Facebook or Instagram page.

If you feel inspired by Jane and would to take on your own fundraising challenge in support of CPT please contact George or call 020 7487 3892 to find out how we can support you.