Willing & Abel
by Lily Whiting
Lewis Taylor is raising money for Tasmanians with cancer by attempting an incredible feat.
What is an Abel and why are you doing 158 of them?
An Abel is a mountain in Tasmania with an altitude of over 1,100m (⅔ the height of Mt Ossa) and a drop on all sides of 150m or more, making it a prominent peak. I am summiting 158 of them because that’s how many there are in total!
Cancer fundraising can take many forms, what was it about completing all 158 Abels that struck a chord with you? Because this challenge has never even been attempted – let alone completed – in a 158-day timeframe, it made me think that such a unique mission could also be a great platform to raise awareness and funds to help all cancer-affected Tasmanians. I was going to attempt it at some stage anyway, so why not generate some good for our community while we’re at it!?
The physical and mental preparation for undertaking this must be big. Can you run us through how you’ve prepared for the challenge? It has taken over a year of preparation, with mostly the logistics being thought through and re-analysed over and over again – which Abels to do first, which ones to do together, contingency plans when the weather turns bad, boat drop-off points, closed roads and tracks, etc. That has been the most time-consuming part, by far. Physically, I lead a pretty active lifestyle and stay fit, and I feel once I’m into the rhythm of hiking day-in day-out, it’ll just be about fuelling my body correctly.
Mentally, that’s the toughest bit. I have never camped by myself before starting this challenge, nor gone solo on a multi-day walk, so finding routines and comforts amongst the craziness of driving, sleeping and trekking alone for long periods of time is key. It will be difficult at times to keep going – these mountains are hard and rugged, wet and muddy, beautiful and worth it, all at the same time! However, being accountable and doing this on behalf of so many other people will definitely be a driving force during those inevitable lows.
You’re a few weeks into the challenge as we speak, how are you feeling so far? Pretty exhausted, but optimistic! I don’t think I’ve gotten ‘ahead’ on my sleep and routines just yet, but I’m getting there. The body is sore and in dire need of protein to re-build after some tough slogs, and my middle toe on my right foot has been completely numb since day five, however it’s amazing what the body is capable of when the mind says “go”. All in all, I’ve completed more Abels than days gone thus far, so it’s tracking fairly well at this early point!
Most people will have a connection to cancer in their lifetime. From your experience with your mum’s diagnosis, what advice could you pass along to others in similar situations? I don’t think there is any “correct” way to deal with a cancer situation, as everyone has their own methods of coping and understanding. For me, I am very solution-focused, so when there’s a problem I instantly turn my mind to try and find the best solution, rather than dwell too much on the cause of the problem. That helped my situation, and ultimately led to a positive result. Also, try not to dance around the topic of cancer with the person who has it, they’re not a different person just because they have a disease. Learn from them, find out more, and help where you can, I guess. That goes for people with cancer too. Talk about it, reach out if you need something or want to chat, we’re here for you. I’m here for you.
How does having the support system of sponsors, your ‘challenge manager’ Jan and of course your friends and family help you complete this challenge? It has been absolutely incredible and humbling, having people support me in this challenge the way they have. I simply talked once to each major sponsor, and all three of them told me that they themselves have been through a cancer situation and would be more than happy to help make the challenge a reality. It’s amazing, the generosity of the Tasmanian community – a generosity I experienced just by digging one layer deep and having a conversation.
My friends and family have been really supportive, albeit a little fearful of the thought of me summiting one of Tassie’s hardest mountains every day. They’ve helped me finish the Cubbi (camper trailer) that I’m now living out of, they’ve fed me when I was working late nights and forgot to eat, and just been a shoulder to fall on. It’s been so wonderful and I owe them all immensely.
Flat out, I wouldn’t even be close to being here without Jan and his beautiful family. The amount of hours we’ve spent is well into the hundreds – planning, researching, designing, everything, about both the Cubbi and this challenge. Jan still is heavily involved, guiding me through logistics and weather from home, as well as joining me on some hikes and dropping me off in his boat to the start of some very remote trips. He’s unbelievable, and absolutely one half of the 158 Challenge.
Your mum has been your biggest inspiration for this fundraiser, does she still think you’re crazy? She doesn’t think it, she knows I’m a little loopy, but I feel she’s starting to accept the idea of the challenge now that I’m actually out here doing it. Everything I do in life I hope to do mum, and my family and friends, proud. I hope this is one of those things. With my GPS device I can provide mum updates where I am pretty often, so I think that’s been a little comforting for her!
What do you do for work? Right now, nothing! I’ve taken six months off making money in exchange for raising money! However, ‘back home’ I am a qualified walking guide, and run my own architectural building design business designing mostly clients’ renovations, extensions and new homes.
A new venture is underway though, and it’s called Cubbi Campers – custom camper trailers made here in Tasmania, that almost anyone can latch on to their car and go enjoy the beauty of their “natural backyard”. Watch this space, or catch me in mine as I drive around Tassie chasing Abels during this challenge!
Which Abel are you most looking forward to and which one do you expect to be the toughest? I expect Federation Peak to be the toughest individual mountain. It’s the only ‘class 10’ (out of 10) hiking summit in Australia, and so naturally I’m looking forward to having completed that one! But there are also The Spires and The Eldons – two off-track, 8+ day trips that will really test me. Over a week is a long time to be away in the wilderness, self-supported! Right now though, I am en-route to Precipitous Bluff solo. PB has such a high reputation, and being right down there overlooking the Southern Ocean (something I’ve never seen before) is something I’m hugely looking forward to!
How can readers get involved? Readers can get involved in a number of ways! You can send me a message of support, ask if you’d like to join on a hike, and of course what would be really amazing is if you could please donate! I’m out here (currently in a tent on Tasmania’s Southern Range) to support you, Tasmanians! The more money this challenge raises, the more motivation I’ll have to keep pushing and complete this challenge!
Also, please make sure you support my amazing local, Tasmanian sponsors! Strive Food (the most scrumptious and nutritious hiking meals that exist), Smitten Merino (Tasmanian merino clothing like a warm hug from your family) and Duggan’s Tyre Centre Huonville (honestly, they’ll have your car rolling again in a jiffy, I’ve witnessed people just drop in on three wheels and get sorted immediately). They deserve everything that comes their way, so please check them out!
You can find all the info you need at www.158challenge.com. Or follow Lewis for daily progress @tassie.taylor.