A group of mates attempting the Three Peaks Challenge in severe weather conditions to support their seriously ill friend were devastated when they had to turn back.
The eight men, who are all Leeds United supporters from Castleford and Normanton, set off on Saturday morning during severe weather conditions to attempt to climb Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.
A passer-by filmed them wading through thigh-deep water while trying to cross the River Ribble, which had burst its banks, on the approach to Whernside. One man even fell into the swollen ford.
The group faced criticism on social media from people who claimed they should not have set out when weather warnings for high winds, rain and flooding were in place.
However, the friends have now revealed that they were determined to complete the challenge to raise funds for a pal who is suffering from bowel cancer.
Lifelong Leeds United fan Martin Gaughan, known as Gauny, was diagnosed with the disease earlier this year, and is currently undergoing treatment. His friends decided to undertake the Three Peaks walk to raise money for Martin and his wife Karen to enjoy a holiday or concert once he has recovered. They have currently raised nearly £900 and have a target of £1,000. A raffle organised for the appeal included prizes such as a signed Leeds United match ball and a signed Castleford Tigers shirt.
A statement on their Justgiving page reads:-
"On Saturday March 16, eight lads will be taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Why, I hear you ask? Well, it’s all to raise as much money as possible for one of the best blokes we know, Martin Gaughan. Over the past couple of months he has been diagnosed with bowel cancer which was one hell of a shock to everybody, but on the positive side it’s operable and with fingers, toes, arms and eyes crossed he will make a full recovery. So while Martin is receiving treatment we have decided to put ourselves through 24 miles of hell, up and down mountains to show our support and love for this top banana. Please donate as little or as much as you can so hopefully when he is back fighting fit again, Martin and his wife Karen can have a little trip away or get to a music gig like they have always loved to do together in the past.
"Or maybe, since he’s a life-long Leeds United fan, he could get a season ticket for when we are back in the Premiership next year! Let's smash the Peaks and cancer together!"
Aaron McIntyre, one of the men taking part, confirmed that the group had returned safe and well and would return to complete the challenge at a later date.
"We were disappointed not to be able to complete what we set out to do. We were hit with the tragic news about our friend at Christmas and we so badly wanted to do him proud and raise the target we set. We got soaked through to the bone and had to call it a day after about 14 miles in, the weather had us beaten. Our Yorkshire pride and grit and determination made us want to give it our best. But no one argues with Mother Nature.
"We have had some negative comments from the usual warriors on Facebook but also a lot of support from other people including some lovely people that donated off the back of the abuse. We will be back to do the job, maybe when the sun comes out. Well done lads."
Aaron's wife Nickie McIntyre added:-
"They are all hard-working men, best friends who wanted to raise money for a good friend through the hardest time of his life.
"They did not want anything to stop them yesterday, after doing raffles and whatever they could to raise money to help him through his cancer treatments, but the river bust its banks as they headed back from Pen-y-Ghent to Whernside. They were stuck, wading thigh-deep in water to get to safety. Obviously by now they couldn’t continue. They all returned back safely, but are gutted they did not achieve the goal they had their heart set on. These are not professional hikers. These are 9-5 working lads, who tried to do a good deed and were criticised by people for their lack of knowledge on the weather or danger."
To donate to the appeal, click here.