"The best way to work out for hiking far distances in a high pace, carrying a heavy load is to; Hike far distances in a high pace, carrying a heavy load​."

David has been working out real hard. Every day after work, he has strapped on his 20kg heavily loaded Lundhags Backpack, laced his shell boots and gotten out to the countryside of Gothenburg, Sweden, to hike until darkness falls. For 8 months he has hiked like this for 40-80km per week, with complementary weightliftning to strengthen his back, shoulders and abs.

- There is not much time for anything else right now, he says with a facetious smile on his face.

This is a part of David's preparations for a huge upcoming effort, the last section of Virgin Strive challenge 2018.

Virgin Strive - For Big Change

The founder behind Virgin Strive Challenge is the English business magnate Sir Richard Branson, founder also of the famous Virgin atlantic airline and Virgin records. Once a year togheather with his daughter Holly and his son Sam, he gathers a group of world leading thinkers, philanthropists, influencers and experienced hikers to travel through some of the world´s most beautiful and challenging landscapes in a fundraising event.

More about Strive

With huge attention from media, Virgin Strive raises money for "Big Change", an organization that supports and finances ideas and projects with potentioal to make a big positive change in young people´s lifes. Sir Richard Branson also supports the event with his own money and in 2018 Strive has raised over 1,5 million Euro for Big Change. About 15400 Euros was raised by our friend David alone.

More about Big Change

The Challenge

The Strive challege is split into sections. In 2018 they started from the top of Europes highest mountain, Etna on Italian Sicily. The sections consists of Sailing and sea kayaking across the Mediterranean sea, bicykling over Sardinia and hiking over GR20 on Corsica. Back on the shore of france, they bicycle through parts of Tour de France and at last, the last section where David takes part in a six days hike and climb over the Alps to the highest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc, with it's peak 4810m over sea level.

- We'll keep about a 2-3 times faster pace than you would normally go this distance and terrain. Our daily average will be about 20km forward, 1000-1500m positive altitude meters and 500-800m negative. I reckon it´ll be really long days, David says.

More about Strive challenge route 2018

The Preparations

- September often means very alternate weather around Mont Blanc. We are prepared for +20C to -5C when we cross the glaciers and bad weather could appear on short notice, David says.

- My feet will probably take most of the beating. We have been working out hard for 8 months, so I'm not worried about my physical or mental strength, but it will be hard on my feet with that kind of shift in altitude.

- The foundation in my gear consists of my Jaure II boots and my 60L Gnaur backpack. I haven't met conditions the boots couldn't handle and the backpack has room for everything important, like my complete set of Makke jacket and Makke pant as outer shell, a mix of wool sweaters along with other functional clothing. Except clothing I will pack my sleeping bag, hiking poles, a big medical kit, knife, multitool, headlamp, two hydration systems and a portable solar panel charger.

So... Who's David?

Name: David Wedebrant

City: Gothenburg, Sweden

Work: General Manager at AKQA

What is your relation to hiking?

- Most of my relatives comes from Northern/Central Sweden and I grew up close to nature. I have been a bit of a "gear addict" before but with time I have come to understand that a handful of very high quality clothes, a pair of rigid boots and a backpack can take you anywhere.

Why Strive 2018?

- I've always liked challenges, hiking and climing. I've also been involved in charity for young people before. When I got the chance to do both and with a group of very inspiring people, I didn't hesitate to say yes!

What are you looking forward to the most in this challenge?

- It might sound strange, but I look forward to the guaranteed moments of almost giving up. When I or someone else has the feeling of not being able to take another step forward, but the team support makes you strive on. It would probably take a broken leg for me to stop before we hit the finish line (knock on wood).

The Experience

September 30th 2018 David passed the finish line on Mount Blanc with a big happy smile, despite multiple hard setbacks like food poisoning and a dislocated shoulder. We of course wanted to hear more of his experience.

Can you describe the hardest moment during the challenge?

- I'm standing half way through our highest climb, the last day of this challenge, looking up on wall of rock 500m high. The day before I got food poisoning and got almost no sleep, couldn't eat or drink for 24h. The only fluids I had came through an IV with salt solution. My whole body is begging me to stop, to give up, as I climb the rest, cold sweating and throwing up as I go.

How did it feel to pass the finish line?

- We were a large group of twelve, passing the line at the same time and almost everybody had some kind of injury, it was an intense feeling of unity and success to have gone through it togheather. At the finish, there was endless amounts of food, snacks, drinks and beer so we dug right in and kept going until we fell asleep by exhaustion.

What was the surrounding nature like?

- Incredibly beautiful and constantly shifting. Some of it was actually not very unlike nature in northern Sweden. We saw a lot of animals, among them large groups of sheep vultures, the largest vulture in Europe.

The views were amazing. It is hard to take it all in when climbing through all the environmental shifts and thousands of altitude meters. Sometimes the view was so intense it almost felt fake, like props in a theatre. From fields like inspired from Sound of Music, to rocky, barren landscapes, glaciers and waterfalls.

How was the weather?

To my surprise, we were lucky to have a window of mostly good weather. Both right before and right after the challenge, big storms rolled in over the area. It rained a bit during the nights which made the rocks slippery (why I fell and dislocated my shoulder). Exept that, we had some clouds and fog, a few times we couldn´t see more than a few meters ahead.

And the people?

Without a doubt I can state that I've never met so many inspiring people in the same place. I was humbled by all the good-hearted philanthropists participating, all very successful in their fields but with passion for making the world a better place. There were leaders from the worlds biggest brands, experts within AI, olympic athletes, founders from several charity foundations, and that is only a few examples.

How will you remember Strive?

If I hadn´t dislocated my shoulder I would have been nothing but happy with the experience, but even with the injury and all the rehab as a result of it, I would still do it again. I feel like I will look back on this event as one of the biggest experiences of my life. It taught me one thing though - NEVER go with your hands inside the loops of your hiking poles! That is how i got my dislocated shoulder.