Ann to repeat her mountain marathon feat

ROOM AT THE TOP: Friends form a guard of honour as Ann Wheeler reaches the summit of a Lake District peak
ROOM AT THE TOP: Friends form a guard of honour as Ann Wheeler reaches the summit of a Lake District peak
Have your say

An inspirational mum-of-two, who was almost left paralysed, has completed the gruelling challenge of climbing more than 200 Lake District mountains.

Ann Wheeler, 58, was diagnosed with cauda equina syndrome, a rare spinal condition which left her just days from losing the use of her legs.

But, after overcoming major surgery, Ann has climbed all 214 Wainwrights, inspiring others along the way, and is now planning to climb them all over again.

Ann, who lives in Clayton-le-Woods, has also slept on top of mountains, swum across tarns, and raised almost £1,000 to help people with similar conditions.

“It’s been tough”, she said, “some days I’ve been feeling so ill.

“When I was going up Scafell Pike I was feeling so ill, I was tired, my back was killing me, it was a horrible day and I thought ‘what am I doing it for?’

“But people were waiting up there for me.

“I was totally exhausted, but it was worth it.”

Ann began climbing the Wainwrights last May, and said: “It’s been non-stop, every weekend I’ve been up those mountains.

“I really feel lost now, so I’m starting swimming the tarns now.

“I walked about seven miles to a tarn and swam it just in my bikini.

“I want to swim all the tarns this winter. And I’m going to do all the Wainwrights again.”

Ann said the exercise had “really helped” her condition and said: “I’m fitter than ever.

“A lot of people follow me now because I’m the non-wetsuit swimmer and they don’t know how I do it.”
But Ann said she would always be in pain, and still suffered from problems from the cauda equina syndrome.

She said: “Sometimes the pain is unbearable, but I’ve got to live with it.

“It will get worse. As I get older the arthritis will get me in the end, but I’m not giving in. Keeping active is the best thing for it.
“If they hadn’t operated when they did, I would have been paralysed.

“I was lucky and I think it was because I was strong before the operation that helped.

“I just want people to know what the signs are. It’s a very hard thing to diagnose because the symptoms are like sciatica and a slipped disc.

“But I’ve got my life back and I’m not giving in.

“It’s opened a lot of doors for me and I’ve got lots of friends now.”