A woman who was at risk of losing her foot after a fall on ice has opened up on her battle back to take on a triathlon across England, Scotland and Wales.

Claire Hughes, 44, was out walking in winter conditions in November 2021 with her partner  James Mackay around the Blanchland area in Northumberland, in the aftermath of Storm Arwen when she slipped.

The Northern Echo: Claire Hughes in hospitalClaire Hughes in hospital (Image: GNAAS)

Due to the ice and snow, it would have taken several hours for a road ambulance to reach Miss Hughes, so GNAAS was called, and their critical care team based in Langwathby, Penrith flew to the scene in just over 15 minutes.

The Northern Echo: The air ambulance that landed on Stanhope Common, near BlanchlandThe air ambulance that landed on Stanhope Common, near Blanchland (Image: GNAAS)

The team found Miss Hughes to be at severe risk of losing her foot and developing hypothermia in the -20C wind-chill conditions.

As both of the bones in Miss Hughes’ leg were broken, as well as her ankle pointing in the wrong direction, emergency treatment was delivered in a temporary shelter at the scene to help with the blood supply to the foot.

The Northern Echo: Claire bundled up under coats and blanketsClaire bundled up under coats and blankets (Image: GNAAS)

Miss Hughes was then airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where she underwent surgery to treat breaks on the three main bones of her ankle.

Since then, she has opened up on how she could have lost her foot after the slip on the ice in Blanchland.

She explained: “They said the air ambulance guys had done such a fantastic job of pulling my ankle straight they did me some major favours in terms of recovery.”

The Northern Echo: Claire Hughes hikingClaire Hughes hiking (Image: GNAAS)

Thankfully Miss Hughes has made a great recovery and was able to return to her outdoor pursuits, which include rowing, cycling, hill walking, wild camping, swimming, paddle boarding, and snow sports.

Following her recovery, in April this year, Miss Hughes plans to undertake a journey across the three nations by pack raft, bike and on foot, incorporating the longest lake and biggest mountain in each and cycling between them.

The Northern Echo: Claire Hughes with her crutchesClaire Hughes with her crutches (Image: GNAAS)

She is no stranger to challenges, after completing a 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic in 42 days in 2019, at the time breaking the world record for the fastest mixed team of four.

The Northern Echo: Claire Hughes raftingClaire Hughes rafting (Image: GNAAS)

She’s now set her sights on doing this gruelling challenge to raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) as a thank-you to the emergency service.

People can donate to her fundraising page here.

She said: “I plan to start in Wales, paddling Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala), cycle to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), hike Snowdon, cycle to Newby Bridge, paddle Windermere, cycle to Langdale to hike Scafell, cycle to Loch Awe, paddle Loch Awe, cycle to Ben Nevis and finish with a hike up Ben Nevis.”


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Miss Hughes hopes to complete the challenge between April 20 and 28, but this will depend on how much the weather impacts her ability to travel, particularly for the pack rafting sections where she may need to alter her direction of travel.

She added: “For me, it's not about being the best, the fastest, going the furthest or being the first - it's about finding your challenge, enjoying the journey and finding the adventure along the way. It doesn't have to always be about comparing yourself with others and measuring your success against their achievements, it's about taking that inspiration to create your own.

“My measure of success will be to complete this with a smile on my face and some stories to tell. If it inspires others to have a try at something new or gives them the courage to step away from endless comparisons and self-doubt, then even better.”