"I want to give hope back': Adventurer could be first man with Parkinson’s to climb Everest

·3-min read

Alex Flynn on the Kungsladen Trail in the Swedish Arctic (Scott Gilmore)
Alex Flynn on the Kungsladen Trail in the Swedish Arctic (Scott Gilmore)

Most of us would view a diagnosis of Parkinson's at just 36 as the end of adventure. But for Alex Flynn, it was just the beginning. 

Since then, he has raised almost £400,000 for charity and is now aiming to become the first person with Parkinson’s to climb Mount Everest.

Flynn, now 49, was diagnosed back in 2008, and has dedicated himself to fundraising for research into the cruel disease. There was no rattling a collecting tin on street corners for him, however - instead, he has taken on a raft of punishing and exhausting challenges in the world's most inhospitable areas and extreme conditions.

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Even in lockdown, rather than sagging in front of Netflix like everyone else, Flynn continued his gargantuan efforts by setting himself a new challenge - to climb the height of Everest twice, via his stairs. 

Now his domestic marathon is over, he's planning to scale the real thing, and hopes to inspire other people with Parkinson’s in the process.

“My main reason for doing all of this is because, intrinsically, with neurological disease, your world gets incrementally smaller day by day," he explains. 

“You lose your power of speech, your power to walk, write, have sex – I haven’t quite got there yet – and everything else that everybody in the world takes for granted.”

Alex Flynn taking part in the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert


(Mark Gillett/Jungle Moon)
Alex Flynn taking part in the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert (Mark Gillett/Jungle Moon)

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The determined fundraiser has previously completed a 160-mile run in the Bavarian Alps, an ultra marathon in the Saraha desert, a 450km expedition in the Swedish Arctic and a 3,256-mile voyage across the United States by bike, kayak and on foot.

 “I want to give back some kind of hope that ‘if Alex can get up a bloody mountain, then I can get across my living room’" he says. 

Of other sufferers, he adds, "what I want to is to hear them say, ‘I can take on something that is my Everest’, whether that’s walking down to the shops, or walking past people who stop and stare at you, because you’re walking like a crazy thing or a robot, or having difficulty counting out the money in your hand.” 

It isn't just about inspiring others, he explains - taking on the incredible challenges also help him to cope with his condition. 

“The ability to do these challenges has kept my self confidence and self worth going, yes," he admits, "but then the also the extreme exercise, that I think has been exceptionally beneficial in stopping my deterioration, or slowing my deterioration down.”

Alex Flynn after completing his double Everest challenge


Alex Flynn after completing his double Everest challenge (10MillionMetres)

Flynn, from Wantage in Oxfordshire, plans to scale Everest next April, with ascents of mountains including Mont Blanc, Mera Peak and Himlung Himal scheduled for this autumn, to help him acclimatise to the dangerous altitudes.

He hopes to raise more money for Parkinson’s research, in the hope that a cure will be found in the relatively near future.

And rather than holding himself up as inspiration, he looks up to a fellow endurer of Parkinsons - a boy diagnosed aged two, in 2016.

 “Just imagine what that kid’s gonna go through at school," he says, "His peers, the names he’s going to be called, the bullying he’s going to encounter just because he’s different. 

“That makes me mad.”

He hopes the money he raises will help that young boy to be cured of the illness one day.

 “To be able to give that child and others the ability to say, ‘I used to have Parkinson’s’ – that would be truly f****** amazing.”

To donate, go to gofund.me/18e1a208

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