He has photographed some of the biggest stories in the world and has now successfully climbed the highest mountain in Africa. Huw Evans reveals the inspiration behind his new campaign to raise £1m for research into lung cancer.
Huw Evans and the rest of the Captains' Climb team really raised their game by successfully completing their challenge on Tuesday 14 September 2010.
Raise Your Game: Can you tell me a bit about your new project, the Brains SA Captains Climb?
Huw Evans: In November 2008 we found out that Sue (my wife) had lung cancer. This was quite difficult to come to terms with because she's a non-smoker. I'd been doing work for Velindre hospital and they asked me to do some photography over the last couple of years with ex rugby players and current players.
We started to do a couple of things and then Velindre got in touch with me and said 'What do you think about doing a climb of Kilimanjaro like the Radio 1 DJ's did? I thought 'Yeah, I'll give it a go and see if I can get a couple of Welsh rugby players or ex Welsh rugby players to do it as well.'
Every one of the captains I asked said "We'll do it." I was just amazed that such high profile stars were willing to do something like this. It was a real tonic for me and Sue. We're taking about 30 members of the general public with us, so we've sold places to the members of the public and our target is to raise £300,000.
RYG: What has inspired you to organise this event?
HE: I sat in chemotherapy sessions with my wife and saw what these people are going through. What I'm doing is nothing compared to them. When you've been married for 20 odd years you'd do anything for your wife, but you can't sit there and do the chemotherapy for her so you've got to do something. We were told at the end of 2008 that Sue might only have three months to live. It doesn't come worse than that.
Breast cancer is now being treated as a manageable illness because 87.7% of people who get breast cancer will go past five years, and if we can get that figure the same for lung cancer that'd be great.
RYG: How is the training and preparation going for the climb?
HE: Mike Hall (ex-rugby player) climbed Pen y Fan in December 2009 with Paul Guy (Cardiff businessman) and Richard Crane (Ospreys). It was snowing at the bottom so you can imagine what it was like on the top. I actually did Pen y Fan twice.
We did an organised walk with Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues player) and some of the Welsh players in September 2009, but before that we had to recce it to make sure it was safe and Sue came with me. She was actually dragging me up, even with lung cancer she could probably do Kilimanjaro, the woman is just incredible.
RYG: Do you think it will be important to work as a team?
HE: The banter will keep everybody going. At 19,500 feet there's not a lot of air on the top. You'll get to the top and you will not want to stay there much more than 30 seconds apparently. I'm sure that if people start to struggle, we will all rally round.
RYG: What are you going to eat to have the energy to get up there?
HE: I was worried about whether I had to get on a strict diet and lose weight, but walking is incredible. We will be walking four hours a day except for the last day, which will be 16 hours, so basically the regime is to walk, walk, walk, walk. I've walked from Cardiff to Caerphilly and to Pontypridd. You actually do start to lose weight just from walking.
It's important to eat the right things, but the best bit of news I had was apparently you get bacon and eggs for breakfast! Scott Gibbs (ex-rugby player, who has climbed Kilimanjaro before) has said you can take lots of chocolate bars because chocolate gives you a bit of a rush.
RYG: If you get into the routine of doing these walks, I guess your body gets used to it?
HE: Exactly. It's not about going at it like a bull in a china shop. Take it easy, keep fit, that's what it's all about. When I was 17, 18 I was like a whippet running up and down touchlines, but as you get older you start to slow down a bit. I just need to keep walking and those fitness levels will come back.
RYG: Although you all want to make it to the top, the main thing is the taking part, getting active and raising awareness isn't it?
HE: Absolutely. This has really rejuvenated me. I turned 50 in January 2009 and I feel like a little boy now knowing that we can actually do something. We're in a very big comfort zone in life these days, we don't have to go without anything. Just doing a little bit of work and doing something worthwhile can make you feel so good, so get up off your backside!
There is nothing better than getting a rush from doing something that you've achieved. You don't achieve much sitting down in front of a television!
Let's get the message out there that everyone can be part of a team and pull together to do something really good.
You have to have a goal and never lose sight of it.
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