A RETIRING RAF mountaineer will tackle a solo 900-mile trek from Land’s End to John O’Groats in just 30 days this summer in memory of his best friend and in a bid to raise £20,000 for the Wroughton hospice which cared for him in his last days.

Al Sylvester, 48, will pay homage to Dean Singleton, who passed away at Prospect Hospice in June 2011 at the age of 43, after battling lymphoma for a decade as well as liver cancer. He embarks on the strenuous walk on August 16, without any support, to back the Adver’s 160 Appeal in aid of the charity.

The pair met in 1992 in Stafford, where they were both part of the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue.

“Dean and I covered lots of big rescues,” said Al. “We put our lives on the line together. I think Dean would have loved to do it with me. He was brilliant and if you wanted to have somebody cheer you up after a bad call out he would be the person to pick everybody up. The way he was looked after by Prospect was phenomenal. It is an opportunity to raise money for the hospice.

“I originally looked to raise £5,000, which I thought would just about be achievable through all the people I have known over 31 years in the RAF. It has staggered me that my donors have doubled that amount with their generosity as the total currently stands close to £13,000, so I have now reset my target to £20,000.

“So many people from the RAF and Wiltshire Constabu-lary remember what a remarkable person Dean was, and they also recognised the outstanding care Dean received from the Prospect Hospice, and what a great charity this is.”

After leaving the Mountain Rescue, Dean joined Wiltshire Constabulary and moved to Swindon while Al, who is about to retire after 31 years, remained with the RAF in Shrivenham.

Al has led more than 15 expeditions around the world over the years, including the RAF’s first ever 677-mile unsupported attempt to reach the Geographic South Pole, an experience which saw him lose his thumbs to frostbite in the minus 35-degree conditions.

But he expects this latest trek will be his most difficult to date.

“I won’t be the first person to walk the full length of this wonderful island, and I’m sure there will be others who will be attempting the walk this summer, but what’s different about my challenge is that I will be completely unaided,” he added. “So I won’t be afforded the luxury of sleeping in a comfortable bed or have the extravagance of electricity and hot showers each night.

“Instead I will be sourcing my food en route and setting up my camp at the end of each day, and cooking my meal on a stove, which I will have carried.”

To sponsor Al go to virginmoneygiving.com/AlSylvester.