Thirteen challenge participants met in Las Vegas unsure what the next week would hold in store for us. We started off our trip with a Shabbat at Chabbad in Las Vegas, seeing the contrast between the local Jewish life and the sheer folly and extravagance of the Strip. We bonded over Shabbat and then met our tour guides for an initial briefing.

The Challenge kicked off bright and early on Sunday with a trip to Death Valley to walk the salt plains of Badwater Basin. Sadly, the pass from Death Valley was snowed in and so we endured eleven hours in a minibus on our way to Yosemite; we arrived after midnight in the cold and dark, feeling much relief when we reached our tents and got some much needed sleep, though for some it was a rather chilly night.

We awoke the next morning to find ourselves surrounded by overbearing cliffs, forest and waterfalls and were eager to embark on our first trail. This turned out to be an exhausting and intense climb up to Upper Yosemite Falls, a climb of over 800 metres which has us questioning whether we would reach the top of the falls. With the encouragement of our guides we reached the top of the thundering falls and absorbed the magnificent panorama of the mountains and valleys of Yosemite and the plunging waterfalls. We retraced our steps and returned, after getting lost in the unlit campsite, to a well earned supper by the campfire.

The next day involved an equally difficult hike to Nevada Falls, passing through the mist of Vernal Falls and glimpsing a few rainbows in the rain-like spray. The scenery was spectacular as we ascended the falls and crossed the roaring river on our climb. The top of Nevada Falls was like paradise; the vegetation decorated the smooth rock face and the river tumbled over the rocks before dropping over the edge of the cliff. Our descent took us across the mountains before snaking back down to camp and affording us some further views of the falls. We ended our day with another fire-side meal.

To see the pictures from this trip of a lifetime, click – View gallery below.