An aspiring adventurer has earned the chance to go exploring with Bear Grylls after winning an epic national competition in the French mountains.
Alex Woodford, of Harborough, proved her mettle and tenacity over five gruelling challenges to win Land Rover’s first Next Generation Explorer challenge on Monday.
The 22-year-old’s prize is to be mentored by Man vs Wild star explorer Bear Grylls.
The exact nature of her outing with Bear is still to be decided, but Alex hopes it might be a “full-on wilderness survival course”.
Each of the five competition challenges was completed alongside an exploring legend and Alex got to rub shoulders with Sir Ranulph Fiennes - who she now calls ‘Ran’ - Hannah White, Kenton Cool and Eric Loizeau.
“They were all so down to earth and to hear their stories was so inspiring,” said Alex.
The first four tasks took place over 12 hours in Megeve, France, on Saturday with the last event on Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
The opening challenge saw her and Sir Ranulph ride two Land Rovers side-by-side through a slalom course down a hole-ridden slope. Alex’s second-place finish was all the more impressive as she hadn’t driven for 18 months and had never been behind the wheel of a 4x4 before.
Precision and speed were tested in the next task as she drove team member White around a purpose-built course while the sailing adventurer played marksman, shooting a laser gun at targets. Alex nailed the fifth and final shot.
Physical stamina was needed for the third task as Alex and Eric pulled one of Polar explorer Ben Saunders’ sleds in a time-trial.
As night fell, Alex then had to create a fire from scratch and dig her own snow hole to sleep in, which took two hours.
The grand finale was a canoe race across Lake Geneva which saw Sir Ranulph resort to a few shenanigans.
The Harborough woman, who describes herself as ‘ultra competitive’ never finished lower than third in any of the tasks. The exploring legends discussed all the candidates’ efforts before declaring Alex as champion.
“I was stunned to hear I’d won. It’s such a great opportunity,” Alex told the Mail.
The former Robert Smyth, Welland Park and Ridgeway pupil is a biological sciences graduate from Warwick University and is six months into a year-long internship at the British Exploring Society in London.
Alex, who used to work at Fat Face, Wilkinson and Enigma in town, is a natural-born adventurer. As a child she was an avid tree-climber and as a 16-year-old at Robert Smyth was deemed “most likely to be an adventurer”.
She is also a keen power-kiter, enjoys bouldering and is learning aerial circus skills in her spare time. She completed a solo parachute jump while at university.
She said her parents John and Andrea and younger sister Hannah are very proud of her feat.
Alex qualified for the contest due to her budding exploring experiences - a Norwegian Arctic research expedition as a 17-year-old, extensive European and South American travel and a planned expedition to Namibia this summer as a course leader.
Her big goal is to complete a solo trek of the Great Wall of China.
The contest was organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the Land Rover Discovery.