A beer-loving man lost an incredible nine stone so that he could fulfill the dying wish of his beloved stepdad. Dean Ward shed the weight so he could climb a mountain in Snowdonia that his stepdad always wished he'd visited.
Once Dean had set his mind on the task he went about overhauling his lifestyle and eating habits. The 49-year-old ditched greasy takeaways and quit drinking for two years.
Not only did he manage to summit Tryfan, in Snowdonia, Dean has since raised £1,600 for charity and has become a mountain regular. He also got to scatter his mother’s ashes – and more of his stepdad’s - off Shell Island, Gwynedd, so they can spend eternity “swimming with dolphins”, North Wales Live reports.
Frank Lloyd, who spent his later years in Colwyn Bay, Conwy, died aged 62 on June 16, 2019, after battling Motor Neurone Disease. “The evening before he passed, he asked me to do one final thing for him,” said Dean, a Flintshire Council plasterer.
“He wanted me to scatter his ashes on Tryfan. “What’s Tryfan?” I asked. “A mountain in the Ogwen Valley,” he said. “Where’s the Ogwen Valley,” I asked. I really didn’t have a clue.
“He’d never actually been up Tryfan. But he’d passed it as a child in the 1960s when going on family holidays from their home in Buckley. Frank, then aged five or six, would be on the back seat squashed between the luggage. Every time they went past Trfyan, his dad would say, “look, it’s Adam and Eve”. It had always stuck in his mind.”
Adam and Eve are the names of two boulders at the summit. Separated by a 1.2m gap, first-time climbers traditionally leap between the pair to be awarded the “freedom of Tryfan”.
Weeks earlier, Dean’s GP had warned him he risked a heart attack if he didn’t lose weight. It took his stepdad’s death to spur him into action. “I lost my dad, my mum and my stepdad within the space of 18 months,” he said. “I was at a low ebb and needed something to focus on.”
He began by tackling Anglesey coastal path (“because it was relatively flat”). When he got down to 20 stone, Dean began walking around Snowdonia’s lakes to familiarise himself with the area. Within 15 months, his weight had plummeted to 17 stone.
“I changed my diet too,” he said. “I stopped eating chips and chocolate. For breakfast, I swapped bacon, sausages and eggs for porridge. I stopped going to the pub and I didn’t have a drink for two years.”
Accompanied by friends, Dean climbed Tryfan on September 12, 2020. A “pinch” of Frank’s ashes were left between Adam and Eve.
The three-hour trip up was the easy part. “It took another three hours to get down,” he said. “Tryfan was voted the UK’s scrambling mountain and coming down took its toll on my joints: my legs were in a right mess with cuts and scratches. I realised then I still needed to lose even more weight.”
Frustrated at having raised just £400 for Frank’s hospice, Dean wanted to widen the appeal. Turning to Facebook, he created the Ogwen Valley Group: it’s since attracted more than 4,000 members and is a noted forum for some of the region’s top mountaineers.
Through the group, he’s run two more fundraisers, for Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue and for McMillan Nurses. In addition, he joins walks organised via the group and now, at a svelte 15 stone, he climbs Snowdonia’s mountains most weekends, and often in mid-week too.
For good measure, Dean has also taken up paddleboarding, kayaking and wild camping: the latter comes in handy when he makes his annual pilgrimage to Adam and Eve to pour Stones bitter – Frank’s favourite tipple – over the spot where his ashes were left.
“The last time I was joined by about 70 wild Snowdonia goats,” chuckled the dad-of-three. “They didn’t shut up all night. After the first hour it stopped being funny.”
Wherever he goes, Dean carries a piece of Frank and his mum, Gladys, with him, in a small jar. The rest of their ashes were sprinkled off Shell Island where they had spent a part of their lives.
“They used to love sailing out from the harbour in a boat and coming across dolphins,” said Dean. “So my mum asked me to go to Shell Island and scatter her and Frank’s ashes when the tide was right. That way, they could swim with the dolphins forever.”
Dean is rightly proud of the way he has transformed his life. He feels fitter than ever and, last weekend, was he even able to tackle the challenge he always shirked.
“When I first started looking at YouTube videos of Snowdonia, Crib Goch on Snowdon was one of the first that always popped up,” he said. Two years ago there was no chance of me ever going over that knife edge, especially as I had a fear of heights.
“So crossing Crib Goch on Saturday was the end of a journey for me – the end of Frank’s story. It meant I can now start a new journey in life, hopefully with lots more adventures.”