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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Couple trek Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China
The couple raised 5,000 for charity
A couple from north Devon are believed to be the first in the world to have walked the full length of the Great Wall of China unaided.

Tarka L'Herpiniere, 25, and Katie Cooper, 27, from Clayhidon, walked the 3,000 miles (4,800km) in 167 days.

They battled extreme temperatures and suffered illness and exhaustion. Between them, they lost six stone.

The journey took them through sandstone gorges at 9,000ft (2,740 m) with only a rope for safety.

They also trekked down to 7,000ft as they walked through mountains north of Beijing.

The pair braved temperatures between 40C (104F) to -35C (-31F) before reaching the mountains of North Korea at 3,000ft where the wall ends.

The couple started their expedition in the Yumenguan Pass in the Gobi Desert on 1 October last year.

'Unique challenge'

The journey was made even more difficult after a turbulent start when Miss Cooper had to go to hospital after she collapsed during the first week from gastroenteritis and dehydration.

Mr L'Herpiniere had to leave her and run for 10 miles (16km) across the Gobi desert before he was able to flag down a Chinese bus.

Katie suggested it as a joke, and although I'm an experienced expedition leader I had no idea how tough it would be.
Tarka L'Herpiniere

After travelling for 107 days, Miss Cooper had to be admitted to hospital again after suffering spinal compression from the weight of the backpack - she carried on after three day's rest.

Mr L'Herpiniere, who runs expedition company Primal Journey, said: "It was a spectacularly unique challenge - particularly as we were the first people to have ever walked it.

"Katie suggested it as a joke, and although I'm an experienced expedition leader I had no idea how tough it would be.

"But I then started researching it, discovered that no one had ever done it before and found that some of the conditions through the mountains would be pretty horrific."

The expedition raised 5,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to terminally-ill children.

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