One to watch this summer — an expedition dubbed Reaching Lost Mountain is an attempt at a coast-to-coast Pyrenees crossing, powered only by the elements.
One of those adventures, all us sitting in the office on our fifth cup of coffee, shoes off, heads in our hands staring deadpan at a computer screen, dreaming to be up there. Flying. Exploring the blue skies, away from all the politics, corruption and routine.
To run off a cliff and not fall but soar, to feel fear consume your body but instead of crippling you, heighten your senses and elevate your game. This summer a team of 3 will attempt to hike and paraglide from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean. They will combine survival trekking with non-powered flight in what they have called “the future of nomadic travel.”
The team is made up of athletes Rhys Fisher, Fons de Leeuw and Mark Baldwin. With Alice Horwood coordinating the expedition and Josh Horwood capturing it. Their experience collectively makes for a pretty impressive resume, including solo vol-biv trips in the French and Italian Alps, from Berga to Pobla de Segur, from Annecy to Nice and several paragliding competitions. Their latest adventure will see the team cover 450–550km over ten days, kicking off on the 10th of June. If the weather behaves they will fly +300km of it. Then repeat a cycle of “Hike. Fly. Sleep. Repeat”. They hope to cover +100km straight line distance inflight on the good days which would require staying in the air for over five hours at a time.
Weight and pack space are always an issue because they have to take with them everything they need to be self-sufficient. This means carrying and flying with solar chargers, GoPro cameras, GPS emergency trackers, flight instruments, and radios for communication with each other and the ground crew. A tent with down bags, air mattresses, water, camping stoves, and food. Hiking poles, and basic some lifesystems first aid kits. All in all it comes in at over 40 pounds! But when the weather is good, they can fly far in a day, making the going a little easier on the feet!
These guys have tapped into something here and we should all follow their lead and make a conscious effort to live life a little more recklessly.
“That feeling when you are hanging beneath a few kilos of string and fabric, thousands of meters up, and a random vulture flies past you and marks the next thermal which beams you to cloud base…. With modern gear weighing less, the idea of bringing some camping gear and seeing how far you can go over a few days kinda came naturally to the team.” — Mark Baldwin
These ten edits are some of my favourite from the past year. They will make you think. They will make you smile. They will make you so jealous that perhaps you will re-evaluate some things. They may also force you to look on life, the world and the people in it a little differently from now on.
I carried out a series of interviews with people from the outdoor/adventure magazine industry recently to ask them advice on breaking into their world. They agreed to let me post up their reply on this blog to help others in a similar position.
The first is with the Editor of ‘The Surfers Path’ Alex Dick-Read.
1.How did you get into the industry?
Hard to know. When I was eighteen I went to the UK to work in a board factory and from that I met a load of people who, as the years went by, I realized were part of the core of the UK industry. So by the time I was asked to edit a surf magazine I knew a few people. Prior to starting the magazine I was working as a new/features journalist for AP and Reuters, so switching into the surf world again was strange but since I knew a few people, not too hard.
2.Describe your role?
I started the magazine, so my role has been everything from broad outline/concept creation to making tea and everything in between. In general it is all about soliciting, selecting and editing images and stories for each page. There is a lot of writing – even good contributors’ work needs editing simply to fit the page allocations etc. Plus captions, standfirsts, news stories, interviews, editorials, and all the elements within the broad architecture of a magazine. In recent years, website and social media have taken up more and more time. But overall, a huge portion of time is spent corresponding with contributors etc. and up keeping the web.
3. What does your day to day work schedule involve?
Starts with emails and that might not end until lunchtime or beyond. Website and social media stuff is integrated into that because so many emails involve links to films, stories etc that might work well on the website. So email and web stuff can take a lot of the day. If I’m lucky I get to start real editing work – writing, reading, choosing shots etc. – in the afternoon and I’ll do that until about an hour before dark, then go and surf.
4.What skills do you think are required to do your job?
Patience. Quick writing skills. Good communications, including politeness and respect to total strangers. A good eye for images and a good eye for synchronicity where ever it occurs. Sometimes you can be working on two things that seem totally different and suddenly you see a link or a theme that makes absolutely natural partners – perhaps shots on a page or stories you’re preparing for the page, or even parts of a story you’re editing that can unblock a piece and suddenly give it great flow. Things can become more than their component parts added together, if you can spot those lines.
5.Do you think a journalism degree or work experience/internships are more important?
Well, I did a post grad journalism diploma and intern work and they were both invaluable. Intern work is great because you’re in it, you’re meeting real people doing the real work and soon enough you know if it’s for you and if it isn’t. If it is, other people notice and you’re likley to get a leg up. Plus it just gives you real experiences to draw on. Degrees? They’re ok for some important stuff like law, shorthand, media theory etc. but not as essential as the job experience.
6.Best part of the job?
People. Waves. Perks.
7.Worst part of the job?
Low, low pay. Long, long hours. Super shitty, awful employers who treat you like dirt. They don’t surf. They don’t appreciate. All they want is a good bottom line and sometimes you end up fighting because of that.
8.How would you describe the job market for this area of work in the UK?
Is there one? It’s terrible all over. The surf media relies on surf industry support and the surf industry has been laying off hundreds of people and slashing budgets to almost zero. So the knock on effect to media is just brutal. The way to get work is to do good work and get it under the nose of an editor and keep doing it. But expect to be paid very little because that editor hardly has any budget.
9. Any advice for people wanting to break into the industry?
Keep the day job.
10. Does working in an area that you love and was once perhaps your favourite hobby, take some of the magic away from the outdoors, because your surrounded by it all the time.? As in you can no longer use it as an escape? (It’s just something I worry about.)
It works that way, for sure. But to be honest, the experience of surfing – of being in the ocean and becoming actively involved with it’s pulses – is such a visceral and powerful thing that it puts the job stuff into perspective. When you’re submerged in nature like that, the job stuff seems so minor and the here and now is all that matters. 99% of the time the act of surfing feels like a perk and actually makes the work side of it seem sort of … worth it.
Check out the website for more information on the magazine.
A minute with Tom Denniss who has just completed the fastest circumnavigation of the globe on foot.
1.What was your daily routine while en route?
Wake up, breakfast, get dressed, run, finish the day, do the blog and other documentation, shower, dinner and red wine.
2.How do you plan to deal with the inevitable come down of stopping after that being your life for over 20 months?
Not sure – I’ll do the best I can.
3.What made you do it? Why not just keep running marathons and ultras?
It’s a great way to see the world. I am not interested in marathon or ultra races. I’m simply not capable of running them fast enough to be competitive (sprinting is my forte – 400 metre races). The world run was always at a slow and sustainable pace.
4.How did you convince your wife to commit to it as well?
She was keener than me.
6.How many pair of trainers/runners did you go through? 17
7.Was there ever a moment while on course when you felt that you could not do it?
No, although it was difficult at times.
8.How much of your success was dependent on mindset and how much was physical?
9.What did you sleep in each night, tents/houses…?
10. Why did you pick Oxfam as your charity?
I had donated to Oxfam for years, plus they have a history of fund raising events involving running.
11.How was the final day?
Short, but very enjoyable.
12. 26,000 km – 622 marathons. How is your body, especially your feet now?
I feel stronger than ever, especially around the knees and other joints. My feet were the only part that ached a bit by the end of each day, but that’s normal for someone who spends eight hours at a time on their feet.
13. Did you succeed in it being the “Fastest Circumnavigation of the Earth on Foot”?
Yes, although I need to submit my documentation for ratification before it becomes official.
14. How your perspective on life changed as a result of this adventure?
I think I’m pretty much the same, except I now have a fantastic adventure under my belt.
David and Katharine are 13months into running the length of South America. 5000miles through rainforest and mountains to raise both money and awareness for the environment. I got in contact with Dave when he emerged from the rainforest for a brief spell to hear about their amazing story so far.
1.You ran to raise awareness and get people passionate about nature again, do you think it has been working?
Ha, that’s a tough one to start with! I think it depends on what level. Locally, when we stop at a school midway through our running day it is a fantastic opportunity to inspire – it’s easy! We are there with people, we are enthusing about the natural world around us, we have images and video and feathers we find by the road to identify and the feedback is immediate, people are psyched! From afar, who knows?!
People are used to sporting events been used to raise money for cancer or other human-related causes, not wildlife. The publics reaction can depend on class and country, but generally speaking most people are resistant to anything that they see as an attack on their current way of life – it’s the human condition. We are saying, “look out the window, the natural world is utterly amazing”, people are hearing, “these guys are greenies trying to make it more difficult for me to have a big car!”
Also, depending on the media, feedback isn’t immediate, in fact with some forms of media e.g. radio, you never receive it! So its hard to tell.
2.What do people need to do to help?
It’s easy, have an affair with nature! People of any physical condition can do it – go out, be in the real world, be amazed by the complex natural systems that support human life, ask questions, investigate, learn that we are part of nature, not above it! We are passionate that so long as people know more about the natural world’s secrets, there is a chance that we can reverse the damage we are currently inflicting on out planets life support systems.
3.What running experience did you have before this?
We are both keen recreational runners, no more than that, with the odd longer competition under our belt. Kath has ran the 45 mile ‘4 INNS’ race several times. I have enjoyed the Scottish Islands Peaks Race, and Northumberlands Castles and Islands, both sailing/running events, but mainly we run for the fun of being outside in all weather. Nothing better for de-stressing!
4.How are your feet withstanding this?
Really good, I haven’t had a single blister! We have a nice combination of shoes for running with the trailer and running free, plus we go barefoot about 10% of the miles now – its great for training your running style and hardening the feet a little.
5.What distance do you cover on average per day?
Our average running day is now 23miles. We used to find 20 was enough, given the 80kg trailer we run with, and given the fact an injury could end our dream, but now we can smell the finish we are looking to take a few more risks to squeeze a little more out!
6.How do you keep your mind focused and your spirits high after so long on the road?
It’s better not to consider the overall distance remaining – just deal with each shift as it comes, each half hour, each mile, each step if it’s a really tough climb! Each step makes a difference, and we have taken close to 10,000,000. It´s a nice metaphor for the steps people are taking to protect the planet too, 1 in 7bn is daunting, but there is no silver bullet, each small, seemingly insignificant step is making a difference!
7.Any stories of good deeds or amazing people you’ve met along the way?
Many! We are alone a lot, but never far from human kindness. One thing I would say is that the place in which we received the most charity by the roadside; food, drinks, shelter, banter, is Bolivia. What is interesting is that Bolivia is the poorest country in South America!
8.What advantage have the barefoot shoes given you?
They are great. The idea is always to run as naturally as possible at all times. On certain road conditions (or with the trailer!) you simply can not do it with bare feet. The gravel makes you wince or you have road debris, or the asphalt is so hot it sticks to your skin. We slip on the barefoot shoes and we are back on, running lightly with a quick cadence. We change our shoes a lot!
9.Have you came up with an effective way to treat blisters yet?
Yes! Our INOV-8 race socks have basically all but eliminated them. We are not paid-up athletes so are not obliged to say this, but they work. They are single skin socks and with our INOV-8 and VIVOBAREFOOT. I have not had a problem in over 5000miles of running in rain, wind, and snow. Barefoot running probably helps too as it hardens your feet.
10.How have you seen your fitness change?
I have no idea when these calves arrived, but they did! We have improved greatly fitness wise, but still there is never an easy 23-mile day running whilst pulling a heavy trailer, sandwiched between other longer running days!
11.How much food and water do you carry on you?
Good question, it varies wildly. We carry the minimum possible whilst making sure we never go hungry. In the more populated areas that could be 2 days worth, maybe 3kg. On the wild stretches (we have carried food for 21 days)probably 100kg! We eat local food and do not use bizarre packet foods which are expensive and unavailable, and seem to me to just taste of stock cubes.
Water, again depends on the territory. We drink a lot, usually 10L each per day, so that’s 20kg water per day on the trailer when we are in dry areas. Good to remember that dehydration is a major cause of running injuries so not to be messed with. In Chile and here in the rainforest we can carry very little as it always available. In Argentina water was the limiting factor, and at times we carried over 30 litres. We use a LifeSaverSystems water filter to pump and clean wild water where it feels like we need to, but this does take valuable running time (and calories!).
12.You have been running for over twelve months, when is the expected date of completion?
20th October 2013, not a day later!
14. What is the coolest animal you’ve seen on route?
I love Guanacos, it´s like a sexy version of a camel with long eyelashes! Best bird moment? An Amazona Parrot landed on Katharine´s shoulder a few days ago whilst we were running past the rainforest. Sounds silly, but we asked it what it was called and it said “Laura”. It’s true! Mind you, it said Laura to everything, whilst nibbling Katharine’s ear.
15. What are you using to navigate?
Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS watch plus google satellite images. Each charge lasts us two days now, and we can charge it with the PowerMonkey solar panel easily in an hour. It’s very good, but I wouldn´t swim with it on as the seals are going, we are really using our equipment!
16.What are you finding the toughest to cope with?
Living by the roadside – it´s sort of a mix between local celebrity and being a tramp! We try to hide as best we can when we are not running but it can be really tough, not having somewhere to call home.
17.How are you getting on with each other after so long in each others pockets?
Can you imagine it?! We are friends as well as husband and wife, and running partners, but at times we flare up!Sometimes the whole of South America wouldn’t be big enough, and we yell in the wind! Naah, like all relationships we tend to focus our angst on the ones closest (especially given there is nobody else who speaks your language within 5000miles!), especially when hungry and tired, but we are normally too tired to remember what the thing was all about! What normally happens is some wildlife moment or other gets in the way of our mood, and we end up saying ¨wow, what the hell was that?!¨.
18. What’s the best piece of gear you have brought?
INOV-8 wrags! It is a little piece of fabric that we cannot live without! They protect us from the sun, wind, dust, rubs in a myriad of places best left undisclosed!!
Slotted into a Ryanair window seat like a piece of tetris, burnt back against cheap leather, sunburnt thighs chaffing against my denim jeans, particles of skin peeling off my nose and a cracked collarbone tucked awkwardly beneath my skin. Salt and sand fall from everywhere as I squirm and toss to get comfortable. All are souvenirs of my little adventures over the past week. I am heading home, another item ticked off the bucket list, a surfing holiday to Fuerteventura – one of many more to come.
A longboard accident on Day one meant a bumped head, grazed palms and shoulder, a bruised elbow and hip and a popped collarbone joint, which dealt a devastating blow to my plans to improve my surfing. A slap in the face surely but not an end to the holiday and the good times. Once the sport was wrestled from me (when no amount of painkillers would allow me to push my body up on the board) I turned to the people to save my holiday.
Phil in his Speedos, pushing Lisa into the pool, Gill overcoming a lifetime of fears and diving into all these new experiences, drunken adventures, random dancing to reggae music, wipe outs, catching a beauty of a wave, shredding, climbing a volcano, the nights three course feasts, the crowds in the line-up like nothing you would see in the waters of Ireland or Scotland, lending a certain appreciation and pride to those of us who embrace cold water surfing and experience the beautiful loneliness of sitting on your board in the cool waters of the Atlantic and waiting for a wave which you will not have to compete for.
A constant soundtrack pulses to the lifestyle, head out the window of a speeding van, the salty beach hair, the piggy backs, the dance, the 36p cans of beer and bags of ready salted Lays, coca cola with ice, sangria, tapas, outdoor bars, suncream, plasters, the hot Spanish instructor that couldn’t speak a word of English, sitting on the steps of an old stone windmill and watching the sun set, climbing on the surf roof rack on top of a van. The excitement of not really knowing anyone and the joy of getting to know them; the Scottish, the Irish, the German, the Aussie, and the Saudi Arabian, comparing passports, then passport visas, then stamps. No insurance, no fear, off-roading, wetsuits hanging on a line, board wax, longboarding the roads, scabs, cuts and bruises.
With their help I salvaged what could of been a ruined holiday. It is all about outlook it seems. It helps when you are looking at life through the green tinted aviators perched on your nose. Life is good. No man, life is great.
Loretta White along with three others completed an unsupported journey by bike from London, England to Cape Town, South Africa in 2012 to raise awareness of the reality of children who are surviving on the streets of Africa.
1.Did your sponsors provide all the kit?
We were lucky enough to be provided with some of our kit free of charge from our sponsors. Vaude were particularly generous and donated us panniers and tents. The rest of our kit we were able to gain corporate sponsorship to pay for, though we had to haggle hard to get good discounts and keep the cost as cheap as possible.
2.What proved to be the best piece of gear you brought?
My favourite piece of equipment was our tent, Vaude ferret 3, as no matter where we were we could zip ourselves into it at night and have our own little home!
3.How did you decide on your chosen route?
Our route through Africa was decided through a mixture of countries we wanted to visit, spending time near the coast, and where our charity partners had projects we could visit. We decided to take the long way through Europe as an extended training ride leading up to the Middle East and Africa where we could test our equipment and get used to the road without being too far from home.
4.What training did you do beforehand?
All of us were pretty fit already but I wasn’t a cyclist. Before the trip as a group we managed four weekend training rides though these all took us longer than we imagined and inevitably involved a big pub lunch which wasn’t great for an afternoon of riding!
5.How much money did you raise in the end?
In total the whole expedition raised £50,000 which all went to street child charities. These were Street Action, Retrak, Street Child Africa, Railway Children, and Action for Children in Conflict.
6.How long did the expedition take to plan?
Craig had the idea to cycle from London to Cape Town around 7 years before we started the trip though thought this was just a pipe dream. We properly started planning for the trip about two years before we started though most of this planning was getting sponsorship and setting up the charity Cycle Africa.
7.How was it returning to work after taking a year out of it to do this?
For me this has been the hardest thing of the whole expedition as you realise that there is an incredible world out there and that you can do incredible things with your life so that when you come home it is hard to fit back into the 9-5 box. I’m still working on this but don’t think I’ll ever be totally happy just having a normal life again and I’m sure there will be another adventure on the cards!
10.What made you commit to a journey of that scale – 10,000miles?
To be honest I didn’t really think of the miles I just thought of what an amazing achievement it would be to cycle to South Africa and of all those incredible countries we could visit on the way. I also thought about how the bicycle is such a classless way of travelling letting you get closer to local people without looking like a ‘rich tourist’ and travel through villages that you wouldn’t originally have visited.
11.Any plans for future expeditions?
No definite plans yet but watch this space…
12. What were you using to navigate your route, document the journey and upload content online?
We went old school and just used paper maps to plan the route and the advice of local people. We carried an iPad between us which we used to manage our website, upload photos and write blogs etc. Everything could be done off line and then uploaded when we got wifi access in the bigger cities.
13. What was the daily routine on the road?
We would wake up early with the sun around 6-7am. Get ready, pack up, have breakfast and be on the road by 8am. Cycle around 30kms and then stop for a snack, then another 30kms and stop for lunch, then another 20-30kms and find somewhere to pitch our tent, have dinner and chill out.
14.Any stand out moments that made all the pain worthwhile?
Lots but the most stand out moments for me weren’t the huge sights like seeing the pyramids it was the intimate local experiences like camping in the garden of the village chief or sleeping under the stars in the desert in Sudan. Reaching Cape Town was also an incredible high!
15.Did you ever feel like throwing in the towel and going home?
Absolutely!!! I felt like this properly about three times in total. Once at the beginning when I lay in my tent shattered from the cycling thinking I can’t even get through France let alone to Africa. Once when I had just said goodbye to my parents in Kenya and I had dysentery so was feeling pretty miserable. And the final one surprisingly in South Africa as we had made the final country though still had a long way to cycle and I was just feeling really tired.
16.How has life changed since? Has your perspective on how you see the world altered?
Due to lots of family stuff life has had its ups and downs since coming home though it has taught me to make the most of every single minute and to keep an open mind as people and places might just surprise you.
17. How long did it take you to recover after?
Physically it probably took a few months though mentally I still am recovering in that I am still longing the outdoors an the open road.
18.You were the only girl amongst four boys – did you ever feel like you were slowing them down or were you just as strong as them on and off the bike? (I ask this because it’s what I’m afraid of as a female wanting to do these things.)
At the beginning I gained fitness really quickly so didn’t feel like I was slowling people down, though from about Kenya I had a few episodes of illness and after that I felt that I’d reached the peak of my cycling fitness while the guys were still gaining strength. At this point the pressure of pushing myself constantly and feeling slow just wasn’t very enjoyable and so we split up into two groups. I stayed with Craig and we were able to relax again and take it at our pace.
19. What did you look for when choosing spots to wild camp?
At the beginning we looked for idyllic spots next to the Danube river where we could have a fire and wash though in Africa we just looked for places the were pretty close to the road but that we couldn’t be seen easily and could be well hidden. We often asked if we could camp in the compounds of local people’s houses and were only turned down once.
20. Do you know how much the trip ended up costing?
We paid for all our own spending money during the trip and costs on the trip so all in all it probably cost about £7,000 for the year away. I am sure you could do this cheaper but we had a few nice treats along the way and a holiday with my parents in Kenya.
21.Did you book all visas before you left?
We only had two visas before we left – Egypt and Jordan. The rest we got pretty easily either at the border or in the capital city of the country before. Sudan is supposed to be a tricky one to get but we had a letter from a university sponsor endorsing what we we doing and this seemed to work.
22.Is the stereotypical Africa we see in the media true?
It depends on what your stereotype is I suppose! The Africa we experienced though was one of incredible beauty and kindness.