Interviews, Mountaineering

Interview with Mountaineer Ed Farrelly

Ed is a 20-year old mountaineer who has climbed some of the biggest peaks in the world, while still managing to pass his exams at university. What can I say, some of us just walk in the light. 😉


1.You say you are an Adventure traveller, what does that entail?

My adventure travelling has been focused mainly around mountaineering. Mountaineering expeditions have taken me well off the beaten track to far flung corners of the earth and have normally involved weird and wonderful modes of transport along the way.

2.How did you get your first sponsorship deal?

It came about after I became the youngest person to climb Baruntse (7129m), Nepal, aged 18. It’s when people realised I was serious about the whole thing, although I must say on the whole I am strongly against the idea of climbing mountains for records!

3.You are only twenty years old, do you study on the side or are you a full time mountaineer?

I study full time at the University of York and fit mountaineering into my holidays of which I have plenty! Most of my recent expeditions have fitted around summer holidays, which is the wrong season for a lot of popular high altitude areas. Weirdly it’s perfect for me because I prefer to be climbing off the tourist trail hence my last expedition to Kyrgyzstan.

4.What does your mother think of your lifestyle?

I think she’s happy that I’m happy, although she does sometimes get anxious before I leave on expedition- that’s to be expected I guess.

5.How did you afford to travel and climb and buy the gear before you got sponsored?

Before I was sponsored I did most of my mountaineering in the UK and only a few trips to the Alps so I kept the cost down. Also during my teens rather than head off to Zante or Ibiza I spent my cash on climbing gear and trips- I guess it’s where your priorities are.


6.Have you climbed solo before or do you mostly go in teams?

I have never been on a mountaineering expedition solo, it’s a totally different challenge to that faced when you’re part of a team. It’s a lot more of a mental game and also far more dangerous. That said I do have my eye on going back to Khan Tengri (7010m- Kyrgyzstan) and attempting it solo but only when I feel ready!

7.Is  fear ever an issue for you?

I often get nerves before a climbing day begins. I think that’s healthy though because it means you realise what you’re doing is serious and not to be taken lightly. I don’t think I’d want to climb with someone who never got anxious, that smells of recklessness.

8. What is the longest you have been out on an expedition?

A couple of months- it wasn’t a mountaineering expedition rather a car race from London to Mongolia followed by the Trans-Siberian railway and then backpacking around Scandinavia. It was awesome!

9.Do you ever feel like you are missing out on the ‘traditional’ student life?

Not really, I fit my expeditions into the holidays and whilst I’m at uni I live pretty much as a student- I drink too much, smoke and don’t do enough exercise. It’s only when I’m in the final few months leading up to an expedition that I really kick into gear.

10.What is it that keeps you going  back to the mountains?

That moment when you unzip the tent look up and think blimey, what an honour it is to be able to here trying to climb that thing.


11. Can you describe the feeling of frostbite for those of us who haven’t had the pleasure?

It’s pretty nasty; there is an intense throbbing as the blood tries to push its way back into the dying tissue. You know that if you could feel a lot of what’s going on in the infected tissue it would be agony but you just can’t- that’s the craziest thing about it.

12. How did you get so confident at public speaking?

I have no idea, I don’t think I am confident to be honest! Like anything it becomes easier with practise, it also helps when you have something to talk about and feel confident that people want to hear what you have to say.

13.Favourite place to climb?

Kyrgyzstan hands down. The unsupported nature of the expeditions, the sheer remoteness and beauty of the place stand it apart from anywhere else I’ve been.

14. Most important piece of equipment?

Probably sunglasses, they pretty much never leave my head and without which would make me snow blind very quickly. Underestimated in the mountaineers gear arsenal.

15.Plans for the next few years on and off the mountains?

Multi-discipline driving expedition from London to Cape Town, I will be climbing/mountaineering and paragliding/skiing/rafting along the way- It is going to be an epic challenge!

Solo expedition to Khan Tengri (7010m, Kyrgyzstan)

Para-alpinist expedition to Ama Dablam (6812m, Nepal)


16. What are the most impressive mountains you have climbed?

I guess I would have to say Khan Tengri (7010m, Kyrgzystan) despite the fact I didn’t summit. The mountain is very technical and the expedition was unsupported. Also Baruntse (7129m) was pretty tough considering my age and relative lack of experience.

17. What brand do you think offers the best quality mountaineering gear?

Hmmm It’s hard to say, it depends what you’re after because everything has a price and usually there is a correlation between the two i.e. the more expensive, the better quality.

18. What does the UK have to offer the mountaineering folk worldwide?

Absolutely loads, Scotland has some of the harshest weather and toughest winter mountaineering in the world. Also a lot of the stuff here is cheap, accessible and beginner friendly. People in general become to worked up about heading off to the Alps when actually they could be better served here.

Follow Ed on Twitter: @edfarrelly or via his website.

Adventure, Interviews

The Winter Racer – Lee Peyton

I sat in Starbucks waiting for Lee Peyton to arrive. I was nervous, who was I but a little girl carrying a Dictaphone that I didn’t know how to use, and pages of questions to ask the endurance racer. What gave me the right to probe him for information, what did he get out of this, his name mentioned on a little blog on the internet? He didn’t even get a free coffee because he beat me to the chase.

It may not of been worth his while to meet me, but he was kind and after a small amount of persistence on my part, he agreed. But I got something out of it, I got to hear his story and now you get to too.

It’s not just his modesty that strikes you when you meet him, it’s his raw and ill disguised ambition. It’s what he has the ability to do on a whim. He organised and ran the Sally Challenge, Epic 2012, Outer Hebrides Sub 60, Arrowhead 135, the national three peaks challenge three time, The Drambuie Pursuit, the Yukon Arctic Ultra, and several marathons.

What Epic 2012 entailed was a 430 mile mixed bike, run and kayak the length of Scotland.  Broken down, the mileage consists of a 140 mile cycle, running the West Highland Way, climbing Ben Nevis and paddling the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness, and a final cycle to John O Groat’s.

The money raised went to Yorkhill Children’s Foundation.The orthopaedic department which deals with cases of limb lengthening and straightening, reconstructive surgery for congenital disabilities, cerebral palsy related conditions and trauma. He did it with two friend’s; Garry Mackay and Greg McEwan.  McEwan hadn’t kayaked before and when asked, Peyton said of himself and Mackay; “We still can’t roll but we can self rescue.”

My impressions: he endures despite injury, he’s walked through the night, he’s hallucinated seeing chickens with sunglasses, the grim reaper, animal prints the size of dinner plates. He lifts weights, he lugs tyres along Gullane beach and all he wants is for people to get outside. Where’s good to train in Scotland I asked; “Anywhere, just get out! A lot of the time it’s just getting out the front door. That’s the hardest part.”

His career in the fire service means he gets annual leave, which in turn allows him to race. It was the fire service that prompted his entry into endurance events. “The fire service culture promotes you to do charity work, so in 2002 – 2003, we ran the Glasgow 10km in firekit and breathing apparatus sets, which combined is the weight of like 20 kilos. Then we did the three peaks challenge in under 24hrs.”

Peyton is a cold weather racer because he says it narrow’s the field as he’s not a runner; “I’m a plodder I can just finish the races, I’m not moving quickly. I did the Yukon race two years ago, where the weather went down to minus forty two, so you have got all these super endurance athletes but if they can’t manage the extremes then it’s no good.” Let the facts speak for themselves; out of the 56 competitors who started the Arrowhead 135 on foot in February 2012 only 28 finished.

He doesn’t talk about fear, only frustration; “Because of the extreme cold the pulk attachment shattered, it was a hard plastic and when I grabbed it with my hand it took heat from my hand. It was cramping, I needed to go stand by the fire and sort it out but to me that is a waste of race time. We were about a mile further on from the checkpoint and I looked at Garry and said I’m in the shitter here, It’s probably the most honest I’ve ever been.  I tried to put a heat pack in my glove, I bit my finger and felt nothing. It’s a bit shit, a bit scary. It all comes down to how well you manage yourself, if you don’t sort the logistics out or forget a glove well then that’s you gone.”

Up next on Peyton’s list is a 150km race in northern Finland in February. One which has never been completed before by someone on foot. “They clear the trails with snowmobiles but by the time the competitors get there, enough snow has fallen to cover them up again.” He is using the Original Mountain Marathon and Glenogle 33 to train for it; “It’s that adrenaline fuelled event that gets you focused again, Like life in the fire brigade, the day to day checks, go to a school, talk to the kids maybe go to an old folks home, do some training, do paperwork and computer work but then you get those peaks where you go to a fire, a traffic collision or a technical rescue, it’s so adrenaline fuelled.”

There’s no mention of possible failure; just excitement and advice;”You can always do that 10 percent more, but it’s your head that has to get you through.” Again, his frustration shines through his words. I attempt to complement all his achievements but he shields it away. “It’s all quite controlled though, because they are races. It’s no different from running the Edinburgh marathon, it’s just a different level but if you’ve trained and you are used to working in those conditions, then it’s just a race. I want to do something a bit wilder without the safety net. Everest was going to be a retirement thing and I’m doing Kilimanjaro next year for kids charity.”

Everyone give’s out about the tendency of writers/journalists for building up someone too much, for making them out to be better than they are. That annoys me because maybe, just maybe they are better than they or you think they are, and I’ve met Lee Peyton and I think he is accomplishing feats that are incredible, so he hasn’t climbed Everest, yet…. but for a seemingly ordinary man with a cool but traditional job, that he manages to do cold weather endurance events and create challenges to raise money for charity on the side. To me, that’s pretty impressive.

Follow Lee on Twitter @leepeyton or via his website Breaking Strain.

Adventure, Interviews

Interview with Videographer and Producer Ash Bhardwaj

Age: 29

Occupation: Videographer and Producer

Location: London

1. You are a producer and presenter of travel and adventure programming. How did you get into the field?

It started when I went backpacking at age eighteen, I kept a diary and updated my friends at home via email (a precursor to blogging).  After uni I was planning on taking my father’s ashes to India. A producer suggested this might make a good documentary.  I wrote the treatment and won development funding from BBC Three and it went from there.

I also make videos for the corporate sector taking the storytelling and production that I have learned in broadcast to tell stories about companies to use in their internal or external communications which includes training and events.

2. Advice for anyone wanting to do the same?

Find a good story, and start producing content even if nobody is paying you for it.  Start doing what you want to be paid for now and someone will pay you for it eventually!  Make videos, write blogs, submit ideas to magazines, develop programme ideas with a production company.

3. You are also a Media Guardian One to Watch for the Edinburgh International Television Festival (MGEITF) – What does this mean?

It does three things: it gives you credibility, gives you some extra training, and makes it much easier to make contacts with senior people in the industry.  To get a place on it you have to be seen as one of the 30 ‘leading lights’ in television production – future heads of channel; development, production.  There is a nomination process followed by a series of applications and selection by a panel.  It’s part of a charity programme funded by the Media Guardian at the Edinburgh Television Festival, where you have special sessions with Heads Of Production, Development and even Heads Of Channel, which no-one else at the festival has, plus there are no journalists in these sessions, so the speakers are much more open and honest.

– Will it open any doors for you?

Yes. It enabled me to meet panellists who I would otherwise not be able to meet and I can use it in introductions as a form of credibility.

4. What are you working on at the moment?

Video production of events, including charity events.  I have just finished a piece about the Royal Marines Association.  I am also possibly working on a great series about education for Channel 4.

5. What can we expect from you in the next few years?

More films about wild locations, possibly a big trip through Africa, some films about skiing, a return to New Zealand, something about polo/gaucho and cowboys and more work in mentoring and education.

6. What piece of work are you most proud of?

The five short films that I made about the soldiers from Walking With The Wounded who went to Everest.

7. Have you got to meet anyone interesting through your profession?

Absolutely, and not just soldiers and royalty.  The most interesting and impressive people are not necessarily famous but people with a certain determination and passion.  Kris Hallenga of Coppafeel has created a campaign about early detection of breast cancer after her own battle with the illness.  A phenomenal woman.

8. What are your hobbies?

Rugby, skiing, hiking, clubbing, reading ,travel, film-making, story-telling.  I am in the process of adding a few more to that list though!

9. What have you done personally adventure wise?

I backpacked through India and Nepal when I was 18 which was quite a challenge.  After a ski season in France, I lived in the South Island of New Zealand which is where I really fell in love with the wilderness. There, I started getting into kayaking, tramping, and horse-riding.  Most recently I went to Mount Everest to film an expedition for Walking With The Wounded and Glenfiddich.

10. Who have you worked for or contributed content to?

  • The Sunday Times Travel Magazine
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • City AM
  • Glow
  • Beyond Limits
  • The Mayfair Magazine
  • Jet International
  • Etihad Inflight.


11. Why have you chosen to put your work up on Vimeo rather than YouTube?

I actually use both.  Vimeo is more “cinematic” and higher quality, it looks more “professional” and is a better place to host a portfolio.  But YouTube loads quicker and is much more searchable,  it’s also easier to embed content from YouTube.  In commercial production, I tend to create YouTube accounts for clients and host their videos there as it is easier for them to use and get the most value from.

12. Have you found it a difficult industry to break into?

Yes.  It is a fairly traditional industry that looks for direct experience, but if you have great ideas, energy and unique experience, that can be circumvented.  There is a lot of competition so you have to stand out not just by what you do and how you do it, but why you do it.

13. What’s the dream job?

I think I’d rather avoid ever getting a job but run a business that allows me to be creative and travel . It is through writing and video production that are taking me in that direction.  Other than that, acting and presenting.  If there were a way to get that tied together with travel, I’d be a very happy man.

14. Are you en route to getting there?

We’ll see. It’s very much stop and start but I have done more now than I had a year ago.

15. Whose YouTube or video accounts do you follow that produce great work?

Al Humphreys does some great stuff.  Dave Cornthwaite is very accessible.  Tim Ferriss has some great tutorials and insights.  Old Spice produce some of the funniest social video’s out there.  I also use YouTube to listen to music recommended by friends.

16. Also what websites or blogs?

The BBC College Of Production is awesome for video production tips.  Their College Of Production Podcast is a must-listen if you are interested.  William Dalrymple talks about writing in a way that you can learn from.  Tim Ferriss’ blog is always useful.  There are a lot of the digital media agencies that I follow to see new creativity in copyediting and video.

17. How did you get from a degree in philosophy to working in journalism and copywriting?

A lot of the skills are transferable. I learned by going through lots of information to find facts and tidbits, then re-writing and analysing  as well as finding more effective ways to say things.  For copywriting you need to have a decent vocabulary and be able to put yourself into the mind of a reader. It’s more targeted and character-driven than journalism.  Like all things, it’s about practice.

18. Are your skills in video and writing self-taught or did you take a course?

Largely self-taught.  I think storytelling is the key element, writing and video are just the media that I work in.  Most editing tools are easy to work with, but there are plenty of free courses and online video tutorials which I use to learn.  I have done two directing and camerawork courses at 3 days each, which have been more than worthwhile.  As for writing , the key is to read a lot.  Submit lots to magazines and listen to your sub-editors!

19. Any advice for pitching ideas on documentary’s etc. to media companies?

Figure out what channels would be interested in your idea.  That is down to your research, but it’s all on channel websites.  Think about the idea from an audience perspective, not just because you are interested in it.  Then take it to a production company with a track record in that area.  But to be taken seriously, you would have to have unique access to a subject, specialist technology or specialist knowledge.

20. How do you come up with ideas for your next project?

  • Reading
  • Talking to everyone I can
  • Thinking of how different ideas and combinations could come together
  • Going to talks, presentations and exhibitions


21 .Where is the coolest destination you’ve been to?

New Zealand –  standing on the point looking out over the Matakitaki Valley and Mount Aspiring on the closing day of Treble Cone ski season in 2007.

22. What is the coolest thing you have ever done?

Probably hiking to Everest Base Camp.  I have done 6 ski seasons, but the landscape and immensity of the Himalaya utterly took my breath away.  It was a far more challenging and cultural experience than I anticipated because of the expedition company we went with. We stayed in lodges that had far fewer Western tourists, allowing us to get to know the Sherpa better.   I carried by father’s ashes to scatter them there making it an incredibly spiritual journey.

23. What brand of equipment do you use most often?

None in particular.  We used Helly Hansen for the Walking With The Wounded expedition.  My skis are Dynastar or Volkl.  My computer is a Mac, my boots are Meindl.  Whatever has the best recommendation in that particular field, but I find them all much of a muchness.  Although my new red Rab waterproof is awesome.

24. What make is your camcorder?


25. What is the most vital piece of equipment to carry with you while working?

A notebook and pen!  Or an iPhone, the video tool allows you to capture anything anywhere and make short films of everything.

Follow Ash on Twitter @AshBhardwaj

Adventure, Mountaineering

Interview with Mountain Guide and Mountaineering Instructor James Thacker:

1.What age were you when you started climbing mountains?

I first started walking with my parents when we moved to Derbyshire in my early teens.  We spent most weekends exploring the moors of the Peak District and later climbing on the grit-stone edges.  My parents despite being active weren’t walkers so we started together really, learning to navigate and look after ourselves on the hill.

-What was the first mountain you climbed?

Most likely Kinder Scout in Derbyshire, but the ones I most vividly remember are Tryfan in North Wales and Ben Nevis in the Highlands.  Tryfan was particularly exciting as it involved a lengthy scramble up the north ridge and I had never experienced anything like that before.  Ben Nevis I also remember as we turned back from fairly close to the summit in bad weather, we were worried about the large cliffs of the north face in bad visibility.  Turning round was a good learning experience an something that might be essential on any mountain.

Mont Blanc du Tacul

2.What are the most impressive mountains you have climbed?

Argh, hit me with a difficult question there.  This is a tricky, I guess for me I like the variety so it’s nice to climb summits in Derbyshire, remote Scottish Munros and peaks in the European Alps.  The ‘Steeple’ in the Lemon Mountains of East Greenland stands out as one of my best achievements, it’s fairly low and technically relatively easy by modern standards but is very remote.  I climbed this route in 2000 on an expedition to Greenland with some friends, all in their 20’s at the time, making a number of first ascents including the Steeple which had been attempted previously by Chris Bonington.  22 hours after starting we were back at our skis having climbed a fantastic icy couloir line aided by the “midnight sun” of the Arctic Circle.  Some seven or eight years later I went on to climb the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland with Nick Wallis, a route with a considerable reputation and standing out as a definite high point for me.  Firstly, because of the route and secondly getting to share it with Nick – we had a great time and everything went well which was great as we had bumped into each other in Chamonix randomly.  It just felt right!

3.Any good stories of danger to share with us?

By choosing to visit the mountains we all expose ourselves to greater risk that is always present.  Certainly for me part of the appeal of climbing is trying to minimise this risk as much as possible.  Being adequately prepared, checking the weather and avalanche forecasts, choosing the right route and partner are all really important.  But inevitably some things are out of your control, or sometimes you just overstep the mark.  Getting avalanched in Greenland, was a massive learning experience, nearly getting hit by a collapsing ice fall in France meant I learned a bit more…

4.Why did you go into mountain guiding?

I always wanted to be a fighter pilot to be honest!  Having got as far as doing my aircrew selection for the Royal Air Force, I realised that the shortest contract I could sign up for was eighteen years and I was eighteen at the time.  To start such a career at the time just seemed inconceivable so I chose to go to University to study Geology instead.  Going to University in Sheffield I inevitably met some really keen climbers and decided pretty soon that I wanted to climb professionally.  As a teenager I had been on a climbing course at my local outdoor centre, the course being run by a British Mountain Guide – this was a really positive experience and the first time that I realised that there were people out there who could take you to amazing places or reach elusive summits.  

5.Whats next on the list to climb?

Today I am checking the weather forecast to see if I can climb Mont Blanc over the weekend.  I then have a week with a friend and regular client Martin, we are yet to decide on exactly where to go – but we could go anywhere and thats the beauty in guiding with a person you know well.  Later in the year I am off to Ama Dablam in Nepal.

6.What needs to be done to save our mountains of the world from problems such as litter, etc.?

As individuals I think we just need to be a low impact as possible when visiting the mountains.  That might mean taking your litter home or making sure that you employ local porters and kit them out properly at the other end of the scale.  The danger is that people fail to even give it some thought.

Abseiling on Creag Meagaidh

7.How many times a week do you get out yourself on the climbs or are you mostly a man of the office now?

I am better at climbing mountains than sending emails, so I am usually out working whether it be in Derbyshire, Scotland or here in the Alps.

8. What are the most popular climbs your company offers?

Most of my work is done at fairly low ratios (i.e. one or two people) and is pretty flexible in it’s nature.  As a result I get to go to lots of different places and do different things.  Of course some climbs, summits or itineraries are more popular than others so I often find myself on Ben Nevis winter climbing, on Mont Blanc or in the Swiss Valais for example.  This year I have already got some requests to go Ice Climbing in Norway, rock climbing in the Lofoten Islands and mountaineering in Nepal…

9.Is there a particular big or difficult climb that you really want to do in your lifetime?

I have always wanted to climb the six classic North Faces of the Alps: The Eiger, Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses, Cima Grande de Laverado, Petite Dru and Piz Badile.  I have done four of the six so the remaining two i.e. Colton/MacIntyre on the Grandes Jorasses and the Schmidt Route on the Matterhorn.  The Colton/MacIntyre was climbed in 1976 by British alpinists Nick Colton and Alex MacIntyre and remains a classic and highly saught after prize today.  By chance I bumped into Nick Colton the other day and was dying to ask him (again) about the story of the first ascent.

10. What do you bring with you on a long climb?

On a big route, quite simply as little as possible.  The lightest equipment is the stuff you left behind.  On big alpine routes there are a few things that always go with me, the first is some abseil tat (i.e. cord) and a knife incase I need to retreat.  The second is a MacDonalds straw – sometimes these can be really useful for collecting melting snow which saves on the amount of gas you might need to carry.

11.What brand do you think offers the best quality mountaineering gear?

Well I have been supported by Haglöfs and Edelrid for a while now, both of whom make very good clothing and equipment which I would now find difficult to be without.  The reality now is that the mountaineering market is so competitive that bad equipment or brands just don’t flourish or even survive.  The result is that we have so much good gear available now to make our lives easier (or more comfortable) on the mountain.  I’m glad to have been a small part of that by providing product feedback for Haglöfs and Edelrid.

12.What does the UK have to offer the mountaineering folk worldwide?

The UK has a great mountaineering pedigree.  We are used to putting up with bad weather and making the most of it, and sometimes just toughing it out a bit with a slow and stready approach.  That results in British alpinists having a really good expedition record in the greater ranges but also an ability to miss the telephriques in the alps and get benighted!  The British Mountaineering Council run a popular Winter Climbing International Meet in Scotland every two years and climbers from around the world are always amazed at the Scottish weather and the climbing.

13.Its a pricey sport; how long did it take you to build up equipment stocks when you first started?

It can be expensive, but so are golf clubs, paragliders etc!  One of the best things about climbing is that you can participate at different levels.  I started out bouldering and soloing on Derbyshire outcrops with a chalk bag and a pair of rockshoes (now probably available for £120) max.  Other kit can then be built up as you go along, and or be split with a climbing partner.

14.Did you ever have any accidents while out on a climb?

No yet! But I did badly break my leg skiing.  

15. What is the average age group of your clients?

I have worked with everybody from 12 years – 65+ and age isn’t a barrier to climbing really if it’s your thing.  Most clients are 35-50 I would guess.

Mont Blanc de Cheilon

16. Is fear still a factor for you after so many years experience?

Fear, yes definitely.  Ultimately, fear is what keeps us safe.  I think you become better at managing it and deciding whether it is rational or irrational and then getting on with the task in hand.

Check out Jame’s website and Twitter @jamesthacker.


Interview with Adventurer Dave Cornthwaite

1.Do you have any regrets on the path your life took?

What an opener! I don’t think you can do anything that will result in true regret without being aware of it at the time you made the decision, so if you chose to have regret you chose to live with it. I’m pretty happy with where I am, that’s the main thing.

2.What do you think your best and worst qualities are?
I’m a positive chap and I enjoy spreading the smiles around. Worst qualities? I probably enjoy my life so much that when I talk about how it’s possible it could come across as a bit of preaching. And I’m genetically geared to test the boundaries of everything, everything! I’d imagine that could become annoying sometimes!

3.When it comes to Adventures , do you have a line that you won’t cross (certain things you won’t try)?
I won’t do anything that would have a high chance of fatality. I adventure to live, not to die.

4.Is there a reason why so many of your adventures are based in America lately?
There is. I have a career plan geared around making a living from the stories my journeys generate, either through books or speaking, or perhaps film too. My first two adventures were in Australia, the last few have been in or touched the USA, after my Missouri swim I’ll move on to somewhere else having established relationships, sponsors and a speaking reputation in the States.

5. Did you learn anything in university that has proved useful to you now?
If I did, I can’t remember it!

6.Does it all get a whole lot easier after the first expedition?
It does. And then after the 2nd, and the 3rd. It’s never easy, there’s always a battle, but if you stick to your guns the accumulated experience, contacts, relationships and ability naturally makes the whole process a bit slicker. It’s rewarding for me now looking back at how difficult it was to put my first couple of projects together, that it has become easier is testament to the power of looking after relationships and honouring the promises I made back then.

7.Did you not ever get scared  sleeping in a tent alone in the middle of nowhere?
There was a night on the Mississippi when a racoon really had it in for me and was imitating a very angry bear, but no, I love being in the middle of nowhere by myself, liberating.

8.Rank your exhibitions from easiest to hardest. 1-been the easiest to complete, 10 – been the most difficult.
Wow, cool question, never done this before:
1 – Sail Mexico to Hawaii
2 – SUP Lake Geneva
3 – SUP Bath2London
4 – SUP Wolf River
5 – Kayak Murray River
6 – Tandem Vancouver to Vegas
7 – Skateboard John O’Groats to Lands End
8 – SUP Mississippi River
9 – Skateboard Australia
10 – Bikecar Memphis to Miami

9.Are you losing your accent the more you travel or is it getting stronger?
I’m not sure I ever had an accent. I’m super fickle with my voice, now and then I’ll break into an Aussie twang if I’m feeling tired. Basically, I just accidentally copy everyone I speak to. Wuite embarrasing.

10. What stays the same in your backpack for all your expeditions?
MacBook Pro. Powergorilla. Passport.

11.Do you ever get recognised/ approached in the street (like a celebrity). What’s that like?
Very, very rarely. When I was doing the BoardFree project I had a very recognisable skateboard, but people would come up and say ‘there’s a guy skating across Australia on one of those.’ I was just like, ‘really? How cool!’

12.How long did it take to plan your first ever expedition?
13 months, between stepping onto a skateboard for the first time and setting off on John O’Groats to Lands End. It didn’t need to take that long, but I was planning for Australia during that time as well and at the beginning it can take a bit of time to get your head around crossing over into a non-comfort zone.

-On average how long does it take you to plan one now?
About 3-6 weeks.

13.How important are the sponsors to the success of an expedition?
Massively. I’ve never had anyone write me a big cheque to do a journey so I rely on new and old sponsors to support me with gear, which is always the most costly part of an exped. Without their support I’d be paddling, skating and swimming naked, which wouldn’t be fair on anyone. Big lesson here though: look after your sponsors, always!

14. What time do you go to bed at and what time do you get up at?
I sleep around 1am and am up between 7 and 8 each morning when I’m out of expedition. During a journey I live with the sun.

15.How do you come up with your ideas for expeditions?
They tend to just appear. I won’t do a journey for the sake of exposure or ticking another item off my list, I need to feel it. These things just fit into place.

16.How important is social media in your line  of work?
Most important part of it. I’m in love with the creative storytelling side of adventure. New things happen everyday so there’s unlimited material, and with so many mediums and ways to share these stories I’m in heaven.

17.Have you ever had to deal with uncomfortable/potentially dangerous situations?
Yes. But I’m careful, I prepare well and am relatively cautious so I don’t stare death in the face everyday (unless I’m riding a Bikecar across America)

18. How do you personally, market yourself to a potential sponsor and the outside world?
I’m just me. It’s important to be honest and open, and human. Some people think these endurance events are only achievable if you’re a true athlete but I’m not, I just love life, appreciate keeping fit and I just happen to have a stubborn streak that takes over when my body is angry with me. We’re all unique so if we be ourselves instead of worrying about what people think of us then we have a unique brand, if we want.

19.How are the book sales going?
Well, thanks!

20.What’s next on the cards after the Missouri swim?
I’m tired! I’ve done four expeditions in the last 13 months, so after the Missouri I’m going to take 6 months off and write a few books. Stories bursting to come out.

21.Do you ever get tired of repeating yourself/ answering the same questions for all the different media interviews?
Nope, if this is as bad as it gets then I’m perfectly happy!

22.Is there a downside to your lifestyle?
It depends how you look at it. It’s taken about 5 years to get to the point where I stop dreaming about all the things we think we’re supposed to have, like a house and a car and a bunch of stuff and a big TV. For me I need to do what I love and I can’t do that by living your average, stable lifestyle with a steady job and income. I’d be miserable doing that, I was! I need to be on the move, so compromise everything I grew up thinking I needed. For a few years there that was unsettling, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

23.Do you ever doubt yourself?
Rarely. I’m still a little self conscious sometimes, as a hark back to a fairly unhappy time at school, but I know who I am and what I’m capable of and nothing will stop me giving life a damn good crack.

24. How do you keep the spirits high during an expedition?
I think everything is ridiculous. I’m ridiculous. The way we choose to live is ridiculous. My line of work is utterly ridiculous. It keeps me laughing.

Bikecar Expedition:

1.Any funny stories from the bikecar expedition?
The day after I got hit by a speeding car I was pedalling into 35mph headwinds and then all of a sudden my seat fell off. It just fell off, and I was on it. It was an office chair that had been bolted onto the Bikecar chassis. I replaced it was a $12 beach chair from Walgreens. Check out the video –

2.What was swimming with the Manatees like?
I loved it. Gorgeous, friendly, huggy creatures. Imagine crossing a mermaid with an elephant then snorkelling with it. Glorious.

3.How many kms/miles did you cover a day?
On average 45.5 miles. Shortest day 17.2miles. Longest 59.2 miles. On a Bikecar weighing in at a ¼ tonne.

4.Where did you sleep every night?
I camped most nights in my hammock. Now and then I was taken in by a friendly stranger.

5.How long did it take your legs to adjust? (considering you didn’t do much training for it)
I didn’t do ANY training for it, I’d been sat on a sailboat for three weeks beforehand and hadn’t pedalled anything for a year leading up to the journey. The first days were tough over the hills of Mississippi and Alabama, but after 5 or 6 days I was nice and conditioned, just in time for Florida, one of the flattest places in the world!

6.What did you do to keep things interesting while en route?
I didn’t really need to try hard. This is America. I love it. If they weren’t trying to run me over I was biking through cities that are effectively theme parks. Shopping miles have giant sharks with their mouths as the doorway. You can rent golf buggies to drive next door. Their cars are bigger than our houses. It was always interesting!

7.Did you learn anything new about America or Americans?
I despaired everyday at the driving. It was hard to take. 700 roadside memorials in 1000 miles tells the story. Heartbreaking, bad, lethal habits.

8.Did you become a self taught bike mechanic?
Ha. I make no secret of the fact that I’m mechanically retarded. Unbelievably in 2400 miles on a tandem and a Bikecar, I’ve not had a puncture, only one chain has fallen off, and the hardest thing I’ve had to do was affix a beach chair to the Bikecar with a couple of bolts. I think they’re called bolts, at least…

9.What did you eat day to day and where did you get it from?
The beauty of travelling 1000 miles on a Bikecar that weighs more than twenty bicycles is that whatever you eat you’ll burn off. I snacked incessantly, feasted on Bugers and Waffle House breakfasts and gas station hotdogs. Problem with endurance pedalling is that while there’s no shortage of places to buy food, it’s usually greasy, unhealthy and comes with slight risk of disease.

10.Did you get to meet many new people?
Oh my goodness, yes! I didn’t pass a person without them questioning the contraption I seemed to be having fun on. Hundreds of new friends, I love travelling!

11.Tell me about getting hit by the car?
4 hours out of Memphis at the start of the journey, I was pedalling with my friend Rod Wellington, the Canadian Adventurer. My friend Dale decided to shadow us in his van for the day because Memphis traffic is notorious. We’d covered about 18.5 miles when there was this almightly screeching of brakes and tyres. Sounded like someone mourning death. I held the wheel tight, braced myself and expected an impact, which came. I would have thought our support van was struck from behind which them subsequently hit us, but actually the woman driving had missed the van and trailer, texting is silly when driving, swerved, lost control, hit the van on the side, spun and hit the Bikecar and my seat when going backwards. We were bounced down a verge and into a corn field. So lucky, so so lucky.

12. What’s the longest you went without a shower?
5 days. Rank.


SUP Wolf River Descent

  1. Spill the beans on that….
    On my way down the Mississippi River last year I met an amazing crew of people in Memphis. This April some of them decided to descend the Wolf River, which runs 105 miles through swamp and back-country before dropping into the Mississippi River in Memphis. Nobody have ever gone the full length in one go, certainly not by Stand Up Paddleboard, mainly because of the swamps and copious amounts of lethal snakes.

It was just a cool challenge. It was an obstacle course. Trees across the river every few metres, beaver dams, cypress knees, snakes everywhere. Good people. Camping on the banks. Loved it. Check the video out:


Missouri Swim

1. How do you plot distance and direction while swimming in a river?
Direction is easy, you just go downstream. There are river charts for most navigable waterways which indicates distances, I’ll be swimming pretty much dead on 1000 miles from Chamberlain, South Dakota to St Louis, Missouri.

2.Who is a part of your team?
I wanted to make some noise with this one so opened up applications to anyone who wanted an adventure. I got a great crew of 6 down from over 50 applicants. Everyone has a role to play, whether it’s social media or blogging, organising camp, fundraising, photographing, filming, physio, medic.

3.Are there any potential consequences of swimming in a river that polluted?
Illness, death, the usual. I’ll make sure I’ve covered, all jabs done etc. Main lesson is don’t swallow the water!

4.What training have you done?
Not much swimming, to be fair, I don’t have time! It’s a busy business organising an expedition but I’m about to head to Cornwall for 9 days of training in the sea, and as with all expeditions I’ll take it nice and easy at the beginning until I’m properly conditioned.

5.When do you depart?
The swim begins on 10th August and should run for 50 days.

6.Any plans for stops along the way?
We’ll stop at every town en route and organise clean-ups and fundraising parties.

7.How good a swimmer are you?
I do a fine doggy paddle.

8.How are you going to video this one?
As with all of my trips, there will be GoPros and a nice raw feeling representing the expedition through YouTube episodes.

9.Target finish time?
1st October.

10. What wetsuit do you have?
An Orca 3.8, the same suit worn by Martin Strel on the Amazon and David Walliams down the Thames. In fact, I’ll have four suits, decreasing in size as I lose weight down the river!

11. Are you excited?
Like never before.

Follow the trip via @DaveCorn and


My Journey

The Traditional Life

I currently sit at a crossroads. Sitting as opposed to standing because I have a pretty big decision to make. One which requires a seat. You have all been there. Two options at my feet. To follow the road my parents and countless others took before me;  university, job, house, marriage, kids or the latter, to forge my own way with no plan except to get out and explore the world, figuring out the direction as I go. But something which I cannot pinpoint has stopped me choosing thus far. However, If I continue to ignore this feeling that is pushing me to claw my way out of my comfort zone I fear I will never be happy knowing that I folded?

I cannot fairly place one person on a podium when the audience is filled with similarly achieved individuals. But in my life, one guy stood on his own and changed the path that I was hurtling down. You may have already heard of him, his name is Dave Cornthwaite. He gave me the option of a crossroads, the one which I now sit. Usually people don’t stop to think about the line they are following, they just go with it. I have stopped and I am questioning it. At first I wrote about incredible people like Dave to fill a void- so as I could phase out the fact that I am not out there doing these things myself  but from here on in I will walk or run or kayak the path I have been preaching my whole life.

Sailer, Kayaker, Skateboarder, Stand up Paddleboarder, bikecar cyclist, sleeps 6 hours a night Adventurer extraordinare Dave Cornthwaite set me free with the lines; “It’s taken about 5 years to get to the point where I stop dreaming about all the things we think we’re supposed to have like a house and a car and a bunch of stuff and a big TV. For me I need to do what I love and I can’t do that by living your average, stable lifestyle with a steady job and income. I’d be miserable doing that, I was! I need to be on the move, so compromise everything I grew up thinking I needed. For a few years there that was unsettling, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

For the next generation of Adventurers climbing up the ranks aiming to build on what past explorers have achieved. Those who want to beat their records and explore what they have not yet discovered. This is the How to Guide built around what Dave Cornthwaite has taught me:

  • The first is a welcome fact; it all becomes a whole lot easier after the first expedition -“It’s never easy, there’s always a battle but if you stick to your guns the accumulated experience, contacts, relationships and ability naturally makes the whole process a bit slicker.”The first ever expeditions he went on (Longboard Australia) took 13 months to plan. Rather reassuringly it now takes Dave about 3-6 weeks to whip one up.
  • His essential items to pack –  MacBook Pro, Powergorilla and Passport.
  • A note on sponsors; they play a huge role –  “I’ve never had anyone write me a big cheque to do a journey so I rely on new and old sponsors to support me with gear, which is always the most costly part of an expedition. Without their support I’d be paddling, skating and swimming naked, which wouldn’t be fair on anyone. Big lesson here though: look after your sponsors, always!”
  • Social media is the most important part of it – “I’m in love with the creative storytelling side of adventure. New things happen every day so there’s unlimited material, and with so many mediums and ways to share these stories I’m in heaven.”
  • You will need to market yourself to a potential sponsor and the outside world –  “I’m just me. It’s important to be honest and open, and human. Some people think these endurance events are only achievable if you’re a true athlete but I’m not, I just love life, appreciate keeping fit and I just happen to have a stubborn streak that takes over when my body is angry with me. We’re all unique so if we be ourselves instead of worrying about what people think of us then we have a unique brand, if we want.”

Everything stated above form’s the backbone of an expedition but the real pull lies in the raw tales of his conquests.

Dave recently travelled via bikecar from Memphis to Miami. He covered on average 45.5 miles per day on a vehicle that weighed more than twenty bikes, slept on his hammock by night, swam with Manatees, got knocked off the road by an oncoming vehicle, ate fried food, didn’t shower for 5 days at one stage, ate more fried food and met hundreds of new people with their own stories to tell.

In the days just before the bikecar expedition, Dave descended the Wolf River in Memphis on a Stand Up Paddleboard. The river runs 105 miles through swamp and back-country before dropping into the Mississippi River in Memphis.” Nobody have ever gone the full length in one because of the swamps and copious amounts of lethal snakes .It was just a cool challenge. It was an obstacle course. Trees across the river every few metres, beaver dams, cypress knees, snakes everywhere. Good people. Camping on the banks. Loved it.”

And now, come August 10th he will pull on his Orca 3.8 wetsuit and swim 1000miles of the Missouri River from Chamberlain, South Dakota to St Louis, Missouri. The crew of 6 will voyage for 50 days. Dave himself has, as always practically zero training done, referring to his swimming abilities as; “a fine doggy paddle”

Final question Dave; are you excited? His response; “Like never before.”

Me = Sold.

Decision made.


Follow the trip via @DaveCorn and

Follow @orlaomuiri

Adventure, Interviews, Mountaineering, Rowing

The Ultimate Trilogy – Interview with Margaret Bowling

“In 2013 four of the world’s most experienced female adventurers take on the Ultimate Trilogy of modern day exploration and adventure. 2000km of wilderness terrain covered in 10 weeks by human power: skiing, rowing, walking, climbing.”

Meet one of the team Margaret Bowling.

1.It is an all female expedition. Was this a conscious decision or just something that happened?

It was a conscious decision. I did my first ocean row with another woman. Since then I have been on mixed teams and worked with some pretty capable men, who I had become overly reliant on. After so many things went wrong on my first trip (19 major rudder repairs, electrical faults, broken watermaker, and much more) I knew I could deal with pretty much anything out in the field but I’d become lazy. I had slipped into patterns that are so familiar in our culture – always asking the guys to “just fix this for me” or “just carry that for me”. So this expedition is an opportunity to be the strong self-reliant woman that I know I am.

2.How do you think females are progressing in the field of adventure these days?

We may be in the minority but there are some big advantages to being a woman in the field of adventure. It’s easier to get sponsorship and the press are often much more interested in your story. Again I think this is cultural. I meet women every day who are capable of doing what I do. We just don’t live in a society where they are encouraged to give it a go. So when women do give it a go, it catches people’s attention.

3.How do you all know each other?

Tara and I met at the start of the 2007 Atlantic Rowing Race and have been hoping to do a row together ever since. Linda is one of my heroes so I aimed high and asked her to join us. We then needed a mountaineer to complete the team but nearly all of my contacts are ocean rowers or polar explorers so I came up with a shortlist of female mountaineers who had either done the 7 summits or spoke Spanish and sent out a cold call email inviting them to join us. And that’s how we found Cathy.

4. What does your training consist of for each section of the journey?

The main thing is to develop muscle memory in the disciplines I’m not familiar with. I can get in a boat and row without any problems so my focus is on climbing stairs and hills wearing a pack and pulling tyres along the beach. And of course general fitness is key. I work best with small training goals so have just entered the City2Surf here in Sydney.

5. In the team you all have a specialty!

  • Linda Beilharz  (AUS): Polar traveller – 1st Australian woman to ski to both South and North Poles.
  • Margaret Bowling (AUS): Ocean rower – 1st Australian woman to row an ocean (Atlantic) and the first Australian to row an ocean twice.
  • Cathy O’Dowd (ZA/AND): High-altitude mountaineer – 1st African to climb Everest. 1st woman in the world to climb Everest from both sides.
  • Tara Remington (USA/NZ): Ocean rower— World record holder for fastest all-women Atlantic crossing, east to west, with a four-person crew.

How do you think this will help the team?

It will help us immensely. Because we’re all specialists in our own disciplines we each bring a level of knowledge to the leg we’re leading which would be hard to find anywhere else. For me that’s what makes this an Ultimate adventure.

6.  There will be a lot of Expedition firsts in this journey:

  • 1st team to do a multi-terrain traverse of this nature in Chile
  • 1st all-female team to cross the Northern Patagonian Ice Cap
  • 1st team to attempt a modern-day ocean rowing expedition in South America
  • 1st women to do a sea to summit ascent of Aconcagua

Are you doing it so as to achieve these firsts or why are you doing it?

World records weren’t something I was thinking about until we put together our website and promotional material. My focus was always on putting together a cracking squad of female explorers and creating the Ultimate team.

7.You will embark in late December 2012 and return in  early March 2013, On average you will spend ten weeks completing the expedition. That is a fair chunk of time, how do you keep morale and enthusiasm up when going on long adventures such as this?

With difficulty. But our ability to manage the stresses and stay focussed is one of the things that really excites me about working with a team of such experienced women. With every expedition you do, your resilience improves so I expect fewer blow ups and dark moments than I’ve had when I’ve been with expedition novices.

8.What will you be packing?

EVERYTHING. We have to prepare for 3 legs which all have very different requirements so this is going to be one monster packing job and each leg has to be packed and carefully planned in advance. It’s lucky my mind works like a tetris game.

9.What will you be eating?

Freeze dried meals most of the way and lots of high protein snacks like salamis, chocolate and peanuts.

10.How will you navigate?

Compass, maps and handheld GPS devices are our main tools.

11.How did you come up with the idea?

I was working on a multidisciplinary endurance event called the Trip to Remember which gave me the idea to do an ultimate expedition trip that incorporated the big 3 disciplines of modern day exploration and adventure. I then spent a lot of time trawling through maps of the world to find the perfect location.

12.Why the charities you picked and why pick one’s based in different countries?

We’re doing this expedition for largely personal reasons and not ‘for charity’. Although we are focusing on the Charlotte Lucy Trust, the Wilderness Society and the Wilderness Foundation (who we each have longstanding affiliations with) we hope that by sharing our love for wilderness we will inspire people to either donate to or campaign for causes everywhere that embody our ethos of women and wilderness.

13.It is a physically demanding expedition, how will you keep your body in good condition?

On the ice any injuries we get won’t heal and on the water they will rot so preventing them is out top priority. And that is done by making sure we’ve done our research, have the right gear, are in great physical shape before we go and monitor any niggles and don’t let them turn into severe problems. Keeping hydrated and eating enough is also very important so we’ll be monitoring our daily calorie and fluid intake very carefully. We were quite concerned about muscle wastage and sea legs after the boat leg. Attempting to set off with big packs in that state is a no go so we’ll be fast packing for the walk from the port at Valparaiso to the base of Aconcagua and relying on the support team to carry the bulk of our gear.

14. How do you set a time limit for completion of a journey like this?

Sorry – pass. Not really relevant because we don’t have one.

15.Is there a level of fear in undertaking an expedition of this scale?

Yes, a massive one! I am scared shitless. I’m reliant on the skills and experience of my team mates to get me through 2 out of 3 legs so I have to be prepared to trust them 100% and let them lead those legs.

16.What kind of tent do you have to sleep in?

We’ll be taking Hillebergs. They’re the best tents on the market and I wouldn’t take anything else on an expedition like this.

Adventure, Interviews

Interview: Mississippi Challenge 2013

In May 2013 Sam Norman, Matt Fraser and Harry Hogg will begin their 2320mile journey down the length of the Mississippi river by kayak in aid of Help for Heroes.

1. Why did you pick the Mississippi?

Matt: We actually looked at a few of the world’s great rivers before we settled on the Mississippi. The Yangtze and the Nile were on our original research list but they proved too dangerous, required varied types of kayak, had overzealous or militant police forces and were beyond our logistical and paddling ability. The Mississippi however ticked every box an epic 2400km in length but on this river we would be considerably less likely to fail and or seriously injure ourselves. This being our first experience of real expedition as well going to an English speaking country and paddling along a well inhabited river seemed like good ideas.

2. Why did you pick kayaking?

Matt: Personally rivers fascinate me; I’m a geography lover (doing an economics degree!) So the landscape and processes along a river are exploration gold for me. The kayak is a simple, efficient way to explore waterways of any kind and back home in Woodbridge, Suffolk me and Sam spent our summers paddling upstream, downstream and anywhere in between on the river Deben. So a lot of the inspiration for this trip has come from these weekends exploring our local river. There’s a sense of isolation when you’re on the water, even if there is a busy city on the banks because so few people use the river, you feel free!

3.Why is your chosen charity Help for Heroes? 

Matt: We all agreed on Help for Heroes because we have massive respect for our troops fighting in appalling conditions against an enemy with a truly horrible way of fighting back, with improvised explosives causing terrible injuries in Afghanistan at the moment we want to do what we can to give servicemen and women who need it the best care.

Sam: For me it comes from desire to join the forces and having seen Headly Court the rehabilitation centre for my own its hard not to support a charity that supports our serving personal once they are injured and are often forgotten by the public.

4. Where did the idea spawn from?

Sam: I spent the summer working on a potato harvester listening to Ranalph Fiennes autobiography and decided to have my own adventure and who better to do it with then with two good mates!

Harry: I was taken in by Sam talking about this expedition. Working with him over the summer meant I heard all about his plans and with it being my final year of university I thought ‘you only live once’.

5.Why are you doing this aside from raising money? 

Matt: I think we all share a desire to do something quite mad, very adventurous and generally amazing before we settle into building a career or life in general. To break from what is the normal thing to do and really test ourselves, it’s something we’ll be telling our grandkids about.

Sam: To experience a river, living in the wild and for the adventure. At times it will be just Matt, Harry and I for miles around that’s a very exciting idea. A much better gap year then holidaying around South East Asia.

6. How have you being training for this?

Matt: It’s not kayak specific but for I am training for my first marathon in April. I’ve ran a few 10km races before but that is mentally nowhere near as challenging as this marathons going to be, it is sort of like a test I’ve set myself to pass before I book my flights to America. As for kayaking this summer we should have our P& H kayaks are we’re planning a few jaunts in the UK.

Harry: Due to my sporting commitments in my university hockey team (where I captain the 1stteam) my Kayak training has been minimal but with hockey I am keeping fit and with the gym I am keeping my strength up for the mission.

7. What will you be packing?

Matt: The camping essentials like stove, some cooking utensils, our hammocks, head torch and a lot of industrial strength insect repellent!

Sam: Aside from our P&H kayaks we will have all our kit packed into some great Overboard dry bags, so as not to get kit like our cameras from Sport-Cam and hammocks from Hammock Bliss wet. We will also take the usual array of kayaking gear from bouncy aids to trunks and paddles. Along with the ever important SeaSpecs sunglasses.

Harry: Well we’ve got restricted space in our Kayaks so the essentials are being packed (food, hammocks, our stoves etc) but I’m sure I can sneak in a few snacks and chocolates (I’m known as ‘snack attack’ at home). Oh and also a picture of my dog Pablo.

8. Is the plan to do the challenge after finishing university and then return after two months and go job hunting or is there more to come?

Matt: Tough question, the Mississippi Challenge definitely has potential to be a life changer, after doing something like this I’m pretty sure I’ll be hard to go just say ‘that was great now let’s go work in an office’. Nevertheless I’ve applied to study the law and ultimately to train as a solicitor when I return, which is something I’m excited about and I really think I can apply myself to, whether this experience changes that plan we’ll have to wait and see.

Sam: Everyone is different from me it’s a question of we will see how this one goes. I am hopefully going to have an internship after uni until I go, I also have my last stage of the Army application process this summer so that is still a priority but the idea of a career in adventure and expeditions would be amazing.

Harry: Right now that’s the plan but, fingers crossed, after we complete the challenge the adventure bug may hit and we could indeed see more coming your way.

9.How serious are your families, sponsors, everyone taking on three young lads going off on an adventure? 

Matt: Family and friends are have recently hit a kind of turning point, in the sense that until a couple of months ago they may have perceived our idea as just that a cool idea that probably won’t come to fruition. I think perhaps my parents are still under that illusion! But the teams now put a lot of time and effort into the project and its starting to show, we are now active on the big social media sites have a nice website and 5 brilliant sponsors and we’re getting donations coming in now.

Sponsorship wise we’re a tough sell, we appreciate and try to counter that, we’ve got no expedition experience, no big name to rely on and we’ve been ignored and knocked back a lot but through all that every now and again we’ll get that awesome phone call or email from a company that’s excited about our trip and completely behind us!

Sam: For me at first my dad especially would answer every remark about the journey with a “will believe it when we see it” kind of remark but as more and more of the sponsors came on board with the journey I think my family is a little surprised. They are of course behind me if not a little worried about alligators and deliverance style banjo players!

Harry: Our sponsors are incredibly supportive and in great admiration of what we’re undertaking. My family is also being very supportive with my dad all for it but my mum and sister Alice are weary of the ‘gators’ even when I tell them that’s why we’re sleeping in hammocks!!

10. Have any of you attempted anything on this scale before? 

Sam: Not of this size! I think he longest I have lived outdoors for is a couple of weeks on various adventurous training exercises and training with the Officer Training Corps at uni. Nothing like 2400 miles to get us use to being outside all the time though!

Harry: Not even close. I think the closest I have ever been to something like this is driving to University.

11. How did you go about convincing sponsors?

Matt:  Rule number one for us is being honest; exaggerating what we can offer would be silly in the long run. We tell potential sponsors what we are currently doing to gain exposure for our expedition and our future plans, how we intend to involve people interested in our project from the river, and where there logo/name/product will feature. We also keep active on sites like Facebook and Twitter trying to increase our audience and connect with potential sponsors on these sites.

Sam:  It’s an interesting process some companies come back straight away sounding very excited and others you seem to disappear the trash button is even easier then throwing a proposal in the bin! We have been very lucky with the sponsors who have come on board and there are some more hopefully in the pipeline!

Harry: We did our background research and found adventurers who have used certain sponsors that help these types of expeditions. So we targeted these companies and highlighted the positive exposure we would be bringing in.

12. What is your plan to document the trip? 

Sam: Sport-Cam is providing us with a video camera and we will try and make as many video diary type videos along the way as long as each of us having a blog, this is one of the most exciting parts for us its how we keep any followers we get and hopefully grow the numbers interested in our journey and even better the number of people donating for the charity.

13.Have you guys talked to Dave Cornthwaite or any of the other adventurers who have done something similar to what you are going to do? 

Matt: It didn’t take us long to come across Dave once we started researching the Mississippi and we’ve been nagging him for info and tips ever since, the poor guy! He is quite simply an invaluable source of information for our trip and his videos from the river always give me that gut feeling of pure excitement. We’ve also been chatting to three kayakers who go by the team name Midlife Kayak, they’re going to be circumnavigating the UK this summer, they’re pretty experienced touring paddlers and they’re also raising cash for Help for Heroes, we’ll definitely be joining them on the water when they come by the Suffolk coast.

Sam: It’s almost a little embarrassing but Dave became a bit of a team Hero as he was going down the Mississippi his website very quickly became a homepage. We have had a few conversations with him and it’s been very handy to have someone who has been there and done that on the other end of an email.

14. What is the plan for food, sleeping etc? 

Matt: Our diet probably won’t deviate that far from our current student one thinking about it ie. Tinned food and take away! We’ll be taking a lot of boil in the bag type food, and high calorie snacks we can eat out on the water as opposed to landing and firing up the stove. We’re currently searching for a company to sponsor some expedition type dehydrated or boil in the bag grub. The main criterion for food is simplicity; the last thing you need after 8 hours paddling is hassle making your evening meal, but food is also a big part of motivation especially for 3 lads in their 20’s.

We’ll be spending most of our nights on the banks of the river in our Hammock Bliss Sky tents. These consist of a nice big hammock which is hung between two trees inside a mosquito net and covered by a rain sheet that hung above the hammock and pegged into the ground.  The advantages of the hammock being you don’t need flat, clear ground as you would to pitch a tent, they’ll be nice and cool when the humidity hits us down in the southern states and we’ll be up out of the reach of the Mississippi’s alligator community!

Harry: The Mississippi winds its way through the whole of America so food wise we can stop off along the way to gain food and water, but at the beginning of the descent we will need to ration as it’s quite isolated. Also my uncle loves a good day out fishing so we’re holding him to his deal to teach us fishing.  As previously stated we’re sleeping in hammocks. This is so the alligators can’t get us like in tents. They’ve been known to poke their heads in tents  looking for food!!!!!

15. How much of your own money is going into this?

Matt: We’re going to be covering everything sponsorship can’t really, at present that’s flights, visas, travel insurance, any food or accommodation and some electrical equipment we can’t get sponsorship for. So personal costs are likely to be over £2000, which means a long summer working in a warehouse unloading lorries for me!

16. How did you finally say ‘Lets actually do this’ as opposed to just dreaming of it? 

Matt: Well originally the project consisted of just myself and Sam and we’d always said after uni we’ll go on an adventure then last summer we we’re both doing pretty mundane jobs and I think that pushed us to just say let’s actually make this happen, I believe we were in the pub where most good ideas are born! Spending their summer working on a potato harvester together it didn’t take Sam long to rope Harry in after plans started gaining momentum. The time in and around university is also perfect for travelling, we have nothing tying us down and plenty of enthusiasm. I think things really clicked about a month and a fair few planning sessions after the idea was born, we’d put in about 3 hours work one night researching and emailing, I turned and said to the guys (excuse my language) ‘shit…. This is actually happening’!! That was an awesome moment.

17.Are the flights booked? When for? 

Matt: No not yet, my student loan can’t handle that strain right now! We’re working to an estimate of flying out in the first half of May 2013 at the moment.

18. How do you check in all that gear at the airport?

Matt: Luckily for us our kayak sponsor P&H and the paddle sponsor we’re hoping to confirm soon operate on both sides of the Atlantic so we’re avoiding any hideous air freight costs and borrowing that kit in the appropriate country. Otherwise we’re just going to be packing light and crossing our fingers at the check in scales!

Sam: No Idea could be more of a mission then the river! American customs are a pain, there was one time on a skydiving trip that they insisted on checking the inside of one of the parachutes so we opened the main canopy and the checked that, then they wanted to see inside the spring loaded reserve canopy. We warned them it was a bad idea and it would cost £150 to repack but they cracked on being the persistent people they are; when they pulled the handle the parachute flew out and broke the border guard’s nose.  Hopefully there won’t be any incidents like that on this trip!


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Adventure, Cycling, Interviews

Riding to Break the Cycle

Cycle a continent, or cycle the world.

If you are going to do it, do it with these guys;

Riding to Break the Cycle.

Courtesy of Riding to Break the Cycle

1.Why did you pick cycling as the mode of travel?

I read a blog recently that referred to bikes as “tools and vehicles that make life better.” I think this does a great job explaining why we chose cycling as our mode of travel. Cycling, and cycle touring specifically, has this unbelievable ability to transform an individual. The freedom, the challenge, the adventure, and as the blog mentioned, the ability it has to make you think bigger and get beyond your own community, offers amazing opportunities for people.

As kids we all loved to bike if for nothing else the opportunity it presented for exploration, learning, and escape. As adult we don’t get this opportunity as much in our daily lives, but we believe cycling can still provide that. Through our trips participants not only get to have a wonderful physical travel adventure, but through biking they are given the opportunity for a challenge, an opportunity to explore the world, and an opportunity to learn what they are truly capable of both physically and mentally.


2.Your whole staff seems to consist of young people…..

-What kind of message are you trying to send out to people?

A lot of our staff are starting to get a bit older and it is getting tougher to classify them as youth, but we are still very much a youth driven organization. We believe that the determination, energy, and innovation of today’s youth is and will continue to be instrumental in making the world a better place. We strive to support inspired youth and we want to send the message that our generation is ready to take a stand against poverty, inequality, environmental destruction, etc…


3.How do you think taking part in a tour can change the participants life?

This is a great question and I’ll let one of our alumni answer it:

Michal Tellos (2011 Pacific Coast tour) “Prior to the tour, never had I been so nervous about successfully completing anything, but at its conclusion, I had never been so confident. This confidence doesn’t relate merely to my physical ability to cycle 100 km daily, but to any seemingly insurmountable challenge. During the tour, we had to wake up, and ride our hardest every day to get where we wanted to go. I learned that with a similar approach to any task, I can achieve similar outcomes. The winding hills that never seem to end start off as a physical challenge, and somewhere along the way, morph into empowering psychological metaphors.”


4.What kind of feedback do you get from participants?

Again, I’ll let our participants answer this one:

Kaleigh Heard (2011 Europe tour) “RTBTC Europe 2011 was by far the most daring, impulsive and absolutely wonderful experience I have had in my life! It is truly designed for those who want to make a difference and see the world the way it should be seen”

Elize Morgan (2010 Europe tour) “The Europe tour was one of the best experiences of my life, and it’s an amazingly fantastic experience for everyone involved.

Sean Peters (2007 Pacific Coast tour) “The Pacific Coast tour is an amazing experience. It’s one of those life-changing experiences where, when you’re 80, you’ll be able to say that you did that; you accomplished something so audacious and rare. There’s nothing in the world that can describe it- the sense of accomplishment is overwhelming”


5. There’s a recurring theme in giving to charity; that the people who the money is intended for, never get it, instead their government or multinationals or someone along the way ends up with it. How do you know this isn’t the case with yours?

First of all, we have a clear distinction between money raised for operating costs and those raised for the projects we support. We want to be clear with donors where their money is going. When it comes to the projects we support we put a lot of measures in place to monitor where our funds go whether it is the months and months we spend vetting the projects, sending staff or volunteers to visit the projects, or receiving frequent updates from them. Above all else though we work very closely with our partners so that we are not providing just finances but expertise as well. That said we are in the business of supporting community driven projects. We don’t pretend to know the solutions to poverty in communities around the world but we know that there are local there that probably do and we strive to support them. We spend a lot of time getting to know the individuals behind the projects and we are confident that our money ends up in the right hands.


6. Has anyone been on every tour?

Nobody has done all of our tours yet. A couple of people have done three and a bunch have done two, but we mostly get new participants each year wanting to take on the challenging adventure!


7.Is the plan to continue opening up new routes across the globe? Where do you have in mind next?

We are definitely interested in opening up new routes. Our plan was always to open a new route every two years and so far we are ahead of that goal. We have a few options in mind that we have started investigating: West Africa, Canada, Australia, and possibly the Silk Road.


8.You guys are all young, which I love and ambitious which is getting rare to find in the youth of today (I am allowed say this because I am also young) How have you managed to step away from this stereotype and strive to live out your dreams?

-Have you confronted any older people yet who automatically judge you as the lazy stereotype associated with a youth? What did you say to them?

I guess we have managed to step away from this stereotype with our actions. We don’t just sit idle, we are always improving, always learning, always engaging with the community, and always seeking to find the best solutions to global poverty. And at the end of the day we are taking on epic and challenging bike tours each year and every year and we are raising significant funds through a lot of hard work and a lot of pounding the pavement.

Fortunately we’ve actually been lucky to have had little to no confrontation from older folks stereotyping us as lazy. If that was to occur I think our actions would speak louder than words.

Courtesy of Riding to Break the Cycle

9. Leading people on tours around the world by bike – Surely that has got to be a sweet job?

I couldn’t imagine a more exciting job! Working for Riding to Break the Cycle combines my love of adventure, cycling, and the outdoors, with my passion for social change. I get to work with an amazing group of inspiring individuals and I get to help young adults have life changing experiences. You couldn’t ask for more really!

10. Working there, what is the best think you get to witness?

I think the best thing I get to witness, besides for the success of the individuals we are helping, is the transformation I see in our participants. They join us as timid, novice cyclists, and they leave confident, mentally tough, aware, educated, and empowered to continue making a positive difference in the world.