Posts Tagged ‘expedition’

Around the world… the hard way…

Naty e Ben em John O'Groats 

Antes de começar a falar do último dia, queria explicar o motivo da falta de fotos nesse post, a verdade eh que o HD com tudo da viagem quebrou e está em conserto, assim que tivermos tudo vamos colocar as fotos desse e dos outros dias nas galerias.

Foi um tanto difícil controlar a ansiedade pelo último dia. Na verdade eram tantos os sentimentos na manhã que o mais complicado era saber a qual dar uma atenção maior. A essa altura o sentimento de vitória e conquista ia tomando conta da minha cabeça mas ao mesmo tempo eu me podia me ouvir falando ao fundo que a expedição ainda não havia terminado e que por mais que tivéssemos apenas 15km a nossa frente, olhando para trás eu pude ver que não houveram dias fáceis, até nos mais leves houveram grandes desafios e aprendizados. O inverno costumava ser sempre o maior dos opositores nessa batalha por conquistar quilômetros, e mais uma vez ele se provou duro.

O dia anterior tinha sido frio mas não houve ventos fortes ou chuva ou neve, assim a expectativa para o dia seguinte era que poderia piorar mas ainda assim não poderia ser as piores condições. Olhando a previsão mostrava que o dia teria ventos de até 60m/H, mas como sairíamos cedo do hotel e a distância era curta talvez conseguíssemos chegar a John O Groats com um tempo razoável.  Grande engano! Acordamos e no quarto já dava para ouvir o barulho do vento, abrindo a cortina víamos flocos de neve ensandecidos e girando de um lado para outro, os galhos das árvores balançava forte numa dança sem ritmo definido e tudo mostrava que a jornada poderia ser curta mas também a pior em dias.

Arrumar as coisas a essa altura é algo simples e rápido, cada um já sabe o que colocar em cada alforje e o que no começo levava meia hora hoje leva menos de 10 minutos. Comer o café da manhã é sempre bom e um tanto curioso, a essa altura ainda me impressiono com a capacidade do Ben em comer English Breakfast na manhã enquanto eu fico no chá com torradas e cereais. Se eu comesse salsichas, ovos e bacon frito com tomate, cogumelos e feijão pela manhã meu dia seria com dores estomacais e diversas idas ao banheiro, mas com ele não tem problema algum. Certamente um estômago muito mais resistente!

Começar a pedalar foi apreensivo no começo, os ventos podem ser confusos, e por mais que tenham uma direção dominante eles se rebelam e acabam mudando de direção. No começo vinha do lado e para variar a luta era para que a bike ficasse num canto seguro da estrada, que não tinham muito movimento de carros, o que ajudou já que assim poderíamos ficar mais no meio da pista. O vento contra o rosto tornava a experiência dolorosa, e olhar o caminho ficava quase impossível. Era um tanto assustador ver as placas de trânsito e dos vilarejos cobertas por neve, todas congeladas; os gramados brancos e as ovelhas todas juntas tentando se aquecer o quanto podiam. As aves no céu lutavam contra o vento e pareciam perder a cada investida, era possível ver elas tentando voar para um lado e o vento as levando para outro. Cheguei a rir da insistência das pobres aves em ir para onde o vento não as deixava sem me dar conta de que eu estava na mesma situação. Mas como que se dando por vencido o vento que me segurava passa a me empurrar e percebo que depois de tantas curvas a estrada me colocou no sentido certo. Parei de pedalar e curti o empurrão, as pernas começar a tremer de frio e me dei conta que precisava manter as pernas movendo para me manter aquecida.

Ver a placa Welcome to John O´Groats!, me fez sorrir, a felicidade de ser bem vinda pelo lugar que almejo chegar há 21 dias é uma recompensa não só por todo esforço, dedicação e investimento nessa expedição mas sim uma recompensa por todo o último ano de treino e estudo, por toda a nossa mudança de vida para estar mais e mais aptos para o 360 Extremes. E passando por aquela placa, pensando em tudo isso sigo pedalando atrás do Ben e sei que ainda não acabamos, aquela placa é um sinal de estamos completando mas o Final é no marco e não na placa. Seguimos em frente, paramos em um Pub para saber onde exatamente estava o marco e olhando para fora da janela deles pude ver como o vento e a neve pareciam ganhar força. Menos de 1 km nos separava do nosso pódio, então com um sorriso largo subimos nas nossas bikes, clipamos nossos pés e pedalamos. Olhando em frente ansiosos em avistar algo parecido com o que deixamos em Land´s End. Não vou mentir falar que ver algo simplesmente pintado no muro foi um tanto decepcionante, mas mesmo assim descemos das bikes pulando de alegria. Aquele era o nosso momento, emocionados nos abraçamos, rimos, gritamos. Comemoramos do nosso jeito, e o frio estava ali a toda a nossa volta, se mostrando o parceiro inseparável dessa aventura. Eu bem que queria ter uma garrafa de champagne na hora para imitar os corredores da F1. Mas o jeito foi tirar a foto com o rosto gelado e banhados pelas gotas da chuva.

Entramos na lojinha e compramos uma caneca para simbolizar o nosso troféu.

Mas depois de todo esse sentimento de vitória tivemos que subir de novo nas bikes e voltar para o pub para pedir um táxi. Pedalar de volta aqueles 600m finais, subindo na bicicleta eu já realizei que isso seria muito, mais muito difícil mesmo, só não percebi que seria doloroso. O vento incrivelmente forte me jogava para trás e parecia uma parede que não me permitia sair do lugar, mais uma vez senti tapas do vento contra meu rosto e olhar para frente era impossível. As gotas acertavam meus olhos por cima dos óculos e me obrigava a fechá-los. Pedalei com força, tentando me guiar pelo asfalto da rua o quanto pude, olhando para baixo. Avistei o pub e o Ben pedalando em frente, o vento me batia com força e parecia não me querer de volta aquele lugar que me parecia quente, protegido e seguro. Uma hora desci e empurrei a bike. Chorei aqui, chorei de dor, meus olhos doíam por causa do vento e da neve. Subi na calçada do pub e o Ben veio me ajudar. Entrei no pub e lá ele me abraçou e me confortou. Quanto frio, quanta força um simples sopro pode ter.

Essa expedição acabou, depois fomos para Orkney Island ver as paisagens, continuar na companhia dos ventos mas com menos oportunidades de pedalar. A jornada em busca de experiência e preparo físico e mental para a grande expedição continua e esse ano com ainda mais aventuras, treinos e aprendizado.

 

The end is in sight. Almost

The end is in sight. Almost

Ao acordar de manhã passo a me sentir um pouco mais matemática do que comunicóloga, tudo isso porque inconscientemente me pego fazendo contas de quanto percorremos e de quanto ainda falta, e nessa manhã a resposta da equação me fez sorrir mas também me fez pesar. 100km para o nosso objetivo ser alcançado, tão pouco para que toda essa rotina de desafios e aprendizado se encerre, nessa pequena equação vejo mais que números, porque nesses 1400km percorridos vivi cada metro, suei cada subida, superei cada vento, me aqueci a cada mudança de tempo e cresci como pessoa, como ciclista, como cidadã. Tantas pessoas nos receberam com tantas histórias, conselhos e uma mão estendida para qualquer duvida ou problema. Curiosos pelo caminho nos chamavam de loucos e perguntavam sempre no porque de encararmos a LEJOG nessa época do ano. Os únicos a fazer isso agora, os únicos vistos por aqueles que nos acolheram, por aqueles que nos atenderam nos cafés e lojas de conveniências. O motivo talvez seja mais claro hoje do que quando saímos, é simples: aprender a lidar com todas as surpresas que as mudanças climáticas podem nos pregar. Acredito que isso conseguimos: lidamos com ventos de todos os lados, chuva forte, granizo, neve, icy, tudo isso junto, o dia de ameno e sem ventos se transformar em questão de segundos numa tempestade… Tivemos dias longos, semana inteira sem descanso, melhoramos nosso ritmo, melhoramos nossa potência, criamos uma sinergia e uma rotina nossa. E chega a todas essas conclusões de manhã, ao fazer a simples equação de quanto foi e o que falta, me entristece um pouco, porque parece que estou mais perto de parar de aprender, de parar de melhorar, de parar de conhecer.

The route to Keiss

The route to Keiss

Puxo meu pensamento para o fato de que hoje o dia não será fácil, a rota é montanhosa e promete uma subida interminável logo nos primeiros 20km, o clima dá pra ver que não está o mais amigo e se no dia anterior já não havia opções de parada, nesse então teria menos ainda. Pelo menos sair do Inn era algo um tanto motivador, o lugar era péssimo e eu não via a hora de chegar na próxima parada.

A ideia inicial era pararmos em Wick, mas resolvemos percorrer a maior distância possível porque o clima ia piorar ainda mais no dia seguinte. Sair de Brora foi bem tranquilo, a montanha lá no fundo com uma subida constante, longa mas não muito profunda. Agradeci o hotel ficar há uma distância razoável da subida porque consegui aquecer antes. O nosso ritmo estava tranquilo sem muita pressa. Essa seria uma subida bem longa de mais ou menos 15km, superado isso descemos uma ladeira de graduação 13% por uns 3km e no fim um curva fechada e uma subida nada amiga de 13% por mais 3km. Mais uma vez me vi pensando “porque não construíram uma ponte ali!”. Eu parei parar tirar fotos logo na curva e fazer vídeos do Ben, o problema depois foi subir na bike e encarar a subida, a estrada pra variar não tinha acostamento e era mão dupla, e com os ônibus passando ficava um tanto inseguro subir e começar a pedalar. Empurrei a bike até depois da curva e dali pedalei. Paramos no topo, depois de comemos umas barrinhas, tomamos água e combinamos de parar no primeiro serviço para tomar algo quente. Mas quanto mais norte estamos mais difícil fica de encontrar paradas. Passamos por diversos vilarejos, em Helmsdale acreditei que acharíamos algo por parecer um lugar maior que os outros, mas nada tudo fechado, entramos em Lybster e a cidade era super pequena e parecia um tanto abandonada, quase ninguém na rua os café e restaurantes fechados mas por sorte um mercadinho estava aberto e lá comemos e bebemos café. Dali em diante o desafio foi o frio mas sem muitas subidas significativas.

Looking over Berriedale, just north of Helmsdale; pausing for a break up the hill

Looking over Berriedale, just north of Helmsdale; pausing for a break up the hill

Um pouco antes de Wick o vento ficou mais intenso e vindo pela lateral, dava pra ver as ovelhas todas amontoadas tentando se aquecer e se proteger, mas nós não tínhamos muita opção além de pedalar. Chegando em Wick a cidade era bem maior, um mercado logo na entrada e não resistimos de parar para comprar algo para comer. O triste dessa parte é que na hora de continuarmos o Ben deixou o óculos cair sem perceber, parou uns 5 metros depois sentindo falta mas deu pra ouvir o som do carro atropelando e destruindo o seu óculos. Ele ficou bem chateado, mas pelo menos isso aconteceu agora e não há 17 dias atrás.

Seguimos até Keiss onde ficamos num Inn. O dia seguinte seria curto, mas olhando a previsão na internet não era nada animador, era certo que no dia seguinte encararíamos as piores condições da viagem!

 

NOT what I've been doing at work.

Phew! Life has been hectic the past couple days! The rock gym has been booking a crazy amount of parties and staff belays which gives me more hours (a good thing) but it means I have to keep pushing kids and adults to their climbing limits for 10 hours or more a day! While its extremely rewarding and inspiring to see a child who could barely make it off the ground climb 40 feet into the air, it can be draining as well.

But as I think about it, it is good preparation for my first summer with Adventure Treks. Which in turn is going to be even better preparation for the 360 Extremes expedition. Let me explain…

I am truly excited about my summer months. As a co-trip leader, I will be working with 5 other leaders to lead teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 on adventure trips around the country. So for around 20 days at a time I’ll be out in the wilderness, living in my tent, pushing kids to their potential whether we’re backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking, white water rafting or mountaineering.  They told me multiple times in my interviews that I would (a) have very little free time and (b) most likely be functioning on around 4 hours of sleep a night. That’s quite a challenge, especially when I’m used to a bed at home and at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night.

However, as with any pursuit, especially with the outdoors, the challenge is part of the adventure.

Taking teenagers and young adults out in the wilderness can be quite a test of willpower. As the summer months press on we (the leaders for Adventure Treks) without a doubt will face a number of issues, challenges and situations that must be smoothed out. I can’t imagine what will present itself during the trip, but what I hope to learn about is group management. Especially on a larger scale with 24 teens.

As leaders we have to take care of medical supplies, gear and equipment, water, food and general nutrition; as well as monitor the kids for their morale – mostly, are they having fun? In all this, we’ll be out in the wilderness where the ability to control situations greatly diminishes. On top of logistics we must be fully prepared for any situation that may arise: inclement weather, wildlife, impasses due to previous days weather and more.

In many ways this mirrors what we have in store for the actual journey with 360. While group management won’t exactly be at the forefront (although we’ll constantly be monitoring each others moral, strength reserves, food and water intake etc) the logistics of 360 will far surpass any other trip I’ve been on.

Besides pre-expedition logistics (working out finances, where to leave gear, where to pick up gear, what we will need for each leg of the trip) actually executing it will be even more hectic! One thing I learned from my instructors at my Wilderness First Responder course was this: If you have Plan A, you better have Plan B, C, D, E, F and G. Or more. And a basic rule of plans? They don’t ever work out.

Keeping that in mind, we’re going to have our hands even more full than we do now when we finally set off in 2014. Conditions will change drastically with each environment and so will the equipment we need as we progress. If we’re not logistics experts by the time we leave, we better will be! We have a lot of learning to do and it’s going to be a great journey. It’s already begun!

As the Bolivia expedition draws closer, we are starting to get our equipment together. For those of you who saw the shopping list for this training project, you will see just by looking at the list that it is certainly not going to be cheap.

Where we are going is over 6,200 metres high, and we will be going over glaciers and snow. Being so high up in the mountains the most important things that we will need are the right clothes – layered clothes. So today we spent some time at one of the mountaineering stores in São Paulo, Half Dome, looking at the different options.

By layered, what we are talking about are multiple levels of clothes on top of each other that will insulate our body from the cold, wind and rain/snow outside whilst at the same time letting our bodies breathe – especially when we are sweating carrying loads up the mountains.

A base layer (Curtlo Thermoskin Zip Base)

The inner layer, by the skin of the body, must be a reasonably snug fit and made of a material which will take the sweat away from the body. If you don’t get the right materials (generally synthetic), your sweat will be trapped and could lead to all sorts of problems as your clothes gradually become soaked from the inside out. Don’t use cotton! The salesman at the shop (also called Fabio, but no the same as our climbing trainer!) showed us the difference between materials and their affect by spraying a little water on them – on one, the spray instantly disappeared into the clothing whilst on the other the spray just turned into a drop of water on the inside of the fabric. I imagine me, sweating away going up a mountain wearing the latter, and it wasn’t nice!

The second layer, the mid-layer, will be a looser fit. The looser fit will trap the air between this layer and the inner layer, and in the cold, we may need more than one such layer, though we will need to remember that we will be warming up as we walk. Also, these layers will be designed with materials that will help transport the moisture from our bodies out – again, so we don’t get soaked by our own sweat!

Marmota Soft Shell jacket

The final layer, the outer (or shell) layer, needs to be wind and rain resistant, and at the same time, breathable so that the moisture from our bodies is drawn further out. It needs also to be pretty durable and resilient to sharp rocks as if it rips and rain gets into your layers, then your layers are no long so effective.

How much is this costing…? well here in Brazil just for these layers for the legs and the body, well about r$1,600 (US$ 1,000) per person. The advantage here is that we can pay in installments (3 to 6, depending on the store) whereas elsewhere will most likely be cheaper, but we wouldn’t be able to do this. So we are biting the bullet at the moment as we look for sponsorship – ultimately it will be equipment that will last a really long time so is a good investment no matter what.

Last Thursday, upstate New York was blessed with warm temperatures and a long sunny day. What did this equate to for me? Another day at the Gunks! Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with another report on what I did up there – at this point it’s obvious.

It’s also very obvious how important rock climbing is to our training. We all practice it diligently and passionately and know that it encompasses many aspects of training.  There is one particularly important part of training we haven’t gone over yet, however. What do we do when we’re days away from civilization, out of any type of radio/cell phone contact and someone falls sick? Some of the more dangerous aspects of the journey – the poles – are the most isolated; the most lonely. If someone sprains an ankle or breaks a hand, the whole team could be in jeopardy. That is, without specific training.

For the next ten days I will be heading down to Philadelphia, PA to train as a Wilderness First Responder. Over the past 5-6 years I have been an Emergency Medical Technician in New Jersey, but sadly I’ve been out of practice in the last two years. In urban/suburban environments, an EMT is trained in package and transport tactics for patients – our job is to get that person to the hospital as fast as possible. Wilderness First Responder (or WFR) will delve into using all our resources to safely take care of the injured person and make the best decisions for saving that person  – and the whole team’s – lives.

Not only will this training instruct us in making sound decisions if an accident happens, but will effectively train us in making decisions to avoid any accidents in the first place. When it’s just us three in the middle of nowhere, this knowledge will be invaluable.

A big shout out to Wilderness Medical Associates for helping us get trained for this large expedition. I will be taking the class next week and without a doubt Ben and Natalia will be trained before we leave in 2014. Be sure to check WMA out on their Facebook, “Like” them and keep up to date with their courses. They teach some really cool things and hire the best professionals in the industry. As their bio says, “Face any challenge, anywhere.” Onward and upward!

A little about the hardest challenges on this expedition and the preparations that are going in for them.

Today is a bit of a sad day for me personally: During the day, I work at Control Risks as a consultant whilst I continue working on the project as soon as work is finished. I have been working at Control Risks for over five years, four and a half of which have been spent in São Paulo – which I think you will agree is quite a reasonable period of time.

Prior to committing to this project, I had been speaking with colleagues in our India offices about transferring there – something which struck me as an amazing opportunity as India would be an amazing place to go to for its cultures and environment, and would be a fantastic new challenge. It would be great for me to live there and also to grow in the company in a new position there. These conversations had started to move forward in the past couple of months, just when we were  committing to the 360 Extremes Expedition. I still believed, however, that perhaps we could train over there – after all, it would be much easier to go up to the Himalayas from there, with the country bordering Bhutan and Nepal, and we had found some climbing walls in Delhi, where we would have been based. All extremely exciting!

But then realism strikes and the realization that any move like that would not be quite so simple: such a move would require a lot of time to adapt and get to know the new environment; much more time would be needed to get to grips with the new job… time that would be taken away from the project. The possibility of postponing the start date a couple of years for this reason even crossed my mind, though this would not be something any of the team members would like, and could even damage our chances of success, especially with sponsorship. So the decision had to be made – and the call I had earlier today certainly was not the easiest of ones I have had in my life.

Ah well. We all knew that the project would be demanding and we are all committing everything to it. So… onward and upwards. It will be all worth it in the end.

What we are missing...

The long road ahead...

Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about rock climbing on the 360Extremes Expedition blog. Ben, in his last post, highlighted some of the places we’ve been climbing and why we think it’s so important to learn strong fundamentals of climbing. I wholeheartedly agree and actually spoke with someone the other week that reinforced this thought. In turn, it sidelined my Farewell to Arms review…

I want to talk about Jim Wing. I randomly (as with most internet findings) found a blog post on Jim’s website about his climb of Mount Washington and how he planned on doing a solo attempt. Since that time, he’s returned to New Hampshire for a solo attempt of the summit and wrote about it in a couple different episodes. I myself am interested in climbing Mount Washington but not wanting to pay the (sometimes) high price of a guide, I contacted Jim and asked him about training, what he did to prepare, and how he feels about going back alone.

Jim turned out to be a fascinating man. A Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) coach at the age of 50, he only recently has gotten into mountaineering and has the passion to pursue it with great success. As we talked about his past and his future in terms of technical mountaineering he recalled to me something his Mt. Washington guide said about his pursuit of the high peaks of this world: “Jim, if you want to get into climbing mountains, you should really learn how to rock climb.” So he did, and currently climbs at a local gym when he’s not teaching MMA.

Mt. Washington on the horizon as seen from the summit of Mt. Lafayette

Rock climbing, on top of teaching us technical know-how of knots, belaying, safety systems and more – which also translate to a variety of other uses such as canyoning, mountaineering, sailing and more – provides the participant with a mental aspect of training that I can only compare to other extreme sports. To rock climb or climb mountains successfully (or even to swim long distances and dive deep on one breath) requires a level of focus and commitment that can sometimes be strange to people not accustomed to it. This is not to say they aren’t focused or committed! But when your hands are on a crimper and the next foot hold is only couple centimeters wide and the only way to reach it is to have your knee in your chest (also called a high-step), there’s a certain level of trust of yourself, your body movements, your belayer and ultimately the rock. Trust – you need enough to believe that you’ll be able to reach the next hold without falling.

While top roping, a slip is less precarious and detrimental to the climb than in trad climbing. Last Sunday, while seconding Farewell to Arms I didn’t have a choice for a fall – I had to make the traverse. But more on that later. For now, it’s good to reflect on the small progressions we make towards our next move and how that helps us complete the whole pitch. Our small moves today for 360 Extremes will help us complete this whole project.

How about you? How do you break a project into small, manageable parts? How do you plan for your big adventures?

Yes, two years from now to the day and we will be leaving São Paulo on this epic adventure!

As the ideas behind this expedition built up over the last few years and turned themselves from loosely connected thoughts into a cohesive and surprisingly realistic and achievable plan, it felt like one of those moments in cartoons where light bulbs go off above someone’s head, and there is that ding sound. In spite of the time it took, developing the plan was, however, the easy part and putting it all in practice and making it a success is hard.

Well, the first three months have gone by pretty quickly. We have already accomplished a lot though we have not even started the most serious preparatory work with this project.

We have found our third team member, Norm, who will be the first US national to do the polar axis circle and will be fantastic in filming the project.

Training has begun in earnest – we are now all working hard in our physical fitness and our technical skills (and actually getting pretty good at the intermediate walls – actually racing each other on them now and getting some decent times…);

Norm went through the Catskills along the Devil’s path in a treacherous hike, and soon will be going on nice 300km cycle ride, whilst Natalia and I have been concentrating on our climbing and endurance at the gym and on the rocks, and our first major training expedition in Bolivia is fast approaching. On Monday, we will start working with Fabio, a climber and personal trainer, to help further with our climbing skills and fitness levels and also our psychological preparation.

We are all working on our diets with a nutritionist in order to make sure we are in good enough shape to be able to go through the Poles where we will lose from 5,000 to 7,000 calories per day (and only be able to eat around 4,000 calories worth) for around 70 days at each pole. At the same time, we will need to be in conditions for travel through tropical forests and cycling massive distances, and with this, diet is just about as important as the actual training.

At the same time, there are still important questions to resolve. We are very close to confirming our charities (I know, I know, we have been saying this for a while, but we are!). Logistics will need to be sorted with our equipment drop-off and pickup points around the world; and details about exactly how we will traverse from Canada over to Greenland and the North Pole need to be confirmed – the distances involved are just massive, and these distances are magnified by the cold conditions. We are also looking to confirm details about reaching Antarctica: we aim to be as carbon neutral as possible with this project, and really do not want to use air transport in any way at all, so we are speaking with people about sailing to and from the continent – something that would be just amazing. And finally, there is the small matter of sponsorship…

So yes, lots going on and lots to do, and plenty of updates to come!

The first leg of our journey is to leave from São Paulo to Corumbá, travelling the 1,400km or so route by bike. We should hopefully be in good shape as after all, we will have been spending the good part of two years preparing for this, so something would be very wrong if we are not!

The main highlight of this journey is arriving at the Pantanal – a massive tropical wetland largely located in Mato Grosso state, Brazil, thought also extends into Bolivia and Paraguay, covering around 160,000 square kilometres. The area is a massive flood plain, and the rains, which occur largely between November and March, can make the water levels rise by up to around five meters in the season. Fortunately, the flooding is quite slow as the regions is pretty flat, and also we will be going at the beginning of the dry season when the waters start to recede.

I have lived in Brazil for five years and wanted to go to the Pantanal for at least ten years, but still haven’t been there, so am quite looking forward to reaching it (the photos on this page, whilst taken by me, were taken of these animals in different parts of Brazil, though these are some of what we can expect to see).

Aside from the massive scale of the land, you can see all sorts of bird life, marine and land animal life. You get caiman alligators,  anteaters, jaguars, macaws, eagles and… unfortunately from my point of view… mosquitos (love-hate relationship; they love me…) and snakes. Anacondas (have you seen the film…? Stupid, isn’t it…?! Still terrifies me to death, though. That’s not even touching on Snakes on a Plane…. I know, I know… pathetic!). But I suppose even them being around won’t put me off too much and I will have to get over it somehow! Wikipedia says that the place is thought to be home to 1000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species, 480 reptile species and over 9000 different subspecies of invertebrates – quite an amazing thought. Though at the same time sad with the human threats of commercial fishing, cattle ranching, hunting, deforestation and pollution. Always very sad to see this happening to such incredible places.

I would love to go a non-straight-forward route through the Pantanal – going off the main roads/tracks, to actually hike and bike, through the undergrowth. Not sure how much this is possible though, considering the time of year with the waters still high and I have a vague suspicion that we won’t be able to carry a boat around with us. That might be slightly impractical. I see on Google Maps that there is a road which goes through it, from Aquidauana north of the main road, and goes for about 400 kilometers or so. The images from parts of it on street view make it look like a bit of a track… so hopefully this would be a good way to go about it, making it a bit more exciting than just a plain road, and hopefully allowing us to see more of the amazing animals that inhabit the area. Then if you zoom further in on the maps, you see lots of minor roads which go through it… how accurate are these..? Are they passable when the terrain is flooded..? If passable, they must be a lot of fun!

Have you cycled or travelled through the Pantanal without going with tour guides? Or done the journey from one side to another (going north to south or vice-versa would also be interesting to know about!)? We would be really interested in hearing your thoughts about this part of the journey and the ways it can be done.

Cheers!

The 360 Extremes Expedition will pass through 30 different countries and will take over three years to complete. In every country we will face different challenges, meet new and interesting people and see a massive array of different types of plant and animal life.

At this current planning phase where we are ironing out all of the details, we can certainly say that whilst we are aware of the major challenges that we will face, we don’t know everything. Indeed, to coin a Bushism (sorry – a Rumsfeldism…)… there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

I remember I laughed when I first heard this quote, but it actually rings true: we know we don’t know lots of things though at the same time, there are many things that can happen which we cannot really predict – all we can do is try our best to prepare our best for what might face us, and every eventuality.

So over the next few weeks or so, we will be writing posts about the different countries and major stopping points and routes in these countries: show a little of what we (think we) know and a little bit about what we think will happen. We would love to speak with people who know about or live along the different aspects of the route, and indeed we would love to have your advice about how to progress through the various stages of this adventure.

We shall start this series at the beginning (and end) of it all, with the city of São Paulo in Brazil, from where we shall embark in March 2014.

With such a project and journey at hand, it can be difficult to wrap your head around it all. Even in this modern age, where the world is (mostly) mapped out and a major airline can bring you virtually anywhere on the globe, envisioning how this can be completed can be difficult. It sometimes feels like trying to imagine the edge of the universe, the end of infinity. “What do you mean walking across the poles?” my family members asked me after I told them about my recent decision to join the 360Extremes team. Have you ever taken a look at the North Pole on Google Earth? It’s all blue. It’s a massive area of water that is simply covered in frozen ice – there is no land beneath it as there is in Antarctica. Our changing environment also poses a challenge for crossing the North Pole. With the pack ice decreasing in thickness each year, the opportunity to journey across it by foot may not be feasible for our grandchildren.

There is a certain level of mental endurance needed to complete this expedition and it is as important, if not more so, than our physical training and technical knowledge. The expedition will traverse numerous environments and ecosystems. We will need to know at least the basics of mountaineering, climbing, backpacking and back country skills, bicycle touring, and sailing to name a few. Many of these skills will also need to be used in different environments – from summer to winter, rain, snow, diamond dust; desert sands; high winds and more.

Even now as I read through my go to textbook, Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, my head swims with all the knowledge I am trying to absorb. Anyone can learn technical skills. What is going to make the difference for us and really help us get to our final goal is the mental endurance to persevere, keep each other’s morale positive, and keep our wits about us when things don’t go according to plan. So how do you even begin training for this? Hiking is usually my go to for a day adventure or when I need to get away without doing something overly strenuous (Ramapo Mountains and Harriman state park don’t top out much above 1,000ft/304m).

However, for training for this journey, I will be using these hills for extremely long day hikes – hikes that when I get to the trail head in the morning, seem too long to complete in one day. This will force me to think in survival mode and “what ifs” – What if I get stuck in inclement weather, or hurt myself, or don’t move fast enough? Packing for all possible situations is just as necessary on a day hike as it is on a global expedition. Many climbers have died from a day hike or climb that they have done many times before – check this recent story about a New Hampshire climber. This isn’t meant to scare anyone – it is to show how serious preparation and planning is for any outdoor excursion and how seriously we will be taking it.

For those of you up to date with this years winter in the north-east of the United States, it’s been quite mild. About a month ago we had a little snow storm that dumped around 6-7 inches across the hills. The storm started at around 4am. At 7am I was waking up and by 8am I was at the trail head. What was an unplanned hike at first turned into a 7 mile trek during the storm with ever-increasing ground snow.

It was at the 2 mile mark where I made the decision to take a long route that, once started, would be better to push through than turn back. I looked long and hard at my map, wondering if this was a good idea. I then looked down the snow-covered path seeing a mysterious trail with unknowns ahead of me. How long will this take? What time will I make it home? How much snow will be dumped in the next couple of hours? I opened up my pack to check my contents – medical kit, head lamp, extra food and water, and a few extra dry articles of clothing.

I then realized that it’s the mystery, the unknown that makes it exciting.

I came out in a snow storm on purpose because I didn’t know what the trails were going to be like. I took a step forward and began my long trek home. Hours later, the snow became a burden, and going uphill was painful. I was pushing five or so hours of almost non-stop hiking in 6 inches of snow with only my winter boots. As I approached the last mile away the trail head, my mind found excuses to kneel down, or lean against a tree.My rest periods kept increasing in length. I got tired more quickly. I remember a paragraph from a book I read called “War” by Sebastian Junger. (See full New York Times review here). He talks about exhaustion in a war-like setting – places where not only are the elements against you, but other human beings. The mentality of constantly hunting and being hunted. I’ll paraphrase but he relates exhaustion as going down into a valley from a ridge. By the time your mind thinks the body is drained of energy and cannot go on further, you’ve only barely made it off the ridge. In truth, you have so much further to go into the valley before you’ve completely bonked. In essence, it’s all a mind game.

I plan on doing more of these long hikes and hope, as the weather improves, to start doing long cycle tours, working my way up to overnight trips to really get into the habit of land travel, camping and survival. Physically, I hope to not only to gain enough strength to endure these long journey’s but to get my body used to using and consuming that many calories.

Mentally, I hope to realize long journeys are simply made up of smaller parts. Joe Simpson crossed the crevasse field after a long and already strenuous ordeal by breaking the crawl into small portions – x amount of meters here, y amount of meters there. He was severely injured and lived! Surely unhurt people can do the same!

Lastly, I’ve heard great reviews about Arno Ilgner’s “The Rock Warrior’s Way”. Not only are the mental tips and tricks useful for climbers – but for anyone when it comes to overcoming fears and doubts. Next week a friend and I will be heading up to the Catskills in New York State to hike the 24 mile Devil’s Path. Considered one of the hardest hiking trails on the East Coast, I hope the 18,000ft (5486m) of elevation gain and loss will give me an inkling into what alpine conditions are like. It should prove to be a fun, exciting and challenging time as well as good training for the 360Extremes Expedition.

In the mean time, I’d love to hear the community’s take on this – what have you done to train your mind for tough, run-out type conditions?

The daily grind of São Paulo metro rush hour

One of the hard things with the expedition is balancing daily work with the project. I need to arrive at the office at 9am and stay till around 6pm (though generally it’s later as the needs of the client demand…). At work – and while the work is interesting – it is often difficult not to keep thinking about the expedition and concentrate on the reports at hand, and it requires greater force on my behalf than usual to really get down to business!

São Paulo can be slightly chaotic which makes life harder when trying to get around and organise everything

After work and after struggling through the São Paulo metro system during rush hour, it’s training at the climbing wall and gym, getting into shape and building our technical skills. Once back home later at night and early in the morning, we need to keep the website up to date, and continue our pursuit of sponsors to help make this project happen. It is effectively a second full-time job.

But we went into this knowing that it was not going to be easy and I am certainly not complaining at all. What is great is how it is coming together, and seeing our efforts start to give dividends. I am delighted that we have found our new team member with Norm, and we have some meetings with potential sponsors coming soon. We are also gradually getting closer to selecting the charities for which we will raise funds. Both Natalia and I are also starting to feel fitter and healthier (I still don’t have a six-pack though I suspect that will take a little while!), as well as doing things that we have never done before.

The normal daily routine is very different now from the tedium prior to embarking on this project. We are hardly watching any television; we are much more active, and though I still love football and watching my team in England play… this weekend when we were climbing, I didn’t even think about the match I was missing until we actually got back to the house. This whole project is life changing… and this is just the beginning.

Exciting news in moving this project forward in that we have established a partnership with Mountain Guides International – an Alaskan-based international mountain guides organization and expedition organizer.

We shall be working with them in our training, first of all by going on our first expedition to Bolivia – a 21 day adventure which will start off at La Paz (the highest capital city in the world) and see us have a bit of sight seeing at Tiwanaku and Lake Titicaca, before we go further up in the Andes and climb Pequeno Alpamayo, the 6,088m Huayana Potosi peak, and the 6,438m Illimani mountain – the second highest peak in Bolivia.

The trip will see us learning advanced roping techniques, navigation through crevassed areas as well as helping us really experience in climbing in the cold, high altitude. Looks like it will be a lot of fun and certainly great preparation for the main expedition ahead!