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How to deal with a weak hiking partner

It’s safe to say that Peter is a far stronger and more experienced hiker than I am. On Cotopaxi, he bounded ahead at the front of the group while I shivered and stumbled at the back. On Matavanu, he kept me calm when I nearly broke down in tears. On Nevis Peak, he picked up trails to which I was blind.

Of course, he’s not the first to hike with a weak partner. In A Walk in the Woods, author Bill Bryson describes tackling part of the Appalachian Trail with Stephen Katz, his paunchy friend who turns up wholly unprepared for the ordeal ahead. Continue reading

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Sherpa film review: has it put me off climbing Everest?

Let’s be clear about this: I have neither the skills nor the money to climb Everest. I’ve spoken several times about my long-running ambition to climb the seven summits, but I’m not so naïve that I can’t see it may forever remain a distant dream.

Naturally, this doesn’t stop me dreaming and I expect the allure of standing on top of the world will never really dissipate. However, after watching BAFTA-nominated documentary Sherpa, I am considering whether foreigners should be on the mountain at all.

Sherpa charts the Everest story from a perspective rarely seen and subtly asks the question: is continued foreign obsession with Everest bad for Nepal, Khumbu and the Sherpas? Continue reading

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How one 30-minute meeting changed my life

No-one likes to admit that they live an ordinary life. In our 20s, most of us are convinced that we’re different; that we will ‘make it’, whatever ‘making it’ actually means.

In our 30s, we realise that we’re not unique, that our lives are disconcertingly similar to nearly everyone else we know. We wake up earlier than we desire and surrender copious hours to our employers. We try our best to eat healthily and exercise, but we so often can’t find the time. We hold together the threads of life and try to weave them into something cohesive  –  all the while leading ordinary lives.

That’s roughly where I was when I met the man who would change my life.

Read the rest of Peter’s post for Thirtymin on Medium.

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The travel that changed me: Mike Horn

The great explorers Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton would surely look upon Mike Horn with approval and admiration. He is arguably the world’s greatest modern-day explorer.

The South African-born Swiss explorer and adventurer has probably seen more of the world than any other person on Earth. He has swum the Amazon River solo, completed an unmotorised circumnavigation of the globe at the equator, walked to the north pole during the dark season (incidentally, more people have been to the moon) and has also managed to squeeze in climbing the world’s 8,000 meter peaks – all 14 of them. He recently returned from Pakistan after an attempt to climb and ski K2. Of course he has. Continue reading

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6 outstanding El Chaltén hiking trails

Patagonia’s El Chaltén hiking trails are on the bucket list of every serious hiker. The trekking capital of Argentina provides access to a network of well-maintained hiking routes with some of the best alpine viewpoints in the world.

The routes are rambling and chaotic at times (underestimate the ever-present winds at your peril) but the rewards are big. The imposing towers of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre steal the show but the magnificent World Heritage-listed Parque Nacional Los Glaciares has much to offer hikers at every level.

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The travel that changed me: Eric Larsen

In 2006, polar adventurer Eric Larsen completed the first ever summer expedition to the North Pole. As the Arctic ice has no land mass beneath it, it’s at its thinnest and most treacherous in the summer making it impassable on foot. Eric and fellow explorer Lonnie Dupre pulled and paddled specially modified canoes across 550 miles of shifting sea ice and open ocean to successfully complete the mission. Eric is the first person to tweet from the North Pole and the top of Mt. Everest. When he’s not endangering his life in the world’s wildest places, he lives in Colorado with his partner Maria Hennessey and their son, Merritt. Here he tells Atlas and Boots about the travel that changed him. Continue reading

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10 hikes through the cleanest air in the world

The view isn’t so bad. Sure, it’s over the communal bin area but there’s a roof so you don’t really notice it. We’ll have to put up some net curtains because precisely six flats and nine balconies have direct view into our flat but that’s okay – privacy’s hard to come by in London. It’s not even the noise. Being on the road wasn’t always quiet.

It’s the air. Heavy pollution, barely noticeable before we left London, leaves my skin shockingly grimey at the end of the day. My every-other-morning run by the River Lea winds through a host of unnatural smells and the city’s cars are numerous as ever. Statistics show that conditions are improving (at least at our nearest monitoring station), but the fact remains: the air quality in London leaves a lot to be desired. To counter the back-home blues, we look at 10 hiking trails that offer the cleanest air in the world. Continue reading

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How to use a compass and map

As a schoolboy I was lucky to learn how to use a compass and map. I then spent the best part of two decades putting these basic skills to use throughout the British countryside, without ever really having them tested.

It wasn’t until a white-out on top of Scotland’s Ben Nevis during a winter mountaineering course that I really learnt how critical these skills are. Luckily for us (or rather thanks to the course’s well-planned itinerary), we had spent the previous day refreshing our navigation skills in a less hostile environment. Continue reading

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Hot hiking: how to avoid heat exhaustion

It was on the slopes of Mount Matavanu crater that I almost started crying with exhaustion. We were nearing the end of a six-hour hike in searing heat, a feat we had stupidly attempted with just one litre of water. After potentially risky endeavours like trekking an active volcano and diving for the first time, we had become complacent about a mere day hike, failing to factor in the relentless Samoan sun. By the end, we were utterly worn and utterly beaten. We vowed never to attempt a hot hike again without proper preparation. To help others stay safe, we put together a guide on how to recognise, treat and avoid heat exhaustion when hiking in the heat.
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Ultimate camping checklist

After years of packing and re-packing in preparation for various expeditions, I’ve finally got it nailed – to the point where I have a spreadsheet with all my gear listed alongside its weight (full and empty) so I can predict how heavy my pack will be. Most campers are likely far less pedantic, but there’s no denying we all feel pride in getting our kit just right.

To help campers get their gear in order, I’ve put together the ultimate camping checklist – intentionally comprehensive so that everything you need is listed, whether it’s for a weekend backpacking trip through the wilderness or a longer family break. Continue reading

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Night hiking: how to see the world by moonlight

Night hiking doesn’t have to be a result of a poorly planned day hike; it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience in its own right.

Before you go blindly marching off into the hills to thrash about in the dark before calling search and rescue on your smartphone (which probably has a flat battery from using it as a flashlight), prepare yourself with our guide to night hiking for a safe and enjoyable night.   Continue reading

Visiting the end of the world at Tierra del Fuego

There are few places in the world that evoke the old-world romance of true exploration. They inspire nostalgia for a time we never knew, for places to which we’ve never been. We know their names and have heard their tales in the way we’ve heard of Neverland and Narnia: shrouded in layers of myth and lore. Cartagena, Antarctica, the Northwest Passage and Vinson Massif. Even the men sounded greater then: Drake, Amundsen, Livingstone and Shackleton. Continue reading

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8 things to do in Puerto Natales, Chile

“We wanted an adventure holiday, but we wanted to come back in the evening to somewhere cozy and comfortable,” said Matt and Kirsty, two Americans we met during our stay in Puerto Natales.

Like them, we visited the windswept plains of Chilean Patagonia out of season meaning multi-day treks through Torres del Paine were out of the question. But that didn’t put a complete dampener on our experience. There was still plenty of adventuring to be enjoyed outside of Torres del Paine National Park without spending our days stomping along a hiking trail with only a fitful night’s sleep under canvas (not that I mind that of course). Continue reading

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Training for Kilimanjaro: 7 tips for a successful summit

Last year, a good friend from back home in Norfolk (where it’s pretty flat) decided to climb Kilimanjaro and asked me for some advice. I certainly felt the trek was challenging but I’d had plenty of trekking and mountaineering experience before so was a bit blasé with my advice.

I told him he’d be fine, that it was more of a long uphill walk and that “if you can get in a few jogs beforehand and cut back on the beers and McDonald’s you’ll be fine.” Continue reading

Visiting Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth

Visiting Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth

Our journey to Atacama was far more complicated than expected. Up to that point, the border crossings on our journey had been relatively straightforward so we were surprised there was no direct route from Uyuni in Bolivia to Atacama in Chile. Instead of taking a bus, we had to book a $50 USD transfer, spend a night in a room that was almost exactly like a prison cell, take the transfer to the border, pay another $20 to enter the national park and then take another transfer on the other side. All in all, a journey that can be done in nine hours took about 24 hours instead. Continue reading

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6 tips for visiting Isla Del Sol, Bolivia

If your trip to Bolivia is anything like ours, you’ll need a place to catch your breath and reset. Visiting Isla Del Sol is the perfect answer.

Like most round-the-world trips, ours has not been a big yellow ball of shining happiness but rather a gradient of colours. At one end lie vivid and soaring reds: the Mount Yasurs and Salar de Uyunis of the trip. At the other end are greys and browns: the 32-hour bus journey from Guayaquil to Lima, the insurance claim for ruined electronics. And in the middle are large swathes of greens and blues: the days that aren’t breathtaking or life affirming, but pleasant and fun nonetheless.

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Altitude sickness symptoms and how to avoid them

Being young, fit and healthy doesn’t mean you won’t suffer from altitude sickness symptoms. Here’s how to identify, treat and prevent them effectively.

Gracie is a student at Johns Hopkins, which offers one of the best medical training programs in the world. She is slim, fit and active. She doesn’t smoke, rarely drinks and always watches what she eats.

She should have been the last person in our group to get altitude sickness symptoms and yet there she was, wide eyed and pale faced at breakfast after a restless night of nausea at the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano (3,500m).

Experienced climbers know that altitude sickness doesn’t discriminate. The young, fit and healthy can suffer just as easily as the old, soft and pasty, which is why everyone should be aware of the symptoms before attempting a climb or trek at height. Here’s a primer to help you prepare. Continue reading