5 multi-purpose products to help you pack lightly

I have a rule about restaurants: if one offers two markedly different types of cuisine, I won’t eat there. Think Thai restaurants that make pizza, or British gastropubs that offer Indian curry. More often than not, instead of doing one cuisine well, these multi-purpose restaurants will do two cuisines badly and are simply best avoided.

For a long time, I applied the same philosophy to multi-purpose products. But then I started packing for our trip.

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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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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

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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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

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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

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Testing my limits on Cotopaxi Volcano

I knew it was going to be cold. I knew it was going to be hard. What I didn’t know is that I’d want to give up after a mere 10 minutes on Cotopaxi Volcano. Our altitude of 4,500m mixed with unusually harsh weather made every breath difficult, every step a labour. As the wind slapped my face, I closed my eyes and wondered not for the first time why I had let Peter talk me into this. Glaciers were his thing. Trekking in freezing cold weather was his hobby. I like adventure, sure, but not when it hurt this much. I prefer my adrenaline 10 degrees above freezing, thank you. Continue reading

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Guatape: the best day trip in Colombia

When I’m about to visit a country for the first time, one of the first things I do is scan a guidebook and pick out a few highlights or must-sees. This can be dangerous business as you’re often putting yourself at the author’s subjective mercy. When I first scanned our guidebook’s Colombian highlights I saw colonial towns, national parks and coffee plantations. After a month in Colombia, I can safely say that the best day I had there barely gets a mention in the guidebooks. Continue reading

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Our unexpected great American road trip

We never even planned to be in the US!

In fact, we should have been about 3,000 miles further south by the time we rocked up on Venice Beach in LA, mixing with the crowds of hippies, hipsters, tourists and homeless. I’ll admit that with my two-month old beard, huge backpack and threadbare flip flops, I blended in most with the latter.

In the two weeks since our arrival, we have crossed four states on our American road trip, seeing an array of landscapes straight out of the movies. From snowcapped mountain ranges to tumbleweed-strewn deserts, from glitzy casinos and roadside motels to the empty and silent towns of the Midwest, we saw it all. And it was magical. Continue reading

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Mauna Kea: summiting the world’s tallest mountain

Hawaii’s Mauna Kea takes the crown as the world’s tallest mountain. Mauna Kea is a monumental 9,330m (30,610ft) in height from base to peak.

Okay, so we all know that Mount Everest is Earth’s highest mountain, measuring at a staggering 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level. What’s less well known is that if you measure from base to peak, it’s not Everest but Hawaii’s Mauna Kea that takes the crown as the world’s tallest mountain. Mauna Kea lies largely hidden beneath the ocean surface but is a monumental 10,203m (33,476ft) in height from base to peak.

It was because of this astonishing fact that we couldn’t resist spending our precious few hours in Hawaii driving halfway across the “Big Island” and upwards to Mauna’s dizzying summit. We had agonised over the decision. Visiting Hawaii on a cruise meant we had limited time on land and we had to choose between Mauna Kea and the renowned volcano park. In the end, we couldn’t resist the call of the tallest mountain on Earth. Continue reading

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Trekking Mount Yasur volcano

The first few weeks of us had been active enough. We’d hiked, climbed, caved, canyoned, kayaked and more. It would have been perfectly acceptable to spend a few days lounging on a beach on Tanna Island, soaking up the Pacific sun. However, you don’t go to Tanna without seeing the “Old Man” that is Mount Yasur volcano, and we were no exception.

The imposing volcano dominates the skyline and can be seen from almost everywhere on Tanna. Whether you’re skidding across the ash plains that surround the volcano or watching the smoke plumes drift out to sea, there’s no escaping the commanding influence Mount Yasur volcano has on the island and its people. Continue reading

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Climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa’s highest peak

Why climb? Because it’s there… and it can actually be done by most.

Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest freestanding mountain, meaning it is not attached to a mountain range. I trekked it in 2010 and it was inspirational to say the least.

It was part of a big trip for me to East Africa — and after an extensive safari throughout the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, coupled with several days on the exotic and dreamy island of Zanzibar — Kilimanjaro could easily have been overshadowed. But it wasn’t.

Climbing Kilimanjaro was exhilarating, awe inspiring, breathtaking, incredible and one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I recommend it to anyone who has the time (and the energy). Continue reading