Happy New Year!

What an amazing year 2013 has been and 2014 is set to be another incredible one!

Looking back over the past 12 months it’s been quite a year…

Things kicked off in January with Wings of Kilimanjaro, where I was proud to be part of the largest group ever to climb to the summit of the mountain and in the process raise over half a million dollars for three charities making a difference on the ground in Tanzania; The One Foundation, Plant with Purpose and WorldServe International.

I was only back in the UK for a few weeks before beginning The Go Trek with Dave Cornthwaite – a 3074mile, two month journey around Europe by ElliptiGo.  Not only did I get into the best shape physically that I’ve ever been in, I was delighted to get to know the inspirational team at Coppafeel – the fab boob charity we raised over £3000 for – and also to meet so many generous, kind and lovely people along the way.

On my return to the UK I enjoyed being back on two wheels, but this time with an engine and I had a blast taking my BMW F800GS out to the Aosta Valley in Italy where I climbed Monte Rosa.

Before returning back to the UK I rode to Aix Les Bains in France where I took part in the ElliptiGo European Championships.  A great event and brilliant to get to know more of the ElliptiGo community.

In September I was excited to meet up with Ranulph Finnes, Kenton Cool and the Powertraveller Team at The Royal Geographical Society where we were working on a project for the new Powertravller product (due to be released in early 2014).

October and November saw the confirmation of a plan that has been bubbling away in the back ground for a while now.  I took a trip to the States to get to work on pre production and training for a new adventure travel series that I will be filming in 2014 with an amazing team!  The biggest surprise of that trip was learning to BASEJump!!

The year concluded with a trip to South Africa, I was in the sunshine for Christmas and while I was there I took the opportunity to climb Table Mountain.

Even in this quick round up of the year its easy to see that I’ve been able to do some wonderful things in incredible places and raise money for very good causes.

I’m so lucky to have the support of my friends and family, I’ve met some great people in 2013 and I’m proud to work with the teams and companies that I do; PowertravellerRab, BMW, GoPro, Salomon, Suunto, Aosta Valley, Peli & Zaini.

It’s the people in my life and the people who I meet that make all the difference.  Thank you all for your support, encouragement and love.

I hope that 2014 is a wonderful year for everyone …. and don’t forget if you’re knickers are right, then everything goes right!

See you in 2014, Squash! xx

 

Wings of Kilimanjaro – Final Training

There’s just a week to go until I fly to Africa for Wings of Kilimanjaro!

Over the past few months I’ve been preparing for the trip and in recent weeks I’ve been doing my final training.

Location is less important when you are working on physical training, you can work out pretty much wherever you are.  However it becomes very important when you are working on paragliding training – you need good weather and high mountains.

I have just been out in Tignes, France where I have been able to take advantage of the altitude for physical stuff and more importantly I’ve been able to fly my paraglider from the beautiful mountains.  The weather was kind and I made the most of flying on the blue sky, calm wind days.

There’s nothing better to prepare you for being at altitude than to actually be at altitude.  In Tignes I sleep at 1600m and am able to train even higher.

 

 

 

Wings of Kilimanjaro – Less than a month to go!


On the 26th January I will be leaving the UK and heading to Tanzania Africa to join over 100 other adventurers to begin a rather remarkable journey.

These things come round so fast.  I can’t believe it’s happening this month!

The preparation for a climb and fly expedition begin a long time before the start of the trip but generally the last few weeks before you depart things can get very busy!

Kit is an essential part of my expeditions and I’m always on the look out for the best possible kit I can use, trust and rely on.  I actively seek to work with brands that I personally really enjoy using, genuinely believe in and as a result have no issues telling the world about!

Recently I used a Peli head torch and was amazed, it’s a brilliant piece of kit.  Peli hadn’t really been on my radar but if you look on their website you’ll probably recognise their logo and their product – best known for their tough cases they also manufacture lighting systems.

I have since been in touch with Peli and have been testing some products.  Delighted with the results I have become a Peli Ambassador and they are partnering with me on the Wings of Kilimanjaro trip.

I am now in the Alps and this is the perfect place for me to do my final few weeks training, which mostly involves hiking up the slopes with a pack on my back and then skiing back down!  Whilst I’m here I’m hoping to get a few flights in too.

 

So we had a ball!!

On 3rd September I officially sent out the invites to the Wings of Kilimanjaro charity ball.  I had no raffle prizes, no auction prizes, no funds for printing, no dj, no auctioneer, no photographer and no idea how I was going to pay for a drinks reception/decoration etc….  But what I did have was a venue and a plan!

The plan was pretty simple – to have a great night and raise lots of money for Treetops Hospice and for the charities that Wings of Kilimanjaro is supporting (The One Foundation, Plant with Purpose & Worldserve).

Most importantly what I do have are amazing friends, family and people around me and this was the key to last Friday’s success.

You see what happened was ….

Emma said to me, “Mate, no problem, we’ll sort it”.

My good friend Woodey Gundry took charge of the artwork.  He’s a talented boy!

My mum’s good friend Stephanie donated a signed Red arrows poster for the auction.

One of my best friends Max said his company would cover the drinks reception and table wine.

Powertraveller became the balls main supporter and also offered table centre pieces, raffle & auction prizes & printing facilities.

Rab also supported and offered prizes (not just any prize either, a handmade unique Rab duvet!) and printing services.

My friends and family began buying tickets and selling more tickets, getting full tables and rallying support.

Adam Hill donated a Tandem paragliding flight to the auction (which was so appropriate given the nature of Wings of Kilimanjaro!)

The resident DJ at Risley Hall reduced his rates as it was a charity do.

My old school friends dad, a professional auctioneer, said he’d be happy to provide his services at the auction on the night.

Herman Buchan offered not just one but several fantastic holidays in the Aosta Valley to give away as prizes.

Rachel Twig from The Secret Garden donated a raffle prize but also gave every single guest a voucher as a gift!

Sam Reed a very talented photographer came on board at a very reasonable rate to provide photos of the event.

Jack Rabbits donated a stunning hamper for the raffle.

Friends donated brilliant items to the auction and raffle.

Diane made a spectacular cake!

Then when I wasn’t in the slightest bit ready for the night in terms of what I was going to wear, Karen lent me a dress, Zella did my hair and mum brought me a pilot’s cap!

The reason I wanted to tell you how it happened is because I recognised and wanted to acknowledge that this was not something I achieved on my own… I was just part of a bigger group of people who made this happen.

The prospect of fund raising for charity is not easy but I think if you keep in your mind –  doing something is always better than doing nothing and raising anything is better than raising nothing – then you can’t fail.

It was an absolutely brilliant night, thank you to everyone who supported and everyone who came.  Once all the money is collected in it is looking like we will have raised just over £10,000!  A fantastic amount of money that will make a huge difference.

The full album can be viewed by clicking this link –

Wings of Kilimanjaro Charity Ball supported by Powertraveller

 

 

The Lord Mayors Show, London 2012

At the beginning of September I got a phone call from Australia, from Adrain McRae, the man behind the Wings of Kilimanjaro project. (A world first project that at the end of Jan next year will see up to 200 adventure philanthropists, including me, climb and attempt to fly from the roof of Africa raising over One Million dollars for Tanzanian charities.)

Adrian told me that Wings of Kilimanjaro had been offered the chance to enter a float in the prestigious Lord Mayors Show in London… on the 10th Novemeber… in less than 10 weeks time!

He wanted to know if I thought we should do it and if so, could I head the project up?  Oh and could I decide right away!  Obviously in these situations it’s important to just say yes and figure out the finer details later.

After saying yes I spent sometime wishing that I hadn’t.. then set about wondering how on earth one builds a float for the Lord Mayors Show?

Thank goodness for other people (you know who you are!) who set me off on the right track, offered help and made things happen.

One thing that happened was I was put in touch with Jane Ripley of Ripley & Friends and after a quick chat about what we thought would be nice to do for a float, Jane went away and the next morning sent me this design.

You see we thought it would be brilliant to build a mountain!

Jane Ripley’s hand drawn design for the Wings of Kilimanjaro float

When I received this I thought two things; that’s amazing and I’m not sure it’s possible?!

Apparently is was possible…

“If something is wrong or goes wrong but you have the right people around you, you can make anything work” were some of the first words Carl Robertshaw said to me as I looked in delighted amazement the first time I saw our mountain and we were working out how we’d actually make this all come together for the Lord Mayors Show (which was in two days time).  You see not long previously Jane had received a call to say the truck Stuart Wilbraham (from London Reclaimed Brick Merchants) was lending us for the parade had broken down and we would not be able to borrow it.

Fortunately Stuart was still able to help and did find a solution.  A bigger truck!  The beautiful old Bedford was not only a solution but also a fantastic back up plan, if all else had failed we could have just driven that through the parade!  The issue we now had was the truck was too big and we weren’t even sure if the mountain would fit over it.

Which brings me back to Carl’s words.

“If something is wrong or goes wrong but you have the right people around you, you can make anything work”

Soon with a little modification, sleepless nights and reassurance from our mountain creators it became apparent that we could make it work and that we would also have the largest float the parade had ever seen!!!

From the very beginning of this project I’ve been humbled by the people who have got involved, helped and ultimately made this happen; from a friend who reassured me at the start of all this that it was doable, to the creators of the float, to the volunteers who moved our mountain on the day.  You all played a very significant part and I am so grateful to you all.

Thank you.

If you missed our float on the day, you can see us here on BBC One!  The Lord Mayors Show

Should you find yourself needing to build a float or create something amazing I can highly recommend these people!

Jane Ripley Ripley & Friends

Carl Robertshaw  Kite Related Design

Russell Beck  Props Model Sculpture Design

Mike Paragliding & Kite Workshop

Stuart Wilbraham from London Reclaimed Brick Merchants (The Bedford truck was curtsy of Stuart!)

Wings of Kilimanjaro – The reconnaissance climb

I had such a brilliant time climbing Kilimanjaro!! I loved it….

It’s a mountain I’ve wanted to climb for years and for many reasons it was everything I’d hoped for and more. Unlike Everest Kilimanjaro is accessible to most people. It can be done in a week, it’s realistic to be able to train for it with a full time job, it’s not too expensive, it’s challenging without being crazy and it’s beautiful.

Incredible clouds above Kilimanjaro

The reason this trip came about was because I was part of the Wings of Kilimanjaro reconnaissance team. Wings of Kilimanjaro (WoK) is an event that will see up to 200 paraglider and handglider pilots attempt to fly from the summit early next year and in doing so raise over $1million for charity.

We didn’t fly this time!!

Kilimanjaro is in a national park and the permit to fly has only been issued for the main event next year. This trip was to check out the routes to the top, the camps, possible take off sites and to work on event logistics.

There were seven of us including myself –

Adrian McRae – Founder of Wok
Peter Bowyer – Safety officer for the event
Peter Grieg – Photographer
Jayme Moye – Journalist
Tim & Katya Leach – Pilot and locals with insider info!

The team - just hanging out on the mountain!

We spent 8 days on Kilimanjaro – this is longer than most trips. We had to allow time to circumnavigate the mountain, visit different camps, make sure we acclimatised well and explore all of our options.

We summited the mountain and spent time looking at the possible take off areas. There are several options but their suitability will depend hugely on conditions when we are there in January. It was a clear blue sky day and the clouds were below us…. Stunning!

On the summit with the team

At 5,895m the mountain is over 1000m higher than Mont Blanc and should not be underestimated! It’s definitely not a climb, it’s a trek and there is no need for crampons. You are not on ice or snow but the effects of altitude can be felt from around 3000m. Whilst lots of people do make it to the summit many people become ill and don’t make it.

I was on this trip because I wanted to see the mountain for myself and because I wanted to know exactly what WoK was about, the people behind it and how the money raised was being spent. It’s one thing organising a ‘climb and fly’ when you are doing it for yourself (as I did on Mt Blanc) but it’s quite a different matter organising up to 200 pilots plus a support team of up to 1000 people.

Was this even a realistic idea?!

Adrian McRae is an intelligent man with big dreams and, I believe, has the right components to make this a brilliant event. He has been working on this project for a few years now and has invested large amounts of his own time, effort and money to give it the best possible chance of success. After many visits and time spent in the county he has an understanding of how things work in Africa. It is no easy task dealing with and understanding how the authorities function!

Peter Bowyer is a very experienced pilot. He has been instructing for years and has worked as safely officer on many events. Having spent time with Peter on the expedition I know that he will have no issues with making the decision to fly or not. If the conditions aren’t right or the pilots are not fit to fly Peter will not permit them to do so. There will be a minimum of one helicopter present on the mountain should a rescue be necessary.

Leading the expedition was Silvano Hamisi Mvungi, the owner and chief guide of Top of Africa Expeditions and guide partner for WoK. The logistics for this trip went smoothly and I’m hopeful that this company has the staff, equipment and ability to handle the huge group that will be on the mountain next year. I think it might be worth remembering though that TIA….. this is Africa! and perhaps all people involved in the main event should pack a good amount of patience and understanding, especially for the first few days of the hike as everyone finds their pace and this large group settles into things!

With Silvano Hamisi Mvungi and another guide from Top of Africa Expeditions

Peter Greig is a wonderfully creative guy and has been very involved with WoK since the beginning and has worked closely with Adrian McRae. He documented this trip and his stunning photos can be seen by clicking here…

Rarely seen - the hard work of the person behind the photographs. Peter Greig.

I met the team, I climbed the mountain…. so what do I think about WoK??

I think it’s an absolutely incredible project with a remarkable team of people behind it. I’m excited to be a pilot and to be part of the main event. The mountain is beautiful, the route is good, there are camp sites that will accommodate the WoK group and there are good take off sites if the weather plays ball! The money raised will be going to very good causes and the WoK team are actively encouraging people to stay longer or re-visit Tanzania to get involved with the projects that the money will be funding.

I think it is critical that people have realistic expectations. This is the largest group of people that Kilimanjaro has ever seen and as I mentioned before – this is Africa! Things probably won’t run smoothly 100% of the time. Climbing mountains and paragliding are both sports that involve risk and elements that are out of our control. To climb the mountain and fly off the top would be great but that is not a given. The real glory in being a part of WoK is that you are part of a journey and a team that will see you try to climb a wonderful mountain and attempt to fly off the top. That may or may not happen, but what will happen is that the combined amounts of money that we all raise and donate will make a positive difference to many people’s lives… and that is quite simply incredible.