South America

I’m recently back from an epic 10 week trip in South America.  A journey through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Brazil doing the first 3000miles on my BMW F800 GS Adventure!

I was with a crew and together we were filming for an adventure travel series.. details to follow!

Our schedule was very full.  It was such a busy time.  So many places, people and experiences.

We kicked things off with long days and late nights in Buenos Aires – that city really does not sleep – and it was a mistake when I thought that things would calm down after that.

On day seven a World First and a World Record were attempted and….. you’ll have to watch the show when it comes out to see if we got it!

Argentina is a beautiful country and I felt really at home when we reached Patagonia in the South and got into the mountains.

Crossing the boarder into Chile was spectacular and we met some impressive British cyclists who were cycling around the world, they were 18,000miles into their journey and I was utterly amazed when they told me they were baking their own bread!!  They were carrying with them a camping bread oven – genius.

The winding, long and smooth roads through the Andes were just perfect on the motorbike.  We rode into Chile and all the way to Pichilemu on the coast.  A surfers paradise; great waves, hanging out on the beach, camp fires, stunning sunsets and the best cheese and tomato empanadas I’ve ever had in my life!

Chile is so diverse, we travelled from the chic and bustling international city of Santiago into the vast emptiness of the Atacama dessert – where I had my first experience of boiling eggs in geysers for breakfast! (Photo – Matt Irwin)

Cooking eggs in geysers, Chile.

The trip changed gear in Peru – it was like entering the Twilight zone!  There’s a magical energy about the place and I just loved it.  I had a meeting with a Shaman who read my coco leaves, visited the wonder that is Machu Picchu and had an absolutely brilliant time running wild in Cusco – literally.  Our final stop in Peru was Lima which, at night, is easily the most dangerous place I’ve ever ridden a motorbike!

From Lima we flew to Colombia and into the Amazon where I had a few unexpected treats and again confirmed to myself that I am definitely not a hunter!  The cities in Colombia were fun and the local food is delicious but that’s probably because it was either fried or full of sugar.

Our final destination was Rio de Janeiro and what a place to end the trip.  From the poverty in the favelas to the riches of the Copacabana beach front, Rio’s got it all going on.  We arrived just as the carnivals were finishing but we still found parades and bloc parties!

The final scene we filmed was flying over the city, it was a rather scary take off and landing on the beach was incredible but there were mixed emotions.  I was happy, of course, I’d just landed safely from a wonderful flight but it also marked the end of the trip.

It’s often hard finishing an adventure or a journey, especially when you’ve made strong bonds with your team and been through so much together.  It also really hard to put your experiences into words.  When people ask me “Squash, how was South America?”  I struggle because the answer is a long one and there’s so much to say about it…

“Amazing” sums it up pretty well though.

Paragliding over Rio

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

 

Strategy – how I keep Go’ing

I have been surprised by how many of the skills that I have learnt and called upon to climb big mountains – I’ve also been able to apply to The Go Trek.

This trip will total almost 70days when I my journey ends on Friday and that’s the longest expedition that I have completed – even longer than my Everest trip!

Kit wise; my Rab sleeping bag (my comfort blanket!), my Peli head torch & my Powertraveller solar chargers all remind me of days in the mountains but I wasn’t expecting to find so many other similarities as I’ve ElliptiGo’ed through Europe.  After all I’ve not been remote, out of touch or without the comfort of regular showers and I’ve even enjoyed the luxury of a proper bed for some nights of the trip!

However, endurance is endurance and as the weeks have gone by and as with other expeditions, I’ve really had to keep focused mentally and very importantly look after my physical well-being.

It has been calculated that an ElliptiGo is 30% more effort to ride than a regular bicycle, add a trailer of 20-30kgs (depending on how much chocolate is in it!) and you have an idea of the energy needed to ride the Go.

In the first few weeks of the trip we were doing days of 20 – 70 miles and had a few rest days. It was a gentle start and allowed fitness and condition to increase. However as we came further South and reached Switzerland/France I began doing 100 mile plus days (often consecutively and in the mountains with lots of hill climbing).

As my aim has always been to hit the 3000mile target by Paris it’s meant that I’ve had to continue to cover large distances over extended and here’s how I’ve a. achieved it, and b. maintained my condition so that I can continue to do it.

  • Eating and drinking correctly. I’m keeping myself hydrated by drinking between 4 and 8 litres of water a day and I’m eating as many calories as I can take on board and eating every hour to avoid energy crashes. I stick to the same tried and tested routine that I use in the mountains – for me, the key is to eat before I feel hungry and drink before I feel thirsty.
  • Sleeping at least 7 hours a night. It might not sound a lot, but as long as I get this as a minimum I’m ok. I also find I sleep very deeply when I’m exercising to this degree and the quality of sleep I’m getting is good.
  • Working no harder than 70-80% of my full capacity. I’m using a slower pace to ensure that I can keep going and don’t burn out and I use my Suunto heart rate monitor to help me to do this.
  • Planning and taking rest days. When I was in Nice at the Ironman I met Bobby Julich (competitor in 2005/06 tour de France and now trainer for the top riders in the tour). We discussed tactics and Bobby said to me, “When you ride – ride hard and when you rest – rest hard”.

With that in mind I pushed hard last week so that I could have two days complete rest days.

I now I have just four more days Go’ing and I know that these will be long, hard days. But, if I continue to drink, eat and sleep well and maintain a steady pace….and if I keep this in mind (see below) then I’ll arrive in Paris having completed an amazing 3000miles!!

Anything is possible! .... Certainly trying anything is possible!
Anything is possible! …. Certainly trying anything is possible!

 

 

 

 

 

Eight days in America

It’s amazing how much you can do in eight days as proved by my recent trip to the States!

The purpose of the trip was to do a lecture tour with Summit Climb’s Dan Mazur to promote awareness and raise funds for the Mount Everest Foundation for Sustainable Development in Nepal (MEFSD)’s latest project, a new Sherpa Training School.  You can read more about it here in this article Katy Dartford wrote up for Trek & Mountain Magazine’s website.

Sherpa Training School

The lectures went brilliantly.  They were all very different and all thoroughly enjoyable.

We began north of San Francisco, in Santa Rosa at the Rock, Ice and Mountain Climber’s Club.  The venue couldn’t have been better – it was in a room that was part of a pizza restaurant and a delicious pizza was good preparation for the evening!  With no planned place to stay it was thanks to Maria Anna that we had beds for the night and an impromptu venue for the after talk party!

It’s always fun to meet the people you are talking to and hear their stories.  There was a great guy called Nathan Heald who we had the pleasure of meeting.  He was just visiting the US as he now lives in Cusco, where he is a climbing guide.  If you fancy some Latin America climbing, Nathan is your man www.skyhighandes.com.  We also met an inspirational couple in their 70’s who still run marathons and who will shortly be heading to Nepal to join a service trek.  I’d like to think I’ll be doing that kind of thing in my 70’s!

We had an early start as the next day we had some serious miles to cover to our next stop, Visalia; one of the largest agricultural regions in California.  I felt quite at home amongst all the farms, cattle and crops!  The Fox Theatre was the venue and what a venue!  It was huge and splendid.  Quite an intimidating stage to step out onto but I soon found my groove and really enjoyed that I was speaking with Dan and was able to listen to his full Everest story.  If you ever get the chance to hear Dan speak it’s a unique and great experience.

The Fox Theatre - view from the stage
The Fox Theatre – view from the stage

Our kind host at The Fox, Paul Fry, stayed up late with us and still got up early the next day to take us to see the giant Sequoia trees – an hours drive away in Sequoia National Park.  It was snowing in the park and the trees made me feel microscopic, they are so big and tall that your eyes can’t work out the perspective.

The giant Sequoia tress
The giant Sequoia tress

Our final stop and lecture was later that evening – another few hour’s drive South to CalTech Alpine Club at the University campus.  We were joined by a group of deaf climbers who have been achieving great things and who brought along sign language interpreters for the talk.  This was a new and enjoyable experience for me and I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Sonya and the interpreters.

Lecture at CalTech with an interpreter upfront with me
Lecture at CalTech with an interpreter upfront with me

Each lecture was a wonderful opportunity to tell people about the MEFSD and the Sherpa Training School.  We are very grateful to everybody who came and who donated generously to support the cause.  Thank you for being a part of our lecture tour.

It was also very useful to spread awareness and ask for people’s input and help on how to collect second hand climbing gear and transport it to Nepal from around the world (from the States is no problem as we have sponsored shipping from the US to Nepal) for the Sherpa’s Training School.  However, one of the most important messages we want to get across is to let people know that we want/need their old climbing gear (that is still safe and functional) to use at the School.  If anyone outside the States has any of the items in the list at the bottom of this blog post please send me a message (squash@squashfalconer.com) and I can let you know where to send it.  Also, if you have any ideas about how to centrally collect kit and ship it to the States we’d appreciate your ideas and thoughts on that too – thank you!

Before the lectures began, I had a few days in California, which were all jam packed!

Highlights included –

* A visit to Pelican’s headquarters where Sharon Ward, the Marketing Director, set up the first part of our meeting along the ocean front!  She said, “Men have meetings on the golf course and I think I’d like to start a movement that women have an equivalent ‘outside office’!”  It certainly has my vote.

Ocean front meeting with Sharon from Pelican
Ocean front meeting with Sharon from Pelican

After our ocean view meeting we heading to Pelican HQ where it literally all happens!  They make everything in their factory in CA.  I have been working with Peli for a few months and have been using their kit a lot.  It’s incredible to know and use kit and then see it being made.

With Keith inside the Pelican Factory
With Keith inside the Pelican Factory

Probably one of the most mind blowing processes I experienced was one of the Pelican protection cases being made with the help of a robot!  Impressive stuff..

As always, it’s a pleasure to meet the team behind the products I use, especially when they give you chocolate…thanks Jason, it was delicious!

* Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge; from the land, from the sky, from the water below and from on it!

Golden Gate Bridge from the sky
Golden Gate Bridge from the sky
On Golden Gate Bridge
On Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge from the water!
Golden Gate Bridge from the water!

* Eating Clam Chowder and following up with a hot chocolate at Ghirardelli’s. (Thank you Stacy!)

Clam Chowder
Clam Chowder
Ghirardelli's hot chocolate
Ghirardelli’s hot chocolate

* Meeting the GoPro team at their headquarters in Half Moon Bay.

At GoPro HQ with Pilar
At GoPro HQ with Pilar

 

I love the people that I work with and the people that I get to meet along the way. Putting the US trip together wasn’t an easy task and I wondered at the time if I was doing the right thing and if my focus was in the right place. I’m happy to conclude that it was a wonderful trip and recognise (yet again) that when you get out there and do stuff, stuff happens!

 

Below is a list of items we need for the Sherpa Training school (used equipment is fine and sherpas come in all sizes, from very small to very large):

▪    Plastic climbing boots
▪    One-sport-everest or other boots with built in gaiter
▪    Crampons
▪    Ice axes
▪    Helmets
▪    Harnesses
▪    Carabiners
▪    Descending/rapelling/abseiling/belaying devices
▪    Ascenders such as petzl/jumar/bd, etc
▪    Slings
▪    Ropes
▪    Jackets made of fleece/pile or goretex or down
▪    Trousers made of fleece/pile or goretex or down
▪    Rucksacks and backpacks
▪    Sleeping bags
▪    Warm hats
▪    Mittens and gloves made of wool/poly/fleece/pile/polar or goretex or down
▪    Sunglasses
▪    Baselayers made of  made of wool/poly/fleece/pile/polar
▪    Socks made of  made of wool/poly/fleece/pile/polar
▪    Trekking shoes
▪    Headlamps

 

 

 

 

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.