Saturday, 30 July 2011


After 9 months of planning we have reached the day where everything comes together. Throughout the day the group will arrive at a campsite just outside of Southampton in preparation for our departure on Monday morning.
Unfortunately I must pass on some bad news which is that Alex came off his bicycle last week, breaking 2 ribs and tearing ligaments in his knee. As such he will be unable to travel the full distance but hopefully he recovers enough to join us in Morocco.
Updates on the blog will continue after our sailing as soon as we get our hands on some French SIM cards.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Ame D'aventure

After much deliberation, we have decided to utilise the local resources and use kit bags and mules for the ascent up to base camp on Jebel Toubkal. The remaining trek to the summit will require us to carry our own kit.

The team would like to say a huge thankyou to AME D'AVENTURE, who are providing us with kitbags for free. In addition, they have arranged a farewell dinner for the team before we fly home from Marrakesh, in celebration of our achievement! Many thanks for your kind generosity!

For more information on AME D'AVENTURE, take a look a the following link:

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Final Training Episode

The final training ride started at Gloucester Train Station at midday on Wednesday the 6th July. Both Troy and I were a little delayed by our own inability to read simple train timetables and by the time we both arrived in Gloucester Katie and Dave were waiting for us with Ali, Dan and Tom having gone to shop for food. Upon their return we made up sandwiches and distributed food before heading west towards Symonds Yat – our planned campsite for the night. Our first planned RV point was at a pub featuring a giant dinosaur in the garden. This was the description given to Tom, Troy and myself by Katie with her local knowledge. True to her word a giant Diplodocus (I hope I got this right) came into view as we crested a small hill. Disappointingly the pub was not open so we pressed onwards.

 The sky had been looking threatening since leaving Gloucester and we started experiencing intermittent showers as we headed through the Forest of Dean. The group I was in caught Dave, Katie, Dan and Ali shortly before Symonds Yat as they were stopped by the roadside. On closer inspection it soon became apparent Dan’s pannier rack had come loose and literally slipped off the back of his bike depositing half his gear in the middle of the road. After some tightened bolts and a red faced Dan, we continued as a group to find a suitable location to set up camp.

For once we actually found somewhere to camp at a reasonable time and before the sun had set which was nice as we didn’t need to rush around with setting up camp and preparing dinner. Our spot was at the edge of the Forest of Dean in a pretty little glade. The rain kindly eased off for us as we cooked our dinner of pasta, tomato and bacon. On previous weekends we had been cooking with slow burning meth spirits but for this training weekend we had the use of jet boilers. These small little cookers really pack a punch as we soon found out. Tom narrowly avoided setting the campsite on fire as he struggled to turn off the gas when he realised he had the valve open far too wide. We had originally planned on eating pasta for two nights but after this night we were easily persuaded to change our minds. In fact, a little word of warning to people reading: do not buy Asda value pasta unless you feel like changing the water halfway through to get rid of the starch. By the time our pasta was cooked it could be passed off as a cheese pasta bake as the starch stuck in and around the pasta. Unfortunately in a taste test it definitely would not pass as a pasta bake. 

The morning of Thursday was dry and we awoke in good spirits thanks mainly to a good night’s sleep. We left camp heading for Ewyas Harold via St Weonards and within the minutes the skies opened to batter us with torrential rain for the morning. Continuing in the same groups as the previous day Tom, Troy and I arrived at St Weonards in good time. Not realising that this was simply a checkpoint we began the ‘wait’ for the other group. By the time we had received a brief history lesson from some of the local villagers along with donations of food from the village shop we realised that actually the other group was ahead of us and we quickly pressed on half an hour in deficit.

Arriving in Ewyas Harold we met the other group who had been waiting patiently at the chip shop and joined them for some more food. The target for the day was Pen y Fan and we still had a long way to go so we pressed on Westwards along unclassified roads towards Velindre. My group had not gotten far before Troy’s rear tyre appeared to explode not far in front of me. I wasn’t emphasising this as Tom came round the corner shortly after us thinking he had just heard a gunshot. A quick check of Troy’s tyres revealed the recommended maximum pressure as 80psi. Considerable lower than the 120psi Troy claimed he had them pumped up to. After changing the inner tube we were back on our way through the ups and downs of the Welsh valleys. 

Some of the ascents that lay between us and Velindre were particularly gruelling and we stopped for a brief rest on a picnic table up on one of the hills we had come over. After a lot of effort we finally made it to Velindre which turned out to be signposted Felindre. Which of these it actually is I am unsure of as on all the maps (including Google) it is marked as Velindre. Anyway, we were soon berated by the other team for “Stopping for history lessons and picnics” and the group decided we would use the A roads to follow the contours of the valley and bring us quickly into Brecon.

The A roads made a real difference and we soon found ourselves in Brecon with enough time for a pub stop before we headed to a field at the base of Pen y Fan to camp in. The long grass in the field made for a lovely mattress beneath our backs as we slept through heavy rain into the morning.

The night before Troy kindly volunteered to stay in bed (so generous) to watch the bikes as he had tragically forgotten his walking boots. After a little trouble route finding the rest of us finally found ourselves on a track for the summit of Pen y Fan. A couple of false summits, a little over an hour of climbing and constant rain and wind finally led us to the 886m peak. The wind was so strong the SAS Chaplain we enlisted to take our photograph couldn’t even hold the camera still and ended up cutting Ali’s head off* – see below. I said this before (but I’ll say it again to enhance all our egos) – the only other people on top of Pen y Fan that morning were the SAS completing their selection process.

Despite it continuing to rain, the weather felt far more peaceful back at our camp and again we were all smiles as we left to head back to Brecon for more food supplies. For the last two days we changed the group compositions around so this time it was Dave, Katie, Troy and I in one group with Ali, Dan and Tom completing the other group. After a brief stop at Morrisons we followed the A road down to Abergavenny notching up 20 miles in just over an hour. The next checkpoint was Monmouth which we made in good time again allowing us to reward ourselves with a pub stop. By now the day had turned from rainy to sunny and we could enjoy a pint or two outside, warming ourselves in the sun.

That night we camped not far from Monmouth next to a bridleway which would leave us with a nice manageable distance to Lydney the next day. Tom, Ali and Troy had trains to catch from Gloucester whilst Dan and I had to head the other way back to our homes on the other side of the Severn Bridge. This meant we were all grateful for an early finish in Lydney that allowed us all to get home in good time. I can’t comment on the groups ride back to Gloucester as I was not a part of it but I will say Dan and I enjoyed very nice weather as we crossed back over to England and along some pretty (and thankfully flat) B roads. 

I should add that Dan was awarded the mallet for unceremoniously dumping his rear pannier and consequently half his luggage in the middle of a Welsh village. We can now all look forward to meeting up with the rest of the group as we continue to train and prepare for what is promising to be an exciting summer. Finally, thank you to everyone who has so far donated to SOS Children. Having your support is great and I'm sure the Moroccan children will be just as appreciative!

*Ali’s head was not literally cut off and he will still be on the expedition

Monday, 18 July 2011

Madison Bikes and Ridgeback

A big thank you to Madison Bikes and Ridgeback who have kindly supplied Dave with a touring bike for the expedition! Check out their website:

Friday, 8 July 2011


The weather was miserable throughout last night and into this morning as we climbed Pen y Fan. Torrential rain and extreme winds didn't dent our enthusiasm to summit and the fact that the only other people on the top were the SAS in their selection exercise is a credit to us. By the time we reached Abergavenny the sun had shown itself to dry us out and now Dave, Kate, Troy and myself are drinking outside a pub in Monmouth as we wait for Dan, Tom and Ali who left slightly behind us. We hope to camp back in the forest of dean before our final day.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


We are currently camped in a field at the foot of Pen y Fan which we will be ascending tomorrow morning. The first night we camped in the forest of dean and we've since travelled up and down in the brecon beacons to where we are now. The first two days have been very wet so hopefully we get some sun to dry us out tomorrow! Apologies for no update last night but there was no signal.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Final Training Weekend

Originally we had 3 training weekends planned but as many of us have had to miss at least one of these we are having a 4 day training ride starting tomorrow morning. We meet at Gloucester station mid morning and the plan is to cycle out into the Brecon Beacons arriving at Pen y Fan Thursday. We will then climb Pen y Fan before finishing the cycle back into Gloucester for the Saturday evening. As always keep checking the blog for updates of the next few days!