It has been exactly a year since we set off to climb Mont Blanc, an experience we’ll never forget. Here is a glimpse of our journey. As we share this with you we would also like to thank all of the supporters of our campaign. Together we were able to provide 170,000 meals to malnourished children in the Philippines through International Care Ministries.
The Travellers Two are on the road again. This summer we were planning to drive from the UK to Rome to shoot an interview with an amazing photographer, and as we looked at the route we saw that we had to drive through the Alps. And the idea emerged to climb Mt Blanc on the way. We reserved 2 days in Chamonix to go up and down the mountain and then we would be on our way to sunny Italy. But as we started doing our research we realised that it’s not as easy as we initially imagined. Training, diet, altitude preparation, equipment, weather, refuge booking and finding a guide were among the things we needed to consider, research and execute.
After four months of preparation we are on the outskirts of Chamonix in the beautiful and quiet town of Le Tour. We arrived here on Saturday the 23rd and met with people from Peak Powder, who organised guides for us. At 2 am on Sunday we woke up at the back of our Defender and drove to Geneva airport and flew to Rome where we spent 36 hours, interviewing Milton Gendel, eating pizza, pasta and gelato.
Milton Gendel’s guest book
We came back to Le Tour at 3am, and after few hours of sleep we were on our way up our first mountain. It was not a great success as we left too late and we got caught in a storm at two and a half thousand metres above sea level, so we had to come back down. Le Buet conquered us, but despite the fact that we didn’t reach the top we did some good training in the snow with crampons.
View of Mt Blanc from Aiguille du Midi
The next day we went up Aiguille du Midi at 3810m to get a taste of the high altitude. Walking up and down the stairs wasn’t as easy as at sea level, but we did a little bit of training there.
The following morning we met our guide Benji and headed to the Italian side of the Alps. That morning we got to the refuge in the foothills of Gran Paradiso. After a short nap we did some more crampon training, using our ice axes, ropes and harnesses, and organised our pack leaving all but the absolutely essential. At 3:20am we were the first out of the refuge heading up the mountain. After 4 hours and 25 minutes of walking on rocks and snow we got to the top. Four other teams passed us on the way but we still made it in a good time.
Coming down from Gran Paradiso
There were moments when breathing was very tough and the thoughts of doubt came through our minds. “Why are we doing it? It’s not fun at all. It’s just walking, but really hard and up the hill in not so friendly conditions.” But we kept going, with our toes and fingers starting to get numb we reached the summit, took a photo, which we need to get from Benji, as Louise dropped her phone on the top, and headed down as quickly as possible. Slowly we started taking layers off as the morning sun warmed us up and we were getting lower and lower. I asked Benji “Why do people do it?” and he replied “I don’t know if it’s for the climb itself or the feeling after” but as we came down to the refuge by the parking lot and had lunch, he said “I think this is why people do it.”
Breakfast at the L’Olimpique
As for today, we needed to get some rest before Mt Blanc so we decided to get a room for a couple of nights at l’Olimpique hotel in Le Tour, which was build for the Olympic Games in 1924. At breakfast we got the message that the weather forecast had changed and we have to move our ascent back by a day. So now we have a couple of days of rest, sending emails and recharging batteries for Mt Blanc. We’ll be leaving at dawn on Monday morning hoping to get to the top by sunrise on Tuesday.
Admiring the view from Aiguille du Midi
As we started telling people about this idea a couple of months ago it was just a blurry thought without a clear vision, but as we started getting closer to the date we thought of doing it for a cause, something that will keep us going when we feel like stopping. We both work for an organisation that helps the extremely poor in the Philippines get themselves out of their current conditions. ICM focuses on education so the participants can “take the fishing rod themselves and fish, rather than feeding them once.” But as ICM trainers go to the poor communities they find many children that are malnourished. And this is the part that we felt that we wanted to highlight through our expedition. ICM gets tons of free anti-malnutrition food from a few organisations in the US but they have to pay for the shipping to the Philippines. We’ve set quite a steep goal but we’re hoping to raise enough funds to deliver half a million meals to the homes of malnourished children. You can partner with us by donating here, and if you would like to find out more about ICM please check out their website.
Of course we are aware that we could have donated the money that we invested in the expedition directly to ICM, stay at home and make videos of very slim children, with heartbreaking violin music in the background, but that’s what we do outside of our holidays anyway.
We recently came back from the Philippines where we were visiting families of the new kids that joined the ICM Choir. We had the chance to visit new communities and take a look at this beautiful country and beautiful people with fresh eyes.
It’s important to remember to stop from time to time, to look up from our mobile phones and take a look at the world around us. Here is a snapshot of life in the Philippines.
It has been way too long but The Travellers Two are back on the grid. From the US we flew to Hong Kong and got really busy right away. Louise started studying at Hong Kong University and she had to go to an orientation meeting the day we returned. Fighting through jet lag she officially became a music and journalism student.
Soon after that we started working on a presentation for a charity banquet. For the past few years we have been involved with International Care Ministries; helping people to get out of extreme poverty in the Philippines. Before we started out on our USA expedition we prepared the program for the banquet, but since we were back we decided to make it better, worked on new videos and tweaked scripts, which is the hardest work.
But it was well worth it. The evening was a great success. We brought the ICM choir from The Philippines and the members had a chance to share their stories.
Also if anyone is interested in the more in-depth aspects of poverty reduction in the Philippines, here is a link to the keynote speech by the ICM chairman David Sutherland.
For some time we’re going to be based in Hong Kong again but there are so many amazing people around, so many stories that need to be told, and places to see. Hong Kong is also a great hub for traveling around Asia so we hope to do so on the future and share our stories here.
The First of June: it’s International Children’s Welfare day, it’s the eighth anniversary of Michal arriving in Asia for the first time, and it marks one month of us being on the road in the USA.
Looking back at our first month, we have come a long way – both physically and metaphorically! From freezing feet in Maine to sweating and swatting mosquitos in Florida, we have seen the length of the East Coast in almost its entirety, and are amazed by the uniqueness and beauty of this country. Tomorrow, we’ll be visiting our 20th state, Tennessee! Only 28 more to go…
And then there’s the people – artists, travellers, tourists, locals. I have to say that so far the Mississippians have been the most friendly! But everywhere we go, it has been great to meet old friends, make new acquaintances; the chance meetings along the way are where the magic truly is. Our website on the side of the car has attracted plenty of attention and we’ve made new friends because of it.
To all of you who have written to us, posted photos and stopped to say hi – thank you! You bring us so much joy.
Eight years ago today, Michal arrived in Hong Kong. And soon after that, he started working with a great organisation in the Philippines. Through that organisation, 14 precious, talented kids became part of our lives as we created a choir. As we don’t have children of our own yet, these kids showed us just a glimpse of what it will be like to be parents, and will always have a piece of our hearts!
So today, to celebrate International Children’s Welfare Day, we are remembering the ICM Children’s Choir and dedicating ourselves to continue making their world a better place. These kids represent those in life who deserve more, because they have so much more to give. Here are their stories:
In five and a half years, they have come so far. We’re sad to not be spending time with them as they prepare for another big performance, but their videos are always with us!
An earthquake in Nepal kills thousands of people. A pregnant, homeless young woman sits on the streets of New York City begging for change. A child in the Philippines loses her mother, and suddenly becomes the breadwinner for her four siblings.