Mt Blanc Expedition

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Ocean Rowing

This year we’ve had the chance to do a bit of adventuring on the water. In February 2017, sixteen students from Shantou University will join Charlie Pitcher, world record-breaking Ocean Rower, in an epic journey from Shantou to Hong Kong. We got to witness the beginnings of the training and team selection.

Here’s a short teaser of their journey so far.

Half Way There

Half way through our journey. Half way through the year.

The half way point is an interesting place to be – you look back just as much as you look forward. It’s the beginning of the end, but right in the middle.

We are almost exactly in the middle of our trip. We have been on the road for nine weeks, and have just over nine weeks until we say goodbye to the Land Rover for a little while. We’ve been to the most Eastern, Southern and Northern points of the continental USA, and still have the Wild Wild West ahead of us.

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And we are almost exactly in the middle of the USA! Although we only have 13 states left to visit, those 13 make up almost half of the country and we will probably double the 11,000 miles that we have put on the odometer.

So, at the half way point we look back at the truly beautiful times: the parks, the people, the concerts and the open roads. And the challenges: the heat, the cold, the bugs, the lack-of-hot-showers!

And we look forward to even more to come: meeting amazing people with their stories, breath-taking views and being inspired creatively.

This is our first long overland expedition, and even though we’re driving through a “first world” country, it’s definitely a learning curve. We’re using this as preparation for future trips in more remote places in the world.

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From Austin, we’re on our way into the desert, mountains and then, if we make it out the other side, back to the ocean!

If you’re enjoying being part of our journey, please click “Follow” on the right of the post, to subscribe to our blog, and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. We’ll try to keep it fun!

Shipping the Defender

Did you know… In the fifties, you could buy a Land Rover with tank treads, and the steering was in the middle of the dashboard…

When we first bought our Land Rover Defender in 2013, we didn’t know that it was going to be a little bit like joining a secret club. But we are now proud members of the eclectic and brilliant group of people who rely on the Defender to get them to their destinations, whatever the terrain. From the Queen of England to humble sheep farmers, from Bond Girls to World Famous Explorers; Defenders are the car that will get you to where you want to go.


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We are shipping our Defender to the USA in April, and will be calling it “home” for the next six months.

One of the most common questions that we have answered when talking about our trip is “Why are you shipping your car all the way to the US? Why don’t you just buy/rent/borrow/steal (ok maybe we haven’t been asked that!) one when you get there?”

And the answer is… well firstly, we’re nostalgic. We bought our Land Rover Defender in December 2013 so that we could drive it around the world. We have done a few trips in Europe in it, but we think that it’s time to really test it out on a long, diverse and challenging trip.

But the second answer is that, when you buy or borrow a car, you really don’t know what you’re getting. Even if the owner tells you that it’s a reliable,  unfailing engine in amazing condition, you never really know. And the Defender is pretty much as reliable as it gets!

Thirdly, it’s actually pretty much the same price – when you rent for so long, it gets expensive!

And lastly, we will be making it into a home on wheels. We’ll be sleeping in the back, when we’re not staying with friends, and have put quite a lot of effort into making sure it will be comfortable and safe for us!

IMG_6834So once we decided that we were going to ship the car, the second question that we had to answer a lot is “Can you actually do that? Isn’t the wheel on the wrong side of the car?”.

Yes, it is on the wrong side. But yes, as a non-resident you can do a temporary import, as long you have the correct approval from the EPA and you don’t leave the country while the car is there and you only keep it for up to 12 months and you only have it for personal use and you don’t sell it or rent it while you’re there and

There are a few hoops you have to jump through. The USA doesn’t have the same customs procedures as the rest of the world (surprise surprise!) and so it took us a great deal of research and phone calls to finally figure out if we were actually going to be able to bring the car in without having to pay an enormous bond. But we eventually heard that we got the green light and we have now arranged for the car to be picked up and put on a boat in Southampton. Hopefully we’ll see it again in New York City without any extra surprises!

Thank you to Kingstown Shipping and Flora and Fauna Brokers for your invaluable service. And to Nene Overland for getting the Defender ready for the trip!