Upping the Andes: Four Durham boys cycle South America for charity
It’s one hill of an adventure
They’ve already climbed the equivalent of Everest three times
As you read this, four Durham grads are part way through an 8000 mile trip across the Andes for charity.
They left the southern-most city in the world: Ushaia (not to be confused with the famous Ibizan hotel) to a solitary desert lighthouse that marks the most northerly point of mainland South America.
Archie Innes, (St Aidan’s) Guthrie Fenton, Tom Lawson (Both Hatfield) and Toby Mackean (Hild Bede) are each trying to raise money for charity: Cancer Research UK, The Mark Donegan Fellowship, The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust and the Defence Medical Rehabilitations Centre.
When we caught up with the team on Skype they had just made it into the town of Chaiten in Chile, a month and a day into their six month journey.
Right now, they’re over 1,400 miles down with just under 7,000 to go. Here’s what they had to tell us about their adventure.
They explain while he was revising for finals in Environmental Geo-Science, Guthrie saw a video of some guys doing a cycle tour.
Chemistry grad Archie says: “We wanted to do something like it”.
“After graduating in the summer, the idea that started from a severe bout of procrastination snowballed, and after hours of preparation, one Times World Atlas and a lot of raised eyebrows later, it became a reality.”
So on New Year’s Day this year, the Upping the Andes boys swapped their cosy English family Christmasses for the wilderness of Patagonia but not before a celebrity admirer wished them luck.
“One of us had a vague family connection with Rosie Huntington-Whitely, (world-famous model and general 10/10) and she really liked the sound of the trip so sent us a little Christmas good luck message, which was great.”
Surprisingly, this was said extremely casually for someone who has received a personal message from a woman who has graced the Victoria’s Secret catwalk.
The group gave an insight to the first stage of their eventful journey, which so far has had highs and lows.
The boys say in the first month of their journey, they spent a mere five nights in hotels/hostels, spending most of their time in tents in deserted areas, with no civilisation for hundreds of kilometres in any direction.
They also explain how much time they spend in the saddle, travelling around 300km in just two days for parts of their journey, so it has been hard to really involve themselves in the local culture.
“We just eat, cycle and sleep. And speak really bad Spanish…”
Spending around 10-12 hours a day and burning 5000+ calories on the bike has given them a great excuse to eat as much as they want.
Among other foods, undoubtedly containing much more nutritional value, their diets are made up of lentils, biscuits and of course, some of the local South American cuisine, which consists of an awful lot of steak. This lifestyle has had a significant effect on their physiques.
“Now we have really big legs, skinny bodies and some dodgy looking tans…”
According to Toby, Geographer, some of the high points have been some of the breath-taking sights the Durham grads have been fortunate enough to see, including the scenes of Mt Fitz Roy and El Lago Del Desierto.
It must seem a long way from a Loveshack Wednesday.
“Every night we get to see the most unreal sunsets, and we just lie and stare at the stars, it’s lovely”.
But the group hasn’t been without its fair share of uphill struggles.
According to Guthrie, their first week of cycling was a “baptism of fire” with the guys facing unbelievably strong winds as they cycled across El Tierra del Fuego and managing to run out of both food and water. This first experience, they said, drove them to tears.
“We cried. The wind was just so strong that we were going at a walking place for days.”
The team has also faced several injuries, with Chemist Tom nearly losing an eye due to an unruly bungee cord, Guthrie suffering stomach issues and Toby catastrophically falling off his bike at 50kmph.
Fortunately, he emerged relatively unscathed, albeit with a few grazes, a broken helmet and no doubt a hint of injured pride.
He said: “I was a broken man for a few days, but the guys looked after me really well, and I’m alive.”
Of course, with this much saddle action going on, the question on everyone’s mind must be: how sore are their bums?
Wishing to remain anonymous, one unfortunate team member revealed he endured the infamous “scrote rot”.
“I’ve had a bleeding arse”
“Our saddle soreness is unbearable, we don’t walk straight anymore”
The group told us in order to protect their sensitive areas, their daily routine consists of creaming up, and covering their crown jewels with talcum powder, in order to try and limit the damage.
“Although we don’t do it to each other”
Best of luck to the Upping the Andes team, in their journey to raise £80,000 for their chosen charities and their quest in searching for some more bum ointment.
Track their progress here: http://www.uppingtheandes.com/ and donate to them here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/uppingtheandes