Sunday, January 27, 2013

The book is published!

It has taken me about a year longer than I expected it to, but finally I have published the book I wrote about my experiences in the last X-Alps.  'Hanging in There' is a personal account, charting my experiences and recording the realities of this toughest of races. 

The book charts each day of the race, complete with a map of my track and photos from the race itself.  It is available on the kindle platform - meaning anyone can download and read it via the free kindle app on any PC, tablet or smartphone.  You can find the book on by clicking  here. Or go to your local Amazon site and search for 'Hanging in There'

Any money I make from selling the book will contribute a small amount towards the significant costs of competing in the 2013 race, so by purchasing the book you are supporting team GB.  But most of all I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  The story simply needed to be told!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A talk for the Cumbria Soaring Club

On February 23rd I'll be giving a talk at Kendal in the UK on my experiences in the last X-Alps, preparation for the coming X-Alps and my experiences of top landing Mt Blanc.  The talk is hosted by the Cumbria Soaring Club but is open to all.  For more details see their flyer

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Meet the team

As we had the chance to get out walking together at the weekend I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce you to 'Team GB' in the 2013 X-Alps:

On the left is Richard Chambers, my father and supporter in the last X-Alps race. A veteran of multiple endurance races including the Marathon des Sables, the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail and the Jungle Ultra-Marathon (despite being retired at the time he still finished 9th overall in that one!) he certainly knows the hardship and psychology of multi-day endurance events. He also counts 24 years of paragliding experience to his name so certainly knows a thing or two about flying, but does admit to being a 'club pilot' - enjoying somewhat gentler flying than the X-Alps is likely to entail. During the race he will once again be taking on the role of keeping me fuelled, clothed and motivated during the race. He will be in charge of the team vehicle and making sure we have all the supplies and equipment we need at the right time.

On the right is Tom Payne, veteran of the 2009 X-Alps where he competed as an athlete in the race. Also no stranger to endurance racing, he has completed the CCC (Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix) ultra-trail among others. One of the top British pilots, Tom is often seen in Paragliding World Cup events and recently represented Britain in the 2012 European Championships. Tom has been flying for 17 years and is one of the best cross country pilots flying in the northern French Alps, having come in the top few of the national XC league (CFD - Coupe Federale Distance) in 2010 and 2011. Tom's chief role on the team will be weather forecasting, race strategy, flight planning and communication - keeping the diary updated with our progress and regularly posting pictures and video.

Between Dad and Tom they will share the tasks of driving the support vehicle and accompanying me on some of the walks in order to carry additional clothing, water and food.

Finally, in the middle is me, Jon Chambers. Funnily enough I'm the athlete in this race. I say that because both my 'supporters' have more endurance racing experience than me, my Dad's been flying longer than me and Tom's flown in higher level competitions than me! Still, I have 22 years of flying experience myself, most of which has been acquired in the Alps. I started competing at National level way back in 1995 but only really found my niche in the 2011 X-Alps - a race that seemed to suit my style and mentality. I finished 5th last time! My role in the race? I just have to fly, walk, sleep and eat. The other two have the hard jobs!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Winter Training - British Style

Firstly, happy New Year to everyone reading this!

Just before Christmas the Red Bull X-Alps website posted an article about winter training.  Whilst some European athletes have travelled to South America or the Himalayas for their winter training, I thought I'd point out that in fact they are missing the best location to really focus on X-Alps skills. As a seasoned X-Alper (well, I've done it once...) I now know that the reality of the race includes a lot of walking in bad weather: cold, windy and wet weather to be precise.  So, where better to train than the wettest place in Europe?  Hence, I was back in Britain over the holidays.  But, I don't like to do things by halves, so I travelled to Cumbria in the North West or England for most of the time, the wettest part of a very wet country.  Luckily for me the weather did play ball and it was cold and wet the whole time I was there, so I as able to train every day in ideal conditions!

Christmas, as it should be, was a great occasion with all the family.  Lots of great gifts, including a Go Pro camera, so hopefully I'll be able to start posting some video footage of training flights and hikes.

Back in the Alps now and the last two days of 2012 offered some fantastic skiing with the family.  Not exactly training, but being out in the mountains is always a pleasure and the blue skies and glorious sunshine certainly helped. We saw the New Year in quietly at home and much of New Year's day has been spent walking in the rain: a 30km hike in just over 4 hours was todays training.  Last time around I spent too much training time running, so I'm building in the long walks earlier into my training regime this time.

In other news, Tom and I booked an SIV course for April, which for non-pilots reading this is where we deliberately try to make our gliders fall out of the sky in order to learn how to recover them properly.  It is done over a lake with a safety boat below us in case it does go wrong and we end up in the water!  Last time I did a course like this was a few years ago and I over-cooked the final manoeuvre, leaving myself without enough height to make the shore, so instead I landed in the small inflatable safety boat which was then motored to the shore whilst I kept the glider flying above my head!  We didn't quite make it all the way, but it was fun!  I booked with the same guys this time, Flyeo in Annecy, as their instruction was excellent.  However, a day after booking on line they called me to say that unfortunately there wasn't an instructor available who had enough experience to teach us on the days we booked, so we've had to find alternative dates! Very impressed at their diligence in ensuring they could run a course at our level.  This course is important preparation for the X-Alps as unlike the test pilots in the competition I am not always pushing my glider to its limits and so to be prepared for the extreme flying conditions I'll likely face in the race this is critical.

That's it for now, the pace of preparation hots up in the coming months so look for much more regular posts as I sort out my equipment for the race and pick up the training plan.

Enjoy 2013.  It's an X-Alps year!