One of Blue & Green’s great friends undertook a rather remarkable and inspirational challenge over the summer. John Fleetwood, of 3D Investing, walked the length of the Alps. This article is republished by kind permission of Dan Bailey, www.UKHillwalking.com.
This summer ultra long distance fell runner John Fleetwood took on a huge challenge, a high-level traverse of the entire Alpine chain from Slovenia to Monaco. Between starting on 12th June and the finish on 14th August he spent most of the time alone, walking solo the full distance and with only infrequent valley support. Over his 1800km journey John reckons his height gain at around 125,000m, including ascents of a number of peaks along the way. In two months of hard slog he had only two rest days, despite occasional injuries.
Though the Alps end-to-end is by far his longest trip to date, John, who goes by the name Full moon addict on this site, is no stranger to extreme hill routes. See this article on a winter Broxap round for starters, and his website for many more. And his son Ben is no slouch on the hills either, for a while holding the record for the youngest Munro round.
You can retrace John’s entire journey follow on his blog Alps End to End 2015
UKH: Which were some of the more notable mountains you climbed en route, and what were they like solo?
John: The peaks I did included Triglav, Razor, Kellerspitzen, Tofane Mezzo, Keselkogel, Vertainspitze, Basadino, Dent Parrachee, Grande Motte, Monte Viso, Cime Argentera Sud. The 4000m peaks didn’t work out because I simply didn’t have time and my main objective was to get from Slovenia to Monaco and to trace the Italian border. Also traversing the 4000m peaks with my large pack would have been very testing. I was doing 12 hour+ days and couldn’t contemplate doing any more than this. Also to do the peaks I’d need to stop early to get the snow crisp in the mornings and also later on before it got soft which meant I just couldn’t fit them into the schedule. With another week I could have done them. In any event, I actually enjoyed the more obscure peaks far more. I climbed them without a guide book and in a few cases, a map. I dumped the pack, went with a bumbag and just sized up the route on the spot and explored. There’s a tremendous freedom in doing this. One time I wandered up to a little glacier and as the sack was too far to go back but it looked easy, I grabbed a sharp stone as my ‘axe’ and ascended the glacier and the ridge above. In t-shirt and running shorts I felt quite exposed, but also a real sense of exhiliration.
UKH: How did the weather and ground conditions treat you?
John: The weather was very poor for the first week – storms, violent hail, wet through several days; but then it was unbelievably good for most part. I hit a heat wave with temps > 30 degrees in the valleys for three weeks continuous, and up to 35 degrees at times. I was walking without a shirt most days and some days at 9 in evening at 2500m. I suffered heat exhaustion and dehydration. It was very dry with some lakes dried up. I was also exposed to three violent storms in bad places – tops of exposed passes with gap between thunder and lightning less than a second. I had to put fingers in my ears, the thunder was so loud. Hail was like a power shower being switched on full, and I wore my helmet against it. I was out in 11 thunderstorms altogether.
“I was so hungry. I lost a lot of weight mid trip due to just not being able to get enough food, then I put it back on by eating an enormous amount. When staying at huts I’d have multiple servings if I was able to and every time I went past a hut I’d have a piece cake or sandwich”
UKH: How did you manage to cope with that sustained level of effort: did you have any major problems along the way? And did you enjoy it throughout, or was it sometimes a bit of a slog?
John: I certainly didn’t enjoy all of it! I had florid diarrhoea for several days, had a cold at the start and was blowing blood for 23 days. I fell over innumerable times on account of very loose steep ground, and twisted a muscle above my knee. This gave me very severe pain for several days and the painkillers didn’t do a lot. I was reduced to propping myself up on my poles downhill with a sharp stabbling pain at every step. If that had continued it would have ruined the trip but fortunately after a number of people prayed for me, the pain went overnight and I never felt any ill effects thereafter. I was also unable to use my poles for some days, due to repetitive strain injury in my forearms.
I was reduced to tears on a number of occasions, crying out in exasperation at the boulders and vegetation. The paths were surprisingly awful at times, with dense, knee to waist high vegetation hiding rocks underneath. This was incredibly frustrating, especially downhill. Much of the Alps is pretty infrequently trodden and unfriendly with endless boulders, scree and overgrown paths. I can’t think how much of my time I spent on ground like this but it was a lot. I also suffered from the heat as I couldn’t get enough water on a number of occasions and spending 12 hours plus in the hot sun slogging up and down very steep, seemingly unending slopes was very tough. The horseflies were a complete pain at times, bothering me for hours on end as the sweat streamed off me.
I also met very few people until Monte Rosa. I was amazed at the lack of people and having exhausted my music collection and downloaded talks fairly early on, I had a lot of time to think. My Kindle broke so I had nothing to read after two weeks and only had a basic phone. Often I would have a hut to myself and apart from the first tunnel, met no-one on the 25 via ferrata I completed.
I bivvied out in a basic bag 11 nights, slept in 12 bivouac huts, 20 manned huts and split the rest between camping and hotels. One night I spent in the top part of a chairlift, sleeping under the wheel where the chairs go round. The bivvying was the best part of the trip. I was able to connect very intimately with my environment and to keep going until 9pm, getting up at 5am.
Quite a number of times I had a pizza and a beer, then did another two hours up a big hill. The beer made me a bit wobbly to start with, but it made for a very mellow climb in the evening. That time of day is my favourite as the heat of the day subsides and the light is spectacular. One time the weather didn’t play ball and a storm was followed by heavy all night rain which meant that I had to abandon ship (my bivvy) at 4am with everything soaking.
UKH: What did you take away from all this?
John: As a sabbatical it was fantastic and I didn’t think about work once. I felt that I really connected with nature and was part of the landscape for much of the journey. I was able to explore in a very free and instinctive way. I had time to reflect and clear my head and to experience the Alps as a whole. They are a decaying range, feeling the full force of climate change. The snowy parts that we think of are but a very small percentage of the total and are getting smaller still. The rock is generally awful, abounding in boulders and scree. The insects are abundant and the flowers carpets of natural beauty. I experienced all the highs and lows of a truly demanding but ultimately fulfilling trip. I knew I wouldn’t be able to prepare for it and I’m glad I could build in the spontaneity that I think made it special for me.
2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage
Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.
Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.
Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each
The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.
Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.
Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.
Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.
That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.
Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.
Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.
Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.
The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.
Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity
Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.
Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.
It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.
Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight
The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.
The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.
2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded
People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.
Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.
Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.
Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.
Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.