From mountain biking off the top of a French glacier to camel-trekking across the Sahara, here are six unforgettable, challenging trips to get your adrenaline pumping.
Mega avalanche, French Alps
If you fancy yourself as a mountain-biking speed merchant, put this in your diary – a mad plummet off the top of a glacier in the French Alps, skidding and scrambling alongside 1,000 other riders. The Avalanche is a 90-minute technical descent through snow and forest into Alpe d’Huez, the climax of a three-day MTB jamboree packed with mini-downhills and slaloms. Our sponsored mountain biker Rob Jarman says: “The event is brilliant for riders schooled on British trail centres: a great race to train for, with a real festival atmosphere. I try to go every year.”
Details: the 2010 event is 9-11 July, registration opens 11 January; www.avalanchecup.com
The world’s highest volcano, Ecuador
Cotopaxi is the world’s highest active volcano, topping out at 5,897 metres (19,348 feet) just a little higher than Kilimanjaro and a whole lot more challenging. Technically it’s not tricky, though, so it’s the perfect peak for the beginner mountaineer and several companies offer guided climbs, with built-in training time covering the basics of glacier trekking and high mountain skills. Then it’s a six-hour mush to the summit, including a roped ascent across a heavily crevassed glacier. Your reward is breathtaking views across Ecuador’s “Avenue of the Volcanoes”.
Details: Mountain Tracks (www.mountaintracks.co.uk) offers a 14-day expedition in Ecuador, including Cotopaxi, from 27 November; price from £1,995pp, plus international flights.
Great Glen Canoe Trail, Scotland
The Caledonian Canal is a vivid sash on the map of Scotland: 96 kilometres (60 miles) of clear blue water linking Fort William with Inverness. Kayaking its length is a do-it-yourself four-day adventure, negotiating 29 locks and three vast lochs – including 37 kilometres (23 miles) of monster-hunting on Loch Ness. Set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Great Glen, the route is becoming more popular with paddlers, and Berghaus athlete Karen Darke, who completed it this summer, says: “It’s a fantastic journey, with free camping and good facilities – although don’t take it lightly. The waves can be pretty bouncy at times!”
Details: a full trail guide is downloadable at www.canoescotland.com. You’ll need a (free) licence from British Waterways (www.waterscape.com).
The Land of Fear, Niger
For a serious journey into untracked wilderness, you won’t beat crossing the southern Sahara by camel caravan. Niger’s Ténéré Desert is known by locals as the “land of fear”, an unforgiving landscape of rippling orange dunes and Bedouin encampments. The adventure company Wild Frontiers offers a two-week crossing with real-life Tuareg traders: you will help to load, feed and water your camels, then saddle up for an epic ride on the centuries-old route to the market-town oasis of Bilma. Fitness is less important than a willingness to rough it in some of the wildest terrain on earth.
Details: the 2010 expedition runs from 5-25 November and costs £4,750pp; www.wildfrontiers.co.uk.
Hebridean Challenge, Scotland
The posters promise “More mud for your money!” and you should expect to get nose to nose with nature on Britain’s toughest and most spectacular adventure race. It’s a four-day island-hop across the heathery hills and huge white beaches of the Outer Hebrides, from Barra to the Butt of Lewis. The route takes in kayaking, swimming, hill-running, cycling and mountain biking, with a break every evening for campsite get-togethers. The relay format means you don’t need to excel at every discipline and, as well as classic five-man and pairs events, this year sees a new “trio challenge” designed for “Heb” virgins.
Details: the 2010 event takes place 4-9 July; register online at www.hebrideanchallenge.com.
Lunana Snowman Trek, Bhutan
The yeti is the ultimate cryptozoological enigma: zero confirmed sightings and two million search results on Google. And while there are many mammoth Himalayan hikes to choose from, the Lunana Snowman Trek feels like proper pioneering in the remotest recesses of the Himalaya. It requires a month of hardcore trekking across the snowbound 5,000-metre (16,400-foot) passes of Bhutan, where the yeti, or Dredmo, is sacred. The trek has so far been completed by only a handful of Westerners, but is now offered in full by Himalayan specialist Mountain Kingdoms – excellent health and fitness are essential.
Details: the 2010 expedition runs from 28 September – 6 November and costs £4,725 for 39 days, plus flights; contact www.mountainkingdoms.com.
Your next challenge: The essential kit
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