Monday, December 30, 2013

Help me sponsor a Nepali rider for the 2014 Yak Attack. Please!

It's getting close to Yak Attack time again!

Darren Holloway

Neil with Laxmi at the 2013 Yak Attack.

In 2013, along with friends and family, I organised the sponsorship of Nepali rider Laxmi Magar to take part in The Yak Attack.

I will be hoping to achieve the same for the 2014 event.

Please take a look at "The Darren Holloway Young Athlete Fund" page to see how you can help.

Any assistance will be gratefully received.

Thank you.
Neil Cottam.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Yak Attack: The Essentials.

Yak Attack. What it's all about! (Image courtesy of Jeremy Dean)

With the experience of two Yak Attacks under my belt I thought that I would share some tips and advice with anyone who is registered, considering it, or just plain interested. It is all based upon my own meandering experience of the event and of my time spent in mountains, and at altitude, and in particular The Himalaya.

Initially I intended to discuss the problems and solutions to the limited kit allowance and how best to solve some of these issues without taking unnecessary risks; but with the announcement of an increase in the portered luggage allowance to 20kg, from 2014 onwards, some of these problems solved themselves.

There should now be no excuse for riders to take risks with kit choice.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Double Trouble!

Team Autisme Sportief - Neil, Hylke, Serdar, Wilco, and Tjiel.

I went for a run the other day.
Now under normal circumstances there would be nothing unusual in that statement, however it was an unusual day.
First of all said run took place in Zwolle in The Netherlands. And secondly it was a road marathon.
Not only that but it was my second road marathon in eight days. And considering the fact that I have never really been particularly interested in running a road marathon then running two on consecutive Sundays was a very unusual occurrence. And it all came about by accident (kind of).
Earlier in the year Wilco Voulon had expressed an interest in taking part in The (Nottingham) Robin Hood Marathon. Eventually though he changed his mind due to the fact that his local (Zwolle) marathon was to take place the week after and, obviously, he wanted to do that one instead. So with the seed planted in my mind I decided to do it (Nottingham) anyway.

I then thought "What the hell!" and entered the Zwolle Marathon too! There was some method in my madness; I had also entered my first Ultra-Marathon (The Ennerdale Trail Run 50km), and I figured that I could use both of these events as training blocks towards towards that, plus they'll all go in the bank towards my training for next years Yak Attack. In addition to that, the Zwolle Marathon was taking place on Sunday October 6th and would coincide with the day my cousin Darren had died last year. I wanted to mark the event personally and running with my friend Wilco would give me the support that I might need to complete it. (Darren actually passed away on Sunday October 7th 2012, but it was near enough for me).
The Ennerdale Trail Run takes place on October 20th and if I complete it it will mean that I have run two road marathons and a trail-ultra in 22 days. Idiot.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trekking Nepal - Part One. Jiri to Everest Base Camp. Setting the scene

Trekking Nepal. Jiri to Everest Base Camp 2013.

Wilco at The Kathmandu Guesthouse

After enjoying a successful and rewarding trekking trip in 2012, with both myself and our friend Dave Slater, Wilco Voulon had decided to organise a larger party, on behalf of his foundation – Autisme Sportief, to do the same trek in to Base Camp; with the addition of the prospect of taking part in the 2013 Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon. By a happy coincidence this year’s event was to coincide with the 60th Anniversary of the Everest Summit (29th May 1953). I was delighted when Wilco asked me if I would interested in helping with the guiding of the trip and jumped at the chance to take on this extremely challenging route once more. I also decided there and then to have a go at the marathon too. Well why not?!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bubble Wobble, The Wolf Run, and other news.

Frankie Hewitt and Neil after completing The Wolf Run

I had a phone call today, from a friend, that caught me slightly unaware. It wobbled my bubble, and that doesn't happen very often! (My bubble is my personal reference to my life and the lovely little cocoon that I live in). It wasn't an earth shattering call, the type that knocks you completely sideways, like the one I received when my cousin died, but it was unexpected and I was wobbled.
It was a good call.
I'm sorry that I have to leave it like that for the time being, I don't normally announce cryptic news, but if what we discussed comes to fruition then it will be something that I will be very proud to be associated with. I will let you all know the minute that anything is announced formally.

On a more sociable note... 

Yesterday I took part in The Wolf Run. It is a 10km challenge of running and obstacle racing and includes an awful lot of mud! Which means it is an awful lot of fun!
I went along to support an old school friend, Francesca Hewitt, who was doing it for the first time. In fact it was her first event of any kind in a long time. She is a wonderful person who unfortunately suffers from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and this has lead to some difficult personal battles for her. Because of PCOS she has suffered with weight problems and in recent times she has shown real determination to try and overcome it. She began attending regular fitness sessions with a group in her home town of Rugby called Military Fitness Circuits and she has lost a fair bit of weight. Francesca still has a little way to go but she is making steps in the right direction and she will get there.
I have no doubt.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: Rab MeCo Base Layers

RAB MeCo Base Layers

Rab MeCo 120 Tee in use during the 2013 Yak Attack in Nepal.
MeCo is Rab's incarnation of the now ultra-popular Merino Wool used in active base layers. Merino products are generally hard wearing and in particular have fantastic odour resistant properties; meaning that they can be worn for extended periods between washing, if necessary, without becoming unpleasantly smelly.

RAB says:

New MeCo fabric is an intimate blend of 65% ethically sourced Australian Merino wool combined with 35% recycled polyester with Cocona® activated carbon technology.

Cocona® fabric is made using natural technology. Activated carbon is derived from discarded coconut shells and other natural micro porous particles. These particles are contaned within the fibre and can not wear out or wash off. Cocona is extremely breathable and accelerates evaporation - making them ideal for use in baselayers.

Cocona® absorbs a wide range of odour molecules within the activated carbon and aids the natural anti bacterial properties of Merino wool. The major benefit of MeCo blended fabrics is the vastly reduced drying time for these fabrics, this makes them excellent for use as a year round base layer and also saves washing and drying time.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Hi everyone. We arrived once more, safe & sound, in Krazy Kathmandu!
After an epic journey beginning in England on Thursday I finally touched down in Nepal on Sunday evening. 5 countries, 4 flights, 2 trains, and a minibus, saw me deposited along with my 22 Dutch friends at The Kathmandu Guesthouse. The oasis in the storm that is Thamel.
Thamel is buzzing as always with the vibrant atmosphere that makes it such a great place to hang out.

Not that Wilco and I had much time to hang out, we have been busy finalising the details of our trek and sorting out last minute issues. We did finally get the chance to grab a nice chicken wrap and a beer this evening.
Tomorrow morning we start early with a long, nine hour, bus ride to Jiri; the starting point for our trek on the Old Expedition Route to Mount Everest Base Camp. If our bus journey is anything like last years it will certainly make for an interesting experience (and the use of some spare underwear!).

We are looking forward to getting under-way now and we can't wait to get started on the trek.
The first few days are very hard but we have a great bunch of people with us and we are sure that it will be a lot of fun. The trek in from Jiri is so beautiful that it can make a grown man cry. It is a truly fantastic experience.
Hopefully we will be able to update you all on our arrival in Namche in about a week, however nothing is certain in Nepal! Last year we experienced the worst storm for seventy years and our arrival in Namche was greeted with no electricity, no hot water, and definitely no internet! It surely won't be like that this year, will it??? :D

Wish us luck!
Our love goes out to all our families and friends. We will see you all soon, healthy and happy.


Love from Neil and Wilco XXX

Friday, May 10, 2013

Nepali Boomerang!

Today I begin my journey to Nepal once more.
I am returning with my great friend Wilco Voulon to trek, in The Himalaya, with a large group of enthusiastic travellers from his home of town of Zwolle in The Netherlands; on behalf of Autisme Sportief and Autism Care Nepal.
I am excited to going with such a lovely bunch of people.
I am excited to be trekking in on The Old Expedition Route from Jiri to Mount Everest Base Camp.
I am excited to be attempting The Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon on May 29th.
I am excited to be returning to one of the worlds most beautiful countries, inhabited by beautiful people.
I now have many friends in Nepal and I am excited to see them all again. They make me smile.

I fly initially to Amsterdam and take a train on to Zwolle for the night.
On Saturday we begin the long journey to Nepal.
Flying from Amsterdam via Dubai and New Delhi before finally arriving in Kathmandu on Sunday afternoon.
I am looking forward to guiding such a large group and the challenges & rewards that it will present.
The route in from Jiri is more beautiful than you can possibly imagine and the high Himalaya is all that you can imagine. The scale of these mountains is impossible to convey with words and images alone. They are colossus's in every sense of the word. I will try, when connection allows, to give you a taste of this magical place throughout our journey.
I am going to try and make a short video too, of the people, places, and sights.

Thank you to Carolyn at Derby Runner for the sound advice on trail running shoes, and to Osprey Packs (Europe) for helping me out with a pack.
My thanks also to the knowledgeable staff at Outside in Hathersage, Derbyshire for their advice (and fab cafe). 

But most of all my sincerest thanks go to my old friend Wilco for presenting me with such a great opportunity. And to my mate Mitch for being such a great source of inspiration and for always beasting me whenever we train or ride together.
Thanks to Phil Evans of The Yak Attack for his inspiration and for proving that ordinary people can achieve the most extraordinary things. Phil also happens to be the only person in the world to have completed both the worlds highest marathon (Everest) and the worlds highest mountain bike race (Yak Attack). On May 29th I hope to join that very exclusive club!

When Wilco conceived this adventure a little over a year ago I had no idea that it would become as personally significant to me as it has. With the loss of my beloved cousin Darren last October (a passionate mountain runner) it has become a personal pilgrimage to honour his memory in the most fitting way I can. We loved him more than he will ever know.
On May 29th I will crawl across that finish line on my hands & knees if I have to.

Darren Holloway. August 10th 1970 - October 7th 2012.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Yak Attack 2013 - Part Two.

Yak Attack - Those Two Imposters!

Hmmmm... CAKE!

I'm sure most people will be familiar, in some form or other, of Rudyard Kipling's very famous poem "If". And "If" you aren't then it's worth looking up. It's a great poem about humility, respect, honesty and decency, in a British Empire stiff-upper-lip kind of way. Bear with me.

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two imposters just the same,..."

"... Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!"

Read on.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Yak Attack 2013 - Part One.

Yak Attack - Half Way to Paradise.

In Nepal they refer to their natural terrain as "A little bit up, a little bit down"; I think I can safely say that my experiences of this years Yak Attack were a bit like that!
It's a very tough event, it's considered to be one of the hardest endurance races on the planet; it's tough on the rider, both physically and mentally, and tough on the bikes too.
It's also much more than just a mountain bike stage-race. It's an adventure unlike any other. It simply cannot be compared to any other stage race, there are no similarities.

The terrain, the conditions, and the trails, change dramatically throughout the whole event.
The early stages are punishingly hot and dusty. The mid-stages start to cool and the altitude begins to take affect. The high-stages are very cold, and the altitude becomes debilitating, at the highest point oxygen is 50% that of sea level. All of the stages are very rough, and each and every one has lung-busting climbs, every stage is hard.
Added to all of this is the piece de resistance - The Thorong La - a high pass, sitting at 5416m which has to be hiked over; it is simply too steep and too high to ride.
And just to add further to the competitors discomfort, you are allowed only 10kgs of equipment. Factor in spare parts, a sleeping bag, high altitude clothing, and other necessities, and you are left with very little room for extra's. (Read in to that as "no room for extra's"!) It takes some creative thinking and a lot sacrifices to make the weight. (This will be changing for the 2014 event and riders will be allowed a momentous 20kgs).
Spartan accommodation, less than beautiful bathroom facilities, and pretty basic foods complete the equation. It is a race for the adventurous not the squeamish.
It's a roller-coaster of a challenge; and I love it!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Once more unto the breach... Yak Attack 2013.

I arrived safe and sound in the chaos of Kathmandu late on Monday afternoon. It is as much fun as I remember it, and I feel at home here. The place excites me and I have been thrilled at the reception I received from my Yak Attack friends. All smiles, hugs, handshakes, and copious amounts of sweet milky tea.
It has an atmosphere like nowhere else I have visited, I love it here.
My transfer, by train, from Derbyshire to Heathrow Airport-London was simple enough and I duly met up with fellow Yak Attacker Steve Edwards from Wales (It's not his fault! Hahaha) near the check-in desk
Etihad Airways had decided to embark upon a systems upgrade over the course of the weekend, (Of all the possible weekends in the year to do this they chose this one!) and there was an almighty queue! We joined it and patiently waited our turn. We had a few conversations with other travellers curious about our huge bike bags and interested in what we were about to do. After a short while a very polite young Etihad employee pulled us from the queue and took us over to the business class check-in, I guess to speed up the process a little and to get our huge bags out of the way. Of course you can't help but wonder if an upgrade is on the cards?... it wasn't! :D We were then escorted with our bags through to a different area; "curiouser and curiouser thought Alice".

Friday, February 22, 2013

More Packing for Yakking!

Here I go again!
I'm about to fly out to Nepal, once again, to take part in The North Face Yak Attack 2013 Mountain Bike Stage Race.
Taking a bike and all the necessary paraphernalia that goes with riding in an international stage race can take a bit of creative thinking with a checked baggage weight of 30kgs! (Along with a miserly 7kgs of hand-luggage)

I might be a be a shade over my limit! Hopefully a cheery smile and a dim look on my face might help to win over the staff at Ethiad's  check-in desk, otherwise I'm gong to have to try and pull off the "I'm taking part in an event for charity" angle again. (It worked for me last year). If that fails I'm going to be crying in my latte and shelling out for the obscene excess baggage charges.
I thought it might be slightly easier this year due to only requiring kit for The Yak Attack, and not for a trekking trip too, but I was sadly mistaken!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Prologue: The North Face Yak Attack 2013

The 2013 North Face Yak Attack


"The Showdown in The Annapurna's"

Yak attack is considered to be one of the toughest endurance races on the calendar and is the highest altitude mountain bike stage-race on Earth.

11 stages, 400kms, and 12000m of ascent over some of the most brutal terrain on the planet. Peaking at 5416m on The Thorong La, Yak Attack is racing at its most primeval; it's The Himalaya, mighty, unforgiving, and unpredictable.


2013 looks set to cement The Yak Attack firmly into the conciousness of the endurance athlete community. With global manufacturer The North Face coming on-board as principal sponsor and the UK's Channel 5 filming it, with Richard Parks, for part of a documentary series, Yak Attack finally seems to be coming of age.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: Osprey Atmos 35L & 25L Packs.

Osprey Atmos 35L & 25L Packs.

Osprey Atmos 35L, 25L, and The Talon 4 Lumbar Pack.

Anyone with an interest in the outdoors will tell you that all of us have an obsession with kit, and within that obsession we usually have one particular fetish. For some it's stoves, for other's it may be accessories, boots, or whatever.  Mine, as you will gather, is packs!
I have a shameless lusting for packs.
(I also have an unhealthy addiction to training shoes; in fact I'm your regular Imelda Marcos, but that's another story).
I currently own seven backpacks, yes that's right seven! (Not including the ones I have for fishing). I wonder what a psychiatrist would make of that? :D
So I reckon that I'm in a pretty good position to review a pack or two!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: Climb On! Intensive Skin Care.


ClimbOn! Bar (Wonder Bar!)

Now I'm guessing that a lot of you will be wondering what this is right? Let me tell you... It's a little bar of magic!

It's the Snake Oil of the Old West! :D

As is says on the tin it's an "Intensive Skin Repair", but I think it's a lot more than that. It's an essential go-anywhere, can't-do-without, jack-of-all-trades, wonder bar (excuse the pun!).

The ClimbOn! Blurb:

Climb On! Bar is a 100% pure (chemical free), food grade, skin nourishing product.  We say "If you can't eat it, don't put it on your skin."
This one product can soothe burns, cuts, scrapes, rashes, cracked cuticles and heels, tissue nose, road rash, diaper rash, abrasions, poison ivy...any skin issue that needs deep moisturizing and nourishing. Climb On! Bar was originally formulated for rock climbers. It has crossed all barriers since it works on any skin type and any skin issue. The beeswax is the emulsifier which holds the ingredients together. It acts as a humectant, which draws moisture to the skin. It acts as a natural water resistant barrier to help skin stay protected. Anyone from babies to rock stars use this product. The essential oils of neroli and lavender work their therapeutic properties to help the body bring the skin back into balance. Our body sees Climb On! recipe as a friend not a foe!
Climb On! is for EVERYONE!

Neil says:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Darren Holloway Young Athlete Fund.

Update - New page added.

Please take a look at the new page using the tab at the top of the screen or the link below.

We are sponsoring a young up and coming Nepali mountain biker for this years 2013 North Face Yak Attack in loving memory of Darren Holloway.
There are options for both individuals and businesses to pledge support should they wish.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket

Proof that Rab clothing performs in the toughest environments!

Rab Neutrino Endurance Down Jacket.

RAB says: 
The Neutrino Endurance is a lightweight, fully featured and very warm down jacket designed primarily for climbing and mountain use.
The Neutrino Endurance has become the benchmark down jacket for modern mountaineering and lightweight ascents. The Pertex®Endurance outer provides durable protection against storm and spindrift while retaining minimal weight and packsize. High lofting is provided by the 225g of 800 fill (L) pure European goose down.
The Neutrino Endurance is one of those jackets that just does everything you need it to - a firm favourite amongst all our sponsored athletes and an ideal piece for UK and Alpine winter conditions. Just as much at home on a hill walk in the Peak District as it is on a Himalayan Peak. Often found at winter fell race finish lines or on your 'spotter' when going for the crux on a new boulder problem.

Neil says:
For our trip to The Himalaya we were looking for performance clothing suitable for high altitude Winter trekking. Having used a number of Rab items over the years I was fully aware of the capability of their kit. In addition to that Rab are a local manufacturer and, like most people, if I can support local businesses then I will.
Rab are very well known in the outdoor community as a high-end producer of performance clothing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chasing Rainbows. Yak Attack - A Himalaya Epic.

I was approached recently by one of my Twitter contacts and asked if I would be interested in writing a piece on The Yak Attack for their adventure blog. Dogtag are an adventure insurance company who specialise in providing cover for unusual trips (as well as excellent packages for normal folk too!). I was delighted to, anything to inspire people, and also to help promote the race itself, and it's deserved efforts on behalf of Nepali riders. If I can inspire someone to visit and enjoy Nepal then all the better.
This is the original piece that I wrote in it's entirety. I had to separate it in to two shorter pieces and edit it down slightly for them to use it on the blog. They have some really cool stuff on there and it's well worth checking out. I know that many of you have read some of my Nepali pieces already but I hope you enjoy this one too. I haven't included any images because there are plenty to view on the Images of Nepal tab.

Chasing Rainbows. Yak Attack - A Himalaya Epic.

What is Yak Attack? Well it certainly isn't what you might be thinking; Himalaya Yak's are genial, docile, creatures that don’t really deserve to be attacked and nor are they likely to attack you
Yak Attack is the highest altitude mountain bike stage race in The World. And to be honest with you it’s a little nuts.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Back on the Horse.

Off the horse; two flat tyres at Antur Stiniog Downhill park in Wales.

A few weeks before Christmas I was out and about enjoying a training run, and I do actually enjoy them, when I came a bit of a cropper! Firstly whilst running through the woods in the dark, with a head-torch to guide me, I stubbed my toe on a lump of rock on the trail and made like Superman, flying full length down the hill on to my face! I grumbled and swore, dusted myself off, and quickly had a look around to make sure no one saw me, obviously; before carrying on down the path. A very short distance later, and still cursing my throbbing toe, I turned heavily on my ankle in a rut in the path. It was so hard an impact that I not only felt it crunch under my weight but even heard it. Ouch. I was buggered. I had to hobble/jog the three miles back home before I could get a bag of frozen sweetcorn on it to try and reduce the swelling. One of my highly amusing friends, who really should be a comedian, suggested that frozen peas are far more effective and that's where I went wrong. Thanks for that sage piece of wisdom Phil, I'll try it next time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Triumph & Tragedy in a Year of Adventure.

Firstly I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, family, friends, and readers alike; and say Thank You for your support over the last year.
Secondly I want to apologise for my lack of activity on here over the last few months, I'm going to put that right over the next few weeks with a number of work-in-progress blog posts.
I've had a fantastic year of travel and adventuring but it has been tinged with sadness recently, hence my lack of activity; to a certain extent. 
Our trip to Nepal was the pinnacle of a great year. Trekking, kayaking, and mountain biking, in the greatest mountain range on Earth is pretty hard to beat, and an experience I will treasure forever. The company of my great friends Dave Slater & Wilco Voulon made it all the more special, along with the new friendships forged along the way. I've also visited Wilco in The Netherlands a couple of times since our return and I enjoyed Amsterdam and his home town of Zwolle a great deal. Trips to Scotland, The Lake District, and Wales, have made for some great memories; along with regular sorties in to my local Peak District National Park with friends.