Like Clark Kent, many adventurers continue to slave away from 9 to 5 behind desks, clad in suits, motivated for the most part by saving enough money to go on their next adventure. Stuck in the energy-draining urban structure of concrete jungles and traffic jams, the trapped free spirits of the city often seek solace in drenching their social media feeds with photos of the outdoors and the latest updates from some of the world’s most famous adventurers.
According to seasoned adventurer and mountaineer Ricky Munday, all you need is to be committed enough, and the rest will naturally follow suit. After 10 years of expeditions across Earth’s most challenging mountain ranges, Munday embarked on his long-awaited adventure on April 6, 2017, attempting to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Posing as one of the greatest adventure challenges, reaching the summit of Mount Everest – Earth’s highest summit, resting at 8,848 meters above sea level – is a journey that takes around two months on average. However, taking on the Everest challenge does not start at the foot of the mountain; it starts the day you make the decision to reach the summit.
Given how overwhelming planning an expedition can be, Ricky Munday shares some of the most important pillars that helped him make his expedition to Everest a reality:
While mountaineering requires plenty of dedication and commitment, many climbers have day jobs that may or may not be relevant to the world of adventure travel. Nonetheless, managing the expedition schedule and the day job in tandem is the first thing adventurers need to figure out.
“Twelve months ago, I asked my boss for permission to take two months off from work to climb Everest – thankfully, she agreed,” says Munday, who works as Head of Corporate Services at the British Antarctic Survey, the UK’s national polar research organization.
During the year allocated for preparation, physical training was a focal point that saw Munday push himself through two to three gym and yoga sessions per day, five days a week. Nevertheless, preparation for such a climb demands much more than yoga and a gym; adapting to intense physical effort under harsh weather conditions is critical to the physical training.
“Every second weekend, I would drive for five hours from Cambridge to the mountains of north Wales to spend some time on the hill and build up my mountain endurance,” says Munday. “I also spent some time last year in the Scottish Highlands learning the dark arts of Scottish winter climbing on the north face of Ben Nevis. This helped me develop more technical climbing skills, the placement of gear, and how to perform in some really appalling weather conditions.”
Needless to say, such dedication requires a great deal of sacrifice which manifests in dwindling room for significant others, family, and friends. “It’s hard to make those sacrifices, but it’s also essential,” Munday stresses.
No matter how fun the trip being planned is, packing is rarely ever part of the fun. Now imagine having to pack for two months of weather conditions varying from warm sunshine to aching cold.
In 2012, Munday injured six fingers climbing Denali in Alaska because of inconvenient clothing – a situation he was intent on not repeating. To ensure convenience and warmth during his climb, Munday listed around 40 items for packing, including basic items such as socks and t-shirts, as well as more expedition-specific clothing items and gear such as mountaineering boots, down suit, ski goggles, crampons, and many more.
What further complicates the matter is bearing in mind that whatever is packed travels all the way to the top. “Each item of the kit has to be carried up the mountain,” comments Munday. “So I have to maintain a fine balance between weight and performance.”
Although Munday spent weeks sourcing specialist high-altitude equipment and advice from various people and suppliers, he was lucky to receive support from some of his colleagues who donated his high-altitude mitts and gloves, and his sponsors who covered his satellite communication costs.
3. Sponsorship, Media and PR
Travelers will often tailor their trips to a budget they can afford, but when you’re going on an expedition like Munday’s, nothing can be left out – every little bit can be severely track-altering. Doing the math, Munday estimated the total cost of his ascent to the summit of Everest at £31,000, which easily means spending his life savings and taking out a bank loan to cover it.
However, as costly as such expeditions can be, one needn’t fully bear the expenses if a sponsor is secured. Selling an idea is rarely ever different from selling a product - at its core, it’s a matter of what you have to offer versus what you ask in return. So what is it that would make a sponsor invest money in your expedition? Why would they want to associate their name with what you’re doing?
Many companies now have quite active CSR departments that are as much in need of sponsoring you as you need their sponsorship. That’s why one common approach is to add social and moral value to your expedition by raising awareness and funds for a cause, whereby the expedition no longer becomes solely about your personal accomplishment.
Given that you secure full or partial sponsorship of your expedition, the next thing you’ll need to do is create hype around your trip and give it life before it even starts. Having an active online stream of updates covering the preparations and the details of your upcoming journey is particularly useful for building a fan base of supporters as well as attract the attention of the media.
To stay one step ahead, keep a well-rounded presentation that is tailored for the press within reach. Not only will it give journalists an insightful idea about your expedition before approaching you for an interview, it can also prompt keen event organizers to host you as a speaker – another great way to engage the community through discussion.
“I was invited to talk to the Scotland under-20 rugby team before the first game of the annual Six Nations championship, and I presented the team jerseys to every player. This was a great privilege, but also forced me to develop a new talk and slides,” says Munday. “I was then asked to talk at an alumni annual dinner which generated a great deal of interest and sponsorship from my network. I also spoke at my work last week. I’ve since been booked for three talks after Everest – at two independent schools in Scotland and for a sponsor in England.”
However, this often entails stepping far out of any comfort zone. “I’m naturally an introvert, so standing in front of a group of people promoting the expedition and telling my story takes a huge amount of energy,” he adds.
Before you venture too far out of you comfort zone in pursuit of exposure and support, you may want to consider your personal circle of friends and acquaintances and the potential contacts they can lead you to.
“There’s no doubt that planning an expedition to Everest is difficult, and at times exhausting, but it’s also inspiring. I know that I am in a very privileged position and I know that I have thousands of people supporting me,” says Munday. “This expedition means a lot because I’m also raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, who provide fantastic support to families who have been afflicted by cancer. They supported my family as we lost my twin uncles – Patrick and Michael – to cancer. Knowing that every footstep will honor them and help to support Macmillan keeps me strongly motivated.”