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INSPIRING ADVENTURE WITH RICHARD PARKS

The former Wales rugby international was forced to retire from the sport with injury in 2009 and has since gone on to summit the highest mountain on each of the world’s continents, in record time, tagging both poles along the way


When talking to Richard Parks you very quickly learn two things about him: that he is determined to push himself to the very limit in the name of adventure, and that he loves his home country, Wales. And these two passions have taken him around the world (quite literally) to do battle with some of the most extreme environments. 

From rugby to mountains 

If you’re a rugby enthusiast, the chances are you’ve heard the name before. Richard made a name for himself representing Wales and The Barbarians but after a shoulder injury, was forced into retirement in 2009. 

 

“When injury ended my rugby career, it was as if the bottom fell out of my world. It really was a difficult transition and I fell into a dark place”.

 

Having spent most of his life in high performance sport, it was time to dig out of the hole and embrace the spirit of adventure. Channelling energy into something positive was critical to moving on in life.

 

“I regularly say – mountains saved my life”.

The 737 challenge

Richard’s adventures started out with the 737 challenge – to climb the highest mountain on each of the world’s 7 continents and stand on all 3 poles (The North Pole, South Pole and the summit of Mt Everest) within 7 months, which he completed in a record setting 6 months, 11 days, 7 hours and 53 minutes, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for Charity. But this was only the start. 

On the summit of Everest - the seventh peak, and so called 'third pole', of the 737 challenge

Despite breaking multiple records on expeditions, to Richard, this isn’t what the trips are about, and he feels no pressure to continue that fashion. 

 

“I have as much fun wild camping in the Beacons over a weekend as I do on a serious expedition. It’s wonderful how the outdoors peels back the layers of day-to-day life. I’m passionate about pushing the boundaries of human performance, but time in the mountains is restorative to me.”

Skiing to the South Pole

After completing his 737 challenge, Richard attempted to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole, from Hercules Inlet on the Antarctic Coast, after being inspired by attending Captain Scott’s memorial service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

 

After a failed attempt in 2012, Richard returned in 2013 and was successful in becoming the fastest Brit – and first Welshman - to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole, taking 9 days off the previous record. Richard is one of only two people to break the 30-day barrier.  

 

“I’ve spent 3 of the last 6 Christmas’ in Antarctica, but for my first Christmas expedition, my mum gave me a Christmas card to take. This was my one luxury (I always allow one luxury per expedition). By the time Christmas came, I was so grateful for some emotional connection from back home. I opened the card, expecting some heart felt message but it literally said…. To Rich, Love Mum and Dad. It was the worst luxury I’ve ever taken! Normally it’s either my Walkman, jelly belly sweets or a hip flask.”

En route to the South Pole

How to prepare for an expedition

It’s a question which many people are likely to have: how on earth do you prepare for expeditions which involve climbing the world’s highest mountains? 

FITNESS

“I normally plan 2 years of development for each of my major projects with specific physical, mental and technical objectives. My success has always stemmed from my attention to detail. However, I love the outdoors and it’s been important part of my life for as long as I can remember. As for fitness, living in South Wales means that there is incredible cycling on the doorstep. Day to day training is based around the bike and trail running. I’ve always been fit and enjoyed activities but conditioning and understanding yourself is a key component of decision making and performing safely.”

Fitness testing in preperation for the 737 challenge

KIT

Deciding on clothing and equipment is a vital part of preparation for trips. You’re reliant on the items that you’re carrying and every ounce has to be accounted for. Every adventurer has a different take for allowing space for luxury items but often, when you have very little, these home comforts can be a really give you a boost.

As for gear, everything packed will serve as a life protection tool which means detail is important. Richard has been a Rab athlete for over 7 years and has worked with the product development team and tested technical fabrics, from Merino+ to down suits. 

 

“My clothing systems are mostly fast and light which means moisture management is as important as wind protection. I love Vaporise and have used various Vaporise tops on every expedition, from Antarctica to Alaska via Everest. It’s the first thing I’ll pack in my bag – a seemingly simple product but in reality, very technical”.

Richard will be talking at our Covent Garden store on 25th May 2017. Tickets are £5 and all proceeds will be donated to charity. You can purchase your ticket here 


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