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The story behind the cover shot – Ultra magazine

Front cover Ultra mag

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Larking around with issue 2 of Ultra on day 4 of our recce. Kindly supplied by Ultra ed. Andy Nuttall

When you get your copy of the superlative independent UK running magazine, Ultra (issue 4) – you’ll read how we fastpacked a four day recce of the circuit before attempting the run. Torres del Paine was named the 8th Wonder of The World in 2013 and we wanted to experience it in all its mystery and majesty before attempting to push rudely round in just one day.

On the second day of the fastpack, we reached the top of the John Gardner pass – the highest point of the trek that usually takes 8 days to complete. Here we had our first view down to Glacier Grey – a leviathan of ice that runs hundreds of miles, swallowing mountains in its path. The temperature hovered around zero, and for about the fifth time that day I asked James:

“Mate, whip off your trousers and we’ll get a shot in our running shorts!”

“You can F*** right off if you think I’m stripping off for you here…”

There would be no time on the run to stop here, and I certainly wouldn’t be carrying any decent camera gear during the attempt. It was now or never.

Just at that moment, a porter emerged on the pass. I set the camera to continuous shooting mode, wacked up the F-Stop to pull the glacier in and got the poor chap squatting at an angle where the composition was right. We dropped our heavy rucksacks, grabbed the vests we would use for the 1 day push and started jogging with that comically high knee style that can help imply movement in running shots. The porter clearly thought we were lunatics – but fired away.

So, no man leaning out of a helicopter in a harness – just a couple of guys trying to share the adventure they were about to set out on – round one of the most spectacular trails on Earth.

And when we really did begin, it was 2am Patagonia time. Out there, on those moonlit trails, there was an even more shocking surprise than that great glacier – It was waiting for us, silently in the dark….

Here’s where you can read more.matt full circle (1)


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[:en]A Long Run with a Friend at the 8th Wonder of the World[:]


James and Me Idiots (1)On a miserable winter’s morning in Marshfield, England at around 10am in early 2014 our friendship was sealed.

We’d been running through driving rain and sodden trails since before dawn. Soaked to the skin, we’d been flexing our fingers back and forth to keep the circulation going since the first climb by moonlight onto Little Solsbury Hill. On reaching Marshfield High Street we were at the furthest outpost of our very long run.

Just then a delivery van came splashing down the deserted street, windscreen wipers raging, parking just in front of us. A small man lowered a misted window,  and with a wide grin spoke but one word:


Taken aback at first; we soon laughed it off. Over the next three hours back to Bath Spa we tossed the phrase between ourselves. We discovered it was a generous fit for many situations in times past or escapades planned when the logic seems absent, but the experience so fulfilling.

In six days’ time my friend James will arrive here in Chile from the UK.

We planned the trip in February over Skype. Back then the South American summer was in full rage and it was more than 34°C on the cactus studded trails near my home at foot of the Andes. James punched in his passport details online then waited for his winter to warm up, spring to come and go and summer run its course.

Here in South America it’s getting warmer again now: the clouds are lifting from the summits; the bean plants are pushing through the soil of our vegetable patch once more and it’s time to go on an adventure…


Photo © Graciela Zanitti |

At the very bottom of the South American continent – where the land draws thin, and the fiords wind two hundred mile tendrils into the mountains – that’s where they found Patagonia. There is no other land further south on the planet besides Antarctica. Adventurous travellers have long since travelled here – to the end of the world – to tackle the infamous Torres del Paine trek. There are swooping condors, glaciers the size of European countries and the black monolith towers after which the park is named. The 77mile hike is a full loop of the TDP massif and has over 6,000m of elevation gain. It usually takes 8-10 days. This November, James and I are going to give it a crack – hoping to run it all in one push.

Both now in our thirties, the trip can’t be filed away as a Gap Year adventure nor as a mid life crisis. It is just a frivolous trip where two friends have cleaved out some time from seemingly hectic lives to have a long run together in the mountains. And when we look back on it one day – we’ll hope we can we say we were idiots.