Aled Smith from Brecon Beacons (Wales) – GR20 July 2015 (And now preparing an Artic Expedition)


Hello my name is Aled Smith, I come from the Brecon Beacons in Wales and I love to go hiking, trekking and over all exploring.

Do you play sport ?

I use to play rugby but after having a serious knee injury I decided to retire and now started doing more downhill mountain biking and surfing.

Aled Smith with friends on the GR20 - July 15
Aled Smith with friends on the GR20 – July 15 – Aled is the short one 🙂

Have you ever gone for a hike ?

Being brought up in the national park in wales, I fell in love with the outdoors from an early age and spent a lot of time hiking around the hills and mountains. I now enjoy traveling to different countries to go hiking. My favourite so far has been the GR20, it was a challenge and beautiful! I love every moment of it and I am hoping to return one day to do it again.

Could you tell us about your arctic expedition your are preparing for next year ?

I am taking part in an expedition called the #lastpole. This expedition is to reach part of the Arctic that has never been reached by mankind before « the northern Pole of inaccessibility » described as the furthest point of land from in the arctic sea. It is a worlds last worlds first in exploration.

I will be part of a team of 28 people who will be then split into 4 different teams. The expedition will be spilt into 4 legs of 20 days each and each team will do one leg. I will do at least 20 days of the expedition but has not been decided what leg yet. We will be attempting this huge task next February and should take 80 days to complete. Along the way we will also be taking ice samples and readings to have a better understanding of how the arctic ice is thinning due to global warming.

We will encounter hungry polar bears, temperatures around -50 and thinning ice. The expedition will be lead by Jim McNeill an established Arctic explorer.

Are you currently looking for something ?

For me to be part of this expedition I need to raise £20,000 to pay my way. I am looking for any company that would like to sponsor me and for me to wear their logo on my expedition jacket. I will advertise their brand/logo on my website and can also tag them on my Instagram. This expedition is showing huge media interest so there will be a lot of advertising for any company interested in sponsoring. We are always looking for anyone to help out in anyway even just by passing the word on.

Anything else you’d like to add ?

If anyone is interested in sponsoring, could they please email me on [email protected] and we can discuss how I can advertise your sponsor in different possible ways and can also tell you more about the expedition itself. I would also like to say if anyone is interested to please follow all the teams social medias pages and follow our stories as we all come from completely different backgrounds. Ordinary people doing an extraordinary expedition.

From my website I will also have links to other team members and the expedition info.

Thank you !

Concerning about the GR20, when did you hike there ?

Me and 3 of my friends hiked the north section of the GR20 back in July 2015. We started from the first stage and continued until stage 8 where we took an exit route to a small town, where we caught the train back to a town not far from Ajaccio. We flew into Corsica from Gatwick to Ajaccio.

What was the context for hiking the GR20 ?

Chris one of my friends suggested the idea to lance who then asked me if I would like to join them hiking the GR20, as I never heard of the GR20 I looked it up on the internet and liked the look of it. We then started planning and booking all flights and time off work. We prepared by hiking in the beacons in wales, up and down Pen-Y-Fan.

What equipment did you take ?

Backpack: Highlander discovery 65 litre which had a camel bag in for water as well which you need, carry plenty water. I’d recommend carry more then you need, can get very hot some days.

Shoes: I wore trail running trainers they worked very well.

Clothes: I wore running shorts and t-shirts clothes that wouldn’t rub or cause much friction. We were very lucky with weather mind as it only rained one day for 5 minutes. We did take waterproof clothes but didn’t need them.

Food: I bought food along the way at the end of each stage (I’d recommend taking plenty cash as there is nowhere for you to use your card)

Tent: I had a 1-man tent which was very small, I’d recommend taking a lightweight 2-man tent so you can have a decent night’s sleep. My tent was so small it felt like being in a coffin. I threw it away soon as I got home. I can’t remember the make of it.

Sleeping bag: I bought a cheap online sleeping bag which was a huge mistake, make sure you get a nice goose feathered one that can pack down tightly inside your backpack.

Stove: I didn’t take one as I didn’t know we would need one but Chris and James who had done a lot more hiking then I had brought theirs. I would highly recommend bringing one as you may not be able to use the ones in the huts or they may be busy when you get there.

Survival kit: funnily enough my friends teased me for taking a little survival kit which had plasters and a sewing kit in, but it actually came in very handy as one day I managed to rip my t-shirt and I stitched back together using my little survival kit.

Guide book: I didn’t carry a guide book but Chris did, which was very handy for us because on the 4th day of hiking we had to decide if we were going to push on to stage 9 or take an exit route on stage 8. We only had 5 days of hiking and had to make sure we could get back in time for our flights. We had Cicerone guide book.

Positive feedback :

I thoroughly enjoyed the hike, it was a challenge hiking to the top of the mountains but once you reached there you were rewarded with such beautiful views. I would happily go back and complete the whole GR20 given the opportunity. All the hikers I met where very friendly along with the people living at the huts.

Aled Smith - gr20 northern section - July 15
Aled Smith – gr20 northern section – July 15

Negative feedback :

I wish I did a bit more fitness training and took more money with me as I some days I went without food, as I didn’t realise I couldn’t use my card at the huts (was my own fault for not doing enough research). Sometimes you had to pass other hikers at dangerous spots and some hikers I felt where rather nervous about being on certain parts on certain stages.

The favourite one and the worst ?

My favourite feedback would have to be the views, they were spectacular and extremely memorable. My worst would have to be how rough some trails were it made you have to look were you were walking all the time which stopped me being abler to enjoy the views more.

Favourite stage and shelter ?

My favourite stage was stage 3 Haut Asco to Vallone. It was a very hard hike to the top but I was blown away by the views and could have happily stayed there for a few days. My favourite shelter I believe it was stage 6, it was right next to a river where we all jumped in to cool ourselves down after having a long day hiking. We just sat back and watched the sunset go down while preparing ourselves for the last day of hiking.

Aled Smith hiking the GR20 July 2015

If you would do it again what would you change ?

If I ever get the opportunity to return, I would make sure that I took a better tent and sleeping bag. I would also take my own stove along with more cash. I would also do more fitness training. I would also take a decent camera to take some amazing pictures of the beautiful scenery.

Advice for others ?

1 – make your backpack as light as possible.

2 – buy a decent tent, sleeping bag, and shoes.

3 – carry more water than you think you’ll need (trust me some stages are a lot longer than you think).

4 – do plenty fitness (you don’t need to be a marathon runner but do need to be happy hiking up and down steep trails about 1000m ascent and decent a day).

5 – carry plenty cash as your card won’t work on the trails until certain points.

6 – take plenty snacks you can eat on the go.

7 – plan to do a stage a day. Me and my friends were pushed for time so had to do 2 stages a day and we were shattered at the end of everyday but still loved every moment of it. You didn’t get to enjoy it as much though.

8 – if you’re a confident hiker then please, please give way to less confident hikers on tight or dangerous spots. You may find yourself at steep areas trying to pass nervous hikers, give them all the time they need and if you can get out the way for them then please do as you may cause an accident.

9 – take a decent camera you’re going to regret it if you don’t.

10 – although the river water looks beautiful and warm trust me up the top of the mountains it really isn’t. I would still suggest jumping in though you’ll soon warm up after.

Any further suggestions ?

I would just like to say I only got to do the first 8 stages but I loved every moment of it and since doing the gr20 I have fallen in love with hiking more.

I would jump at the chance to go back and do it again. I am sorry that I can’t remember any of the names of the stages and my information is a bit vague but it was 2 years ago since I done the trail. I hope who ever reads this and decides to go enjoys it as much as I did.

Do take a camera and don’t spare any money on a tent, sleeping bag and shoes. Also be smart with your trails if you want to do two trails in one day but don’t get to the end of the first one till rather late don’t attempt the 2nd, some of them are a lot longer then you may think.

Aled Smith from Brecon Beacons - Wales - GR20 July 15 On top of Corsican mountains

Me and my friends are rather healthy young men who managed to knock 1/2hrs off the average time and some days we weren’t getting back to shelters till late in the evenings where all the decent tents spaces had gone. So if you want a nice tent area I suggest get up early and get to the end of the stage and next shelter area quickly and find yourself a decent spot.

Thank you for reading and all the best !

Your sincerely
Aled Smith

Thank you Aled for having shared your feedback ! 

Message to everyone :

Please really have a look on this Artic Expedition @aiks_expeditions and share it ! He really needs to get the word out as much as possible !

Thank you !

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