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Beyond the Bale : June 2015
OFF FARM 23 Kyle Williams wearing his I/O Merino gear on top of the 2061m Mount Jagungal in the Kosciuszko National Park in NSW. 38year old Australian adventurer and former Army medic Kyle Williams is someone who knows about performing at his limits. In November last year, he became the first person to run an 82km ultra-marathon across the 21 highest mountains in the Snowy Mountains. It was run in one go, together with Kyle’s Victorian ultra-marathon running buddy Jamie Smith, in a time of just 19 hours. The alpine challenge, which was largely off- trail, had a total elevation gain of 4193m. The previous year, Kyle was the first person on record to climb non-stop all 26 of mainland Australia’s 2000m mountains. It took 48 hours to complete the 130km trek through the Snowy Mountains with a total gain in altitude of 5850m – which is about the height of Mount Kilimanjaro or two thirds the height of Mount Everest. He battled wind, rain and snow, with temperatures ranging from minus 6°c to 18°c. To help him perform at these limits of endurance, Kyle only uses gear that performs just as hard as he does. “If it isn’t the very best, then I won’t use it,” he says. “I need gear that enables my body to operate at its optimum, in all types of weather, temperatures, and conditions.” So Kyle wears apparel made from Merino wool. But it wasn’t always the case. He was introduced to Merino wool apparel in 2011 when he was lent a top to wear for a workout. “Initially I was sceptical about wearing a wool garment, thinking it would be too hot and scratchy,” Kyle says. “But it was very MERINO’S Australian adventurer Kyle Williams is a convert to Merino wool and backs its high performance properties. He always kits himself out in gear from Adelaide based brand I/O Merino when heading out into the wild. comfortable to wear and its breathability helped regulate my temperature in the hot conditions. “Now I’m a complete convert. I use Merino wool garments almost exclusively for my outdoor and fitness activties. In fact even when I’m not exercising, I more often than not wear Merino wool as casual wear. You could say that ‘I live the Merino lifestyle!’” In early 2014, Kyle heard about I/O Merino – an Australian company and brand selling exclusively Merino active wear. The company uses 18.5 micron Australian Merino wool and has the mission to make the best quality, most comfortable, high-performance Merino active wear available. Based in Adelaide, I/O Merino is owned by David Michell, whose family has been involved in the Australian wool industry for more than 140 years. Kyle points out there are now many brands on the market selling Merino wool activewear, but he says they are not all the same – the quality varies. “I find I/O Merino gear to be very well made and comes in a broad range. They have all the usual tops and tights, but they also do 100 per cent Merino track suits pants, which I love, and a neck tube that covers exposed gaps above my top or jacket, and is versatile enough to be worn as a headband. “On my ultra-marathon across the Snowy Mountains last year, to keep my pack weight down, I only took minimal gear, which was pretty much made up of all I/O Merino! Layering is a really important in those conditions with temperatures ranging from 10°c down to minus 2°c – and Merino is great for that. “I wore a lightweight I/O Merino T-shirt and long-sleeve as my base layers, layered with a mid-weight I/O Merino jacket when it got cold. My absolute go to piece though was the I/O Merino neck tube which I wore all day in various forms; it’s an awesome piece of kit. “Merino was fantastic for regulating my temperature – which can be very tricky to do when exercising and sweating in a cold environment. It kept me warm even when it got damp – which is so important in freezing conditions and so unlike what cotton and synthetic fabrics deliver. Another big difference with Merino compared to synthetics is that Merino doesn’t stink after exercise! “If people try Merino gear for exercise, I’m 100 per cent confident they will love it and never go back to wearing anything else.” Kyle’s plans for the future include climbing the highest peak in each of Australia’s mainland states and territories in less than six days, and also a winter traverse of Federation Peak in Tasmania. Will he be taking Merino on these trips? “You bet,” he says. MORE INFORMATION I/O Merino is sold exclusively online at www.iomerino.com MOUNTAIN MARATHON