Adventurers push the boundaries of what we believe is possible, testing mind and body to achieve breakthrough results and in many cases setting world records. Of all the speakers I meet through work, the adventurers are the ones that fascinate me. There are many amazing explorers to profile, but here are eight you will want to know.
Cas and Jonesy
I had the pleasure of meeting Australian explorers, James Castrission and Justin Jones, otherwise known as Cas and Jonesy, as they were passing through San Francisco several years ago. This fascinating duo became the first kayakers to cross the Tasman Sea (a.k.a The Ditch) arriving on the shores of New Zealand 2,061 miles and 62 days later.
They made history again on January 26, 2012 when they completed the longest unsupported polar expedition of all time by walking from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back without assistance. They are also the youngest team to ever reach the South Pole. It took 89 days to ski 1,413 miles pulling loads starting with 352 pounds in temperatures as low as -40⁰F.
“You don’t have to paddle across an ocean, climb Everest or take a stroll to the South Pole. Adventure is a way of life no matter the destination. You can make it happen anywhere, and at anytime. So why not now?”
I saw a screening of On the Trial of Genghis Khan at this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival. I was amazed and moved by Tim Cope’s undertaking – a 6,213 mile trek from Mongolia to Hungary by horse, foot and camel. This route has not been successfully completed since Genghis Khan’s time. What fascinated me about Tim’s 3 1/2 year journey was the traditional style of exploration and his immersion into a culture our modern world has very little experience with. While many adventurers set off to reach a summit or break a new record, Tim’s journey was to discover if the nomadic spirit still existed in the people along the steppe and to understand their deep connection to the land.
“Journeys are integral to all our lives. They present testing challenges, moments of exquisite reward and insight, and times when you are racked by self-doubt and problems. Battling it out involves confronting fears, making yourself vulnerable, aiming for something worthy and clinging onto self-belief and passion even when it seems that everything is stacked against you. In the end a journey invariably offers us a chance to learn and grow and reach out for our dreams. I am still amazed at how things seem to work out in the most unlikely ways; it’s as if you just have to be willing to give it a go. There is always something new to be discovered, something waiting to surprise us around the next corner.”
I discovered Alpinist Ueli Steck through the The Swiss Machine screening at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Dubbed the Swiss Machine, Ueli is one of the world’s best speed alpinists and he is about as precise as a Swiss watch. His list of achievements is dizzying. He set apline speed records for the North Wall of the Eiger, North Wall of the Matterhorn and the Grand Jorasses. Check out his record solo ascent of Eiger’s north face in 2 hours and 47 minutes in 2008. He broke the previous record of 3 hours 54 minutes which he also set himself in 2007. Just to give you an idea of speed, the previous record holder was Christoph Hainz in 2003 with 4 hours and 40 minutes.
“I like to push my personal limits. It doesn’t matter what the result is afterwards… For me it’s most important to push my body to its full potential.”
Mick Dawson & Chris Martin
I was introduced to Mick Dawson, a professional Yacht Skipper, through a friend. Mick along with fellow rower, Chris Martin, became the first ever crew to row from Japan to San Francisco. They completed this 7,000 mile voyage in 189 days earning them a place in the Guinness World Records. They say the third time is a charm and in this case it was. Mick had unsuccessfully tried to row the North Pacific solo twice before. Mick has also rowed across the Atlantic twice, once with his brother and later with rower Andrew Morris.
Dominic Gill’s film, Take a Seat, has been my favorite film in the last 5+ years of attending the Banff Mountain Film Festival. I loved his quirky idea of riding a tandem bike from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in South America. The 18,449 mile ride took 2 years and 2 months with 270 strangers joining him along the way on the back of his bike.
He took to his tandem bike again to ride across America. Inspired by Ernie Greenwald, one of the 270 people to join him along the Alaska to Argentina journey, they decided they would ride from LA to New York together. Ernie had cancer and unfortunately his worsening condition prevented him from making the trip in the end. In his honor, Dominic invited 10 strangers with disabilities to share a ride across America.
In Dominic’s recent adventure, Take A Seat Egypt, he took his bike to Egypt to explore the country, their politics, and of course invite people to hop on and pedal through Egypt in the blazing heat.
While Alex Honnold appeared in The Swiss Machine film mentioned above, it wasn’t until I watched this 60 Minutes segment that I really learned about him. I am awestruck at his ability to free solo climb (i.e. no ropes). He is the only known solo climber of the Yosemite Triple Crown – Mt. Watkins, El Capitan (The Nose) and the Northwest Face of Half Dome in 18 hours and 50 minutes. He has been called the best climber in the world.
“I think a lot about the risk taking and risk itself in general. The thing for me is that I honestly don’t find soloing that risky. There isn’t that much chance involved. You either can do it or you can’t. It’s not like you’re rolling the dice. If I know that I can do something, then I do it. It’s all about staying within your abilities and executing things well.”
Is there an adventurer that inspires you?