What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

- Henry David Thoreau


Athletes & Explorers

Mar 06, 2019

Adrenaline Addiction: Fallout

24 year-old Chase Reinford seizes a life of freedom and extreme stunts, while we all watch, white-knuckling our office chairs.


Davey Braun

Chase Reinford’s Adrenaline Addiction YouTube channel expresses the way I would live my life if I was sure that there was a heaven waiting for me on the other side.

If you’re thinking that the above photo isn’t real, or that it’s a screenshot from a Tom Cruise movie like Mission Impossible: Fallout, then you’re half-right. Chase’s whole life, it seems, is one scene from an action movie after another.

Minutes before the hangar door of this CASA aircraft opens up, while double-checking his wing-suit on a runway in Sebastian, Florida, Chase connects with The Outdoor Journal to discuss flying high, going viral, facing fears and forging an inspirational extreme lifestyle (that is more natural than a life confined inside a cubicle).

Chase Reinford, not to be confused with Will Ferrell’s Wedding Crashers character Chazz Reinhold, might also go down in the legends of man. Chase lives a life in extremes – from triple backflipping over a waterfall in Hawaii, to infiltrating a tower in Bangkok for a nighttime BASE jump.

Scaling a crane in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

With well over 600,000 YouTube subscribers and 150k followers on Instagram, this 24 year-old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is forging his own adventurous lifestyle that captures the zeitgeist of his generation. Following in the footsteps of Dean Potter and Sketchy Andy Lewis, Chase creates breathtaking aerial art in rebellion against modern corporate culture expectations.

“Meet the Jack Kerouac of the vertical dimension.”

In a typical Adrenaline Addiction episode, you’ll see Chase send a variety of tricks from cliffs, rope-swings and waterfalls, such as triple backflips, stalled out gainers and castaways off bridge railings. In addition to these technical maneuvers, you’ll also see wacky stunts like my personal favorite, the “Salmon,” where Chase convulses his body like a fish out of water.

Chase is rarely alone. He’s always meeting up with a crew of like-minded thrill seekers who enjoy pushing their limits in the outdoors, camping out and hiking through deep forests while listening for the far-off rumble of a massive waterfall.

Adrenaline Addiction is the type of content that my mom would refuse to watch because it seems so reckless. As I watch the “AA” crew depth-check their water landings by poking around with bamboo poles and even occasionally “death checking” by jumping first without looking for any rocks under the surface, it’s hard to argue the point.

But it would be a shame to focus solely on the daredevil nature of Chase’s stunts while overlooking the skill. In comparison, a professional diver on the Red Bull Cliff Diving circuit will take off from a platform 85 to 92 feet in the air, while safety divers churn up the water below to make a softer landing, and an ambulance stands by. The winning male dive at Red Bull this year was a triple backflip with four twists. Chase is throwing triple somersaults off 100-plus-foot cliffs with no safety support.

A common misconception about cliff jumping is that landing in water from height is like jumping into concrete. It’s not. However, there is a very small margin for error. An over-rotation can result in a concussion, a broken arm or internal injuries. Even a perfect two-foot stomp landing can lead to injury. As stated in his Vietnam series (Jumping the Tallest Waterfall in Vietnam), venturing into remote destinations without safety teams or even access to ambulances means that a broken leg results in losing your leg and a broken back means almost certain death.

Read Next on TOJ: World champion cliff diver Rhiannan Iffland ventures into aboriginal territory in search of extreme cliffs and a deeper understanding of her home country’s heritage.

After three years of filming episodes, Chase probably needs to kick off his shoes to count his close calls, like the time he flipped off a bascule bridge without noticing the boat passing underneath.


Meet the Jack Kerouac of the vertical dimension. As part of the Vanlife, a trending lifestyle choice amongst millennials, Chase converted a miniature school bus (or shortbus), the type kids take to school everyday, into his own “road-trip adventure vehicle.”

Armed with a Panasonic GH5, several GoPro’s and a DJI Mavic Drone, Chase operates his own media house on wheels. Setting his own hours within this mobile office, that now includes two rescue dogs, Chase is living the new American dream. Instead of working in an office grind from 9 to 5 everyday for 50 years before earning the freedom to roam, Chase has seized it in his early 20’s.

“The school bus conversion was a great decision. It was always a dream of mine when I was younger, and then I finally had the means to do it. It’s for sure given me plenty of freedom to travel and see things I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. I’ve been all over the country in it, and even Mexico.”

Chase’s DIY bus conversion parallels today’s most famous extreme athlete, Alex Honnold, who lived out of his van for the better part of a decade in order to live in close proximity to rock walls, allowing him to perform at his peak abilities in Free Soloing El Cap.

In addition to his converted shortbus, Chase often flies a cessna plane solo, after following in his father’s footsteps to earn his pilot’s license. Travel is a steady presence in Chase’s life. Just off a motorbike adventure through Vietnam, with a brief stop in the US, he’s off on his way to China.

Read Next on The Outdoor Journal: The Dirty Secrets of #VanLife


Over the years, Chase’s infatuation with cliff jumping has progressed into the world of BASE jumping. His closest calls have come from this exceedingly dangerous endeavor that poses an utterly unforgiving learning curve. Watch Chase narrowly escape death while BASE jumping off Trump Tower.

This video is Chase’s most viral episode to date, with over 11 million views. After that near fatal mishap, Chase shared this advice with his audience, conscious of the fact that his actions might influence others to attempt dangerous stunts themselves: “Don’t get into BASE jumping, please. One mistake will kill you really quickly – like timing your jump one second wrong, or just the slider taking longer than you expected.”


Besides referring to radioactive particles precipitating to Earth after a nuclear blast, the term “Fallout” is also defined as “the adverse results of a situation or action.” Chase has had to come to terms with the risks of his actions. In 2018, he witnessed his BASE jumping mentor die in an accident. He shared the life-changing nature of that traumatic experience in an Instagram post:

View this post on Instagram

I need to get this off my chest. I realize I have a large influence on many people, and recently I've seen a lot of people commenting on my videos saying they want to start BASE jumping because of me. That makes me very uneasy. This sport kills. I haven't publicly shared this yet, but on June 25th, my friend and BASE mentor died in my arms after our jump together went wrong. It was the most gruesome, tramatic experience of my life. He was still alive when I got to him, and I did everything I could to keep him with me, but I was helpless. The sound of his last breathe was something I will never unhear. The images in my head will never go away. Smells, sounds and random things bring me back to that moment. It haunts me. I will never be the same. What I'm trying to say is don't start BASE jumping because you think it's cool, or because you think I'm cool. And don't do it unless you are ready to see death up close and personal. Is it worth your life? For some it is. For me it is, but I don't want my friends or fans to start BASE. I can't handle another loss. And if you are wondering about this photo; that's me nearly dying… just in case the rest wasn't clear enough. #nostressjustenjoy #basejumping #skydiving

A post shared by Chase Reinford (@adrenaline.addiction) on

The Outdoor Journal interviewed Chase to learn more about his lifestyle in extremes.


TOJ: I went cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and when I asked the locals if they knew about Adrenaline Addiction, they said, “Of course!” How does it feel to be living a lifestyle and creating content that people from around the world are responding to?

Reinford: It was very surreal at first. I’ve had people recognize me in just about every country I’ve visited, and it always puts a smile on my face. The fact that my audience is worldwide blows my mind!

TOJ: You have over 600,000 subscribers on YouTube now. Describe the process of building traction on the platform and how you reacted to the growth of the channel?

“If I messed up, I would likely die or wish I was dead.”

Reinford: It all started taking off after I began jumping 100-plus-foot cliffs. At the time, a handful of people had straight jumped (no flips) cliffs this big, but no one was doing flips, and I was doing double and triple flips. That’s how my channel blew up and then it was just a matter of consistently uploading videos each week. I saw myself maybe getting to 10k followers someday, but I am blown away to see over a half million people following along with my journey.

TOJ: What are your top three episodes of Adrenaline Addiction, and why?

Reinford: I enjoy sharing all my adventures, but my favorite videos to share are my year-end highlight videos.

I enjoy seeing all that I’ve accomplished and all the memories I’ve made in a single year.

I’d say outside of those, the “Cliff Jumping in the Grand Canyon” and “Insane 140ft cliff jump” will always be my favorites. These videos showed two of the best adventures of my life, with great friends and epic jumps. They are the classics and will be tough to beat!

TOJ: How did you learn the film editing side of production?

Reinford: I have always made edits for my parents as a child. It all got taken to a professional level after I was in a serious snowboarding accident and was confined to a bed and the hospital for 12-plus weeks and was out of any physical activity for 14 months. I was losing my mind, so I bought a good camera and began crutching around, taking photos and filming. It began with filming my friends longboarding, and once I was back on my feet (literally) then I continued documenting and creating.

TOJ: How many hours does it take you to edit each episode?

Reinford: That’s hard to say because some edits are short, some are over 20 minutes. It depends on how many cameras were used, how much footage there is to go through and what type of edit I’m going for. I can throw an edit together in a few hours, but I’ve also spent over 70 hours on a single edit before. On average, I’d say I spend roughly eight hours on an edit.

TOJ: What is special about the cliff jumping community?

Reinford: Just like any community, it’s a group of like-minded people that all come together with a similar interest. I think it’s extra special because the community is so small. Everyone knows everyone and there are people from all types of backgrounds. There are scientists, pilots, engineers etc. Cliff jumping brings us all together.

TOJ: Is Adrenaline Addiction a red herring? Are you addicted to that release of neurotransmitters like adrenaline and endorphins, or is your lifestyle about something more? Camaraderie? Pushing limits? Freedom? Looking back at a life well-lived?

Reinford: It’s all of the above. At first, it was just a way to get an adrenaline rush and to have a moment of freedom. It’s evolved into much more. I’ve created life-long friendships and epic memories with people I’d otherwise never know. I have close friends that are like family to me in foreign countries, how incredible is that!? I feel at home in countries like Switzerland because of all the experiences and friends I have there after visiting each year.

TOJ: Does your channel put pressure on you to find more and more dangerous stunts?

“I got hurt trying to impress people.”

Reinford: The short answer is no. I will never put myself in a dangerous situation for my fans. I love them but I also value my life, and if I die or get injured trying to impress or please other people then I die in vain. Looking back at my snowboarding injury, I know the reason that happened was because I allowed the pressure of others to influence my decision, which ultimately got me hurt. I got hurt trying to impress people, and I will never make that mistake again.

I do what I do to challenge myself because it’s rewarding to push limits and break boundaries. The people watching are just an added bonus. I’m at a point where I don’t want to push it much further because the line of life and death is so fine. I will always do crazy shit, but I will be transitioning into the business side of things more in the future. I have been working on creating a company over the last several months. It’s in its infancy but going strong. I have aerospace engineers designing and optimizing my very own BASE specific parachute. The first few will be produced by summer and then thoroughly tested and fine-tuned before releasing it in the fall/winter. I’m excited.


TOJ: The first video I ever watched of yours was your first time flying solo across the country. Travel plays a big part in your channel – from the Pacific Northwest to Hawaii, to Europe and even all the way to Asia. What impact does frequent travel play in your life and could you live without it?

Reinford: Most of my life has been constant travel. I am only “home” for about 2 months out of the year typically. It does get exhausting but I’m truly in love with the lifestyle. I will always need some sort of travel in my life. I thrive seeing new things and experiencing different cultures and people. I think everyone needs to travel at least once, and I’m not talking about spending a week at a resort in Cancun. Get away from tourist destinations, meet the locals, try their foods, live how they live. That’s culture and that’s exciting.

Back-flipping off of industrial dock machinery in rural Vietnam.

TOJ: Does cliff jumping lead to a natural progression to BASE jumping? What is the learning curve for a beginner to BASE jumping?

Reinford: I wouldn’t say it’s the natural progression. They are polar opposites but so similar at the very same time. The main difference is the parachute system, and no cliff jumping prepares you for flying and landing a parachute. If skydiving and cliff jumping had a baby it would be BASE jumping. That being said, cliff jumping for sure allowed me to advance my BASE skills much faster than otherwise possible. I have very good air awareness and body control because of my extreme sports background, so for me, BASE was the next step after skydiving.

TOJ: Who are some of the extreme sports athletes you have looked up to over the years? What was it like to get some jumping in with Sketchy Andy Lewis and how did you two connect?

Reinford: Travis Pastrana has always been my hero. Shane McConkey is another legend I look up to. I grew up watching Sketchy Andy as well, and always thought he was a total badass. It was awesome to meet him, and even cooler that he took me along for some sketchy missions which totally reminded me why he got his nickname. His style of jumping is much too loose for most BASE jumpers, but I thoroughly enjoyed all the fear I shared with Andy. We both love sketchy shit, and that’s why we became friends. I’m stoked for more missions with Andy in the future.

Read Next on TOJ: On Freedom, and the Facade of the American Dream – by Sketchy Andy Lewis: Many people spend their entire adult existence trapped in what others might consider a dream.

TOJ: How has your family reacted to your decision to pursue a lifestyle of extreme sports full-time? Was it a process to gain acceptance?

“I’ve always been the black sheep of the family.”

Reinford: I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, or the black sheep of the family. I don’t think it’s any surprise to them that I pursued this life, maybe just surprised that I pulled it off. I first went for a career in professional snowboarding and I broke myself in half and proved them right after I failed. I went and got all my pilot licenses and completed the schooling to appease them by earning a backup plan. After that was finished, I felt like I could go any direction in life without feeling pressure from my parents. They have since fully accepted my choice and supported my decisions. They are happy that I am happy and the rest is irrelevant. My dad always told me not to worry what others think about me, and he couldn’t be an exception to his own wise words.

TOJ: What has the experience of dog rescue added to your life?

Reinford: I’ve always been a dog lover but my lifestyle was much too hectic to actually commit to a dog. I guess destiny, or whatever you want to call it, had other plans. Paco fell into my life and originally I was just going to take him to an animal sanctuary. The animal Sanctuary was almost 2 hours away from where we had weekend cliff jumping plans so I told myself I’d just drop him there after. I fell in love with the little adventure dog and couldn’t just leave him. I’m pretty stoked that I found him and since have found another dog in Mexico. I miss them whenever I travel and it gives me something to look forward to when I’m headed home.

TOJ: On the one hand, following your passion is an inspiration to people, but on the other hand, someone who is not as skilled as you might try to pull off a similar stunt and get hurt, does that weigh on you?

Reinford: Yea, it does bother me sometimes. It bothered me most in the beginning, but I feel as if I do much more good than harm. I get countless emails and messages from people thanking me for inspiring them to get out and travel, or just live more fearlessly. Most of the time this has no connection to cliff jumping or people trying to do things that I do. It’s the mindset to push their own personal limits in their own life that I help with. To me, that’s rewarding. I’ve even had people that were suicidal and depressed reach out and tell me that I’ve changed their life after they were exposed to my mindset and optimism. It’s an extreme case, but so is someone attempting to recreate one of my jumps. People are going to do stupid shit regardless. If they don’t see me try something, they’ll see someone else. Darwinism in full effect. I don’t lose sleep over it.

TOJ: Can you describe the feeling of infiltrating a building and scoping out the security before BASE jumping off of it?

“I think BASE jumping from a building is the ultimate mission and rush.”

Reinford: I think BASE jumping from a building is the ultimate mission and rush. It’s technical and many jumpers never get to experience it. Some of my friends are experts at it and I’ve learned a few tricks that I can’t share. Most of the buildings I’ve jumped will never be shared with the internet because I want to be able to jump them again, and I want my friends and others in the community to jump them. It’s a code in BASE that should be respected. I’ve of course posted a few jumps but these were less sensitive buildings, usually in foreign countries, where it wasn’t a huge deal. I may or may not have jumped in NYC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and other major cities in North America, but some things are best left to the imagination. What I can tell you is that sneaking past security, figuring out the entire layout of a building and climbing to the roof is probably the scariest and most exhilarating thing I’ve done. The jump itself is the easiest part!

BASE jumping from an undisclosed city in the US.

TOJ: Can you explain the decision to enter the BASE jumping community knowing that you will undoubtedly experience loss?

Reinford: Death is inevitable, and not just in BASE jumping. Everyone is 100% going to die sometime, so deciding not to BASE jump because of the fear of potential loss didn’t seem reasonable. At first, I had the attitude “well none of my friends are going to die.” That was a lie to myself to deal with the fear. 32 people died this year BASE jumping. One was my good friend, and I watched it happen. It was a life changing experience and it fucked me up real good. I learned so much from my friend, alive and dead. I learned you can’t let the fear of death keep you from living fully. After the accident, I didn’t know how to handle it or what direction my life would go. I know my friend lived the best life he could have. He had more badass stories than anyone. He jumped the Eiffel Tower, he got launched out of a human slingshot, he competed in dog sled competitions all over the world. His life was full and it was because he didn’t let fear stop him. It’s the only way he would be happy living, and his death was not in vain. He would never want me to stop living my best life. “No stress, just enjoy” is what he always told me. I apply that to life everyday.


TOJ: How do you overcome the days when you just don’t feel it?

Reinford: Best case scenario is sunny warm weather, warm water, clear water, safety swimmers, etc. This isn’t Red Bull cliff diving, this is RAW. Often times I have nothing from this equation and just have to be miserable and cold to accomplish what I came to do. I’ve jumped in far less than perfect conditions, because often times there won’t be another opportunity for certain jumps or just because I want to. I’ve also walked away from jumps with perfect conditions just because I don’t feel it. I always listen to my gut in every scenario.

Read Next on The Outdoor Journal: #VanLife Meets Sailing: One year in the life of a professional paraglider and paramotor pilot.

TOJ: Describe the physiological sensations right before a jump versus right after a jump.

Reinford: Depends a lot on the jumps. Most of the time on very high, dangerous jumps I get a heavy feeling that weighs down my body. My heart starts pounding, I start sweating, my mouth gets dry. I will not jump with this feeling. This sort of stress and fear will cause me to perform poorly and put me into a dangerous situation. If I’ve done the proper mental preparation and am fully confident in the jump, I will override this bodily response. I have learned how to do this over the last few years. I calm myself to a point of total peace where I sometimes experience a type of euphoria. I slow my heart beat, I feel the weight dissipate and I know I’m ready to jump. I believe I get a dopamine release in this moments, similar to the one I get after I stomp the jump. Before the jump is the tension/build and after the jump is the climax. Both are rewarding.

TOJ: What looks more aesthetically pleasing to you, a tight triple or a laid-out single?

Reinford: I think triples might look cooler, but a big ol’ laid out single is way more fun to perform! More recently, I’ve been trying to enjoy the jumps more, rather than trying to see how technical of a trick I can do. That’s why you’ll see me throwing big single flips mostly. If it’s 100-plus-foot drop, a double-flip is still super floaty and enjoyable. Triples are simply not fun. The jump is just a big blur. It is nice to see what you are capable of doing, which is why I do triples from time to time.

TOJ: What trick has been the elusive “Holy Grail” for you that you have not been able to stomp, or maybe even attempt yet?

Reinford: I’ve always wanted to do a quad front flip. Unfortunately, I tried one when I was very ill-prepared and it ended pretty brutally. Ever since then I have never pursued the quad into water, and probably never will. I value my lungs and preferred them not filled with blood after a flop! I’ll keep the quads for BASE jumping.

Watch as Chase’s attempt for a quadruple front flip ends in a bloody mess:

TOJ: What is your most proud moment in cliff jumping?

Reinford: I think it will always be the 110ft triple gainer. Everything about that trip was magical. At the time I hadn’t even jumped anything that high before, and I’ve only seen someone straight jump that high. I knew I could survive the impact, but knew I had to land absolutely perfectly. I knew if I messed up I would likely die or wish I was dead. For whatever reason, I just thought “Well, I’ll have plenty of time to do a triple, why not?!” And that’s what I did. I stomped it perfectly and it was the first video of mine to completely go viral. That moment will be impossible to beat. It was special.

If you’re interested in rocking some Adrenaline Addiction merch, check out the online store, however, you won’t be guaranteed to stomp a gainer just by wearing the gear.

YouTube: Adrenaline Addiction
Instagram: Adrenaline.Addiction

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Athletes & Explorers

Jul 17, 2019

Alone Across Antarctica Part 3: Nowhere to Hide – Børge Ousland’s World Record Legacy

Norwegian legend Børge Ousland, who navigated unknown landscapes in 1997 to become the first person ever to cross Antarctica alone, has a message for would-be record breakers.



Davey Braun

In a 5-part series Alone Across Antarctica, The Outdoor Journal connected with the greatest living polar explorers to discuss their solo missions across Antarctica, the most inhospitable environment on the planet. In Part 1, Colin O’Brady detailed his most recent world record attempt. In Part 2, Captain Louis Rudd explained what it took to survive his simultaneous 56-day journey. In this installment, Børge Ousland recounts the first-ever solo crossing of Antarctica and shares his perspective on the latest record-breaking attempts.

Børge Ousland is a Norwegian explorer and adventurer, among the best who have ever lived. As the first person ever to cross both poles on solo expeditions, Børge is a leading expert on polar exploration.

Børge became the first man to complete a solo and unaided journey to the North Pole in 1994. Then in 1997, he made the first solo and unaided crossing of Antarctica from coast to coast, covering 1,864 miles (2,845 km) from the edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf to the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. In his world-first solo crossing of Antarctica, Børge set out from Berkner Island in the Weddell Sea and reached the McMurdo base by the Ross Sea 64 days later, hauling a 390 pound (178-kg) sled. He used a windsail to help propel him on parts of the journey.

Børge is so dedicated to polar exploration that he even held his wedding ceremony at the North Pole in 2012, flying in guests via helicopter.

The Outdoor Journal connected with Børge to discuss his solo crossing of Antarctica, a world’s first, and how the latest record attempts by Colin O’Brady and Captain Louis Rudd stack up in the history of polar adventure.


TOJ: What initially inspired you to attempt the first solo crossing of Antarctica?

“We all have that need to overcome something difficult in life.”

Børge Ousland: That trip was up for grabs back in the day. I had skied across Greenland. I skied solo to the North Pole in ‘94, that was my big test. In polar conditions, you’re up there in the elements fighting yourself, overcoming difficulties and problems, and it’s just you, and you have to find these solutions and answers. And that’s fascinating for me. But the bottom line – the platform I’ve built my expeditions on – is adventure. I always liked the outdoors. I like to ski, I like to sleep in tents, I like to be physical, to move around, and be in the “here and now” in nature.

Børge Ousland hauled a 178 kilogram sled across Antarctica for 64 days.

The good part with the expeditions is that you are here and now. You focus on the weather, the equipment, the progress and not something that is going to happen tomorrow, which is more or less what we’re doing in daily life.

It’s also fascinating to look at something that nobody has done before and think, “Maybe I can do that.” Then you start to think about it and then finally you get that belief in yourself that, “Yes, I can do that!” And then you make it into a plan and you go. So it’s not about being first or greatest, it’s about overcoming something. I think we all have that need to overcome something difficult and get those victories in life.

This project is not just a trip starting from when you put your skis on. It’s one year of preparation and it’s the whole package, which fascinates me. It actually took me two years to do it. I went there in ‘95 but suffered blisters and frostbite, which got infected, because my gear was not windproof enough. After skiing solo and unaided only to the South Pole on that trip, I still thought I could do it, so I spent another year arranging sponsorship, training, pulling rubber tires, optimizing my equipment, and then I went again in ‘96 and I made it.

TOJ: Some of the explorers that inspired you were Amundsen and Nansen, who worked in teams. What drew you to take that extra step to go for a solo journey?

“Going solo is a mental experiment, it’s inner travel.”

Børge Ousland: In ‘93 I was on an expedition with my friend and we got separated in a whiteout. I wondered how it would be to be out there just by myself. So that’s how I first got the idea to go solo. Before I started on my solo trip to the North Pole in ‘94, I had never spent one night alone in a tent. I think that was a big mental leap. For me, going solo is mostly interesting from a mental and philosophical point of view. Physically, it’s more heavy to go solo because with a partner, you can share the tents and the common equipment, but overall it’s more or less the same. Going solo is a mental experiment, it’s inner travel. It’s hard because you can’t share the memories and joke with your partners but on the other hand you have a totally different dialogue with nature and yourself because there is no one to lean on.

Børge Ousland setting up overnight camp on Antarctica.

TOJ: Before a trip, is there any way to replicate or train for that sense of isolation?

“When the helicopter left me on Antarctica, I never felt so small in my whole life.”

Børge Ousland: I don’t think so. Actually, I did go to a sport psychologist who helps athletes win gold medals in the Olympics. I got a little bit fed up with him because he was just asking questions while I wanted to hear tangible tips on how to make it. But he understood that the point of asking all these questions was actually the right recipe because the whole deal was to make me get to know myself better, because on the South or the North Pole, there is nowhere to hide. You meet yourself. Good sides and bad sides. Feeling alone, or afraid of not succeeding, those feelings will come. If you accept that these feelings are a part of yourself, you’re in a better position to deal with them. So the answer is in yourself. But nothing could prepare me for when the helicopter left me there on Cape Arctichesky on my first solo trip. I never felt so small in my whole life.


TOJ: Can you explain the process of selecting your route from Berkner to McMurdo, and the difference between your route and the one selected by O’Brady and Rudd?

“On the South Pole, there is nowhere to hide. You meet yourself. Good sides and bad sides.”

Børge Ousland: I planned my route based on aerial photos taken by the US Navy back in the 1950’s and 60’s. I just had a little copy of the images from that era with me and my map was 1 to 250,000 so I was just probing unknown landscapes down there.

I never considered going from the bottom of the mountains (like O’Brady and Rudd did). It always stood out to me as a very artificial route because it’s glacier ice, it’s not sea ice. Those ice shelves have been there as long as 100,000 years and that’s longer than those low lying countries like Denmark and Holland. So these ice shelves are ancient and they are part of the inland side. It doesn’t matter if you take away the ice and there is water underneath, which was found out later. I wanted to go from sea to sea. Berkner had been established by a couple other expeditions before. And I knew that it was possible to get out from McMurdo. So I paid a ticket for a cabin on a cruise ship, for several thousand dollars, that would leave from McMurdo in perfect timing with my expedition.

Illustration of Antarctica Solo Crossings; created by Eric Phillips, President of the International Polar Guides Association.

TOJ: Some of the more recent expeditions like Ben Saunders, Henry Worsely, and now Colin O’Brady and Captain Louis Rudd have chosen the inland start on a route that is about half as long as yours. Do you feel like this modern route is a legitimate crossing of Antarctica?

“Many have done the inland start, but you can’t claim an Antarctic Crossing.”

Børge Ousland: It’s a great trip, but it’s not going from coast to coast. Many have done the inland start, and it’s a great way to go to the South Pole, but you can’t claim an Antarctic crossing. You can see it more clearly when you look at a map. They are deleting the shelf ice from the map when they draw it, it looks like ocean. When Colin O’Brady came down on the shelf ice he said, “Now I am on sea ice.” But he’s not, he’s on one-kilometer thick glacier ice which is part of Antarctica. When you see a real satellite image of Antarctica, then you see the true extent of both ice and land. I have a great respect for their achievements but I don’t approve and I don’t have any respect for their claims.

Solo journey’s are more physically taxing because you have to create your own tracks.

TOJ: I tried to research the official guidelines for what constitutes a polar crossing and I found one source which is Adventurestats.com which said, “The start point has to be from a boundary between land and water – the coastline. Permanent ice is considered part of the ocean, not the land.” Which is kind of confusing to me. It seems like it should be the opposite. What is the source for the official guidelines for polar records?

“So it’s not impossible and it’s not the first.”

Børge Ousland: Those guys who made that definition, they did the inland start themselves, and they obviously had a reason for calling that the coast. So those things will be changed in the future. This isn’t something that’s just come up now. I’ve been fighting this battle for over 20 years. I think it was Ranulph Fiennes who was first to call the bottom of the mountains the coast, but his partner Mike Stroud disagreed with that. They were not able to make it all the way to McMurdo and they were totally wasted, so they stopped at the bottom of the mountains and said, “Well, let’s call this the coast and we can claim to be the first unsupported crossing.” And it’s been a controversy ever since. But it’s very good that social media has caused all this interest because people suddenly start to think about it with transparency and finally we can do something about it.

TOJ: One of the things I’ve been trying to make sense of is the “Messner start” because as I research it, I found out that it was not the point that Reinhold Messner was trying to start from, but it was an alternate start point based on a logistics issue with the plane. So is it a misnomer to call that the “Messner start?”

Børge Ousland: Reinhold Messner, he wanted to start from the coast. The guys who flew him had some logistical problems. That was a big issue. He wanted to sue them. He got so delayed so there was no other alternative than starting from where he started. But he definitely did not call that the coast.

TOJ: I read that he was actually furious that he was forced to change his plans.

Børge Ousland: Yeah he was, big time. I think they paid back some money to close the case. So it’s not impossible and it’s not the first.


TOJ: One of the other guidelines on Adventurestats.com says that using tracks created by a motorized vehicle is considered support and it seems like the South Pole Overland Traverse (SPOT) might constitute tracks created by motor vehicles because the big trucks groom the traverse. If that is the case, would that take away O’Brady and Rudd’s “unsupported” claim?

Børge Ousland: Sure it’s support because you can double the distance on that road and you don’t need to worry about navigation. There’s a flag every four-hundred meters, and crevasses are filled up, and you can ski blindfolded there actually. There is no danger at all and it’s so much easier to ski there than going on the side with sastrugi where you have to navigate yourself. They will never be able to claim that trip as unsupported.

Crossing the North Pole in 1994, Borge used simple equipment such as a compass and decades-old aerial photos to navigate.

TOJ: Do the official definitions of “support” and “assistance” make sense to you?

Børge Ousland: They want to change that now. It’s still in early parts of the discussion, but they wanted to change it to “assisted” or “unassisted” only, then if you have a sail or you have dogs or whatever, that’s just a method of transportation that will be noted under the expedition. So either you’re first or you’re not first, and whatever comes after is just a different way of doing it.

TOJ: O’Brady and Rudd are trying to make a distinction between other solo expeditions like yourself and Mike Horn by saying that you used the assistance of wind power, and that’s why they’re saying it’s a first because they didn’t use any device aside from human power.

“On the first trip to the South Pole in ‘95… I didn’t even have a radio.”

Børge Ousland: For me, the bottom line for being supported or not is if you have some outside help. It’s between being totally self-reliant or not. And then method of transportation is secondary. Because you could always walk instead of ski. Is ski “support?” If you stand on top of a hill, and you let yourself go, you will move forward if you have a ski. It’s just about using the techniques that are available to you to move forward. I never considered that using a ski sail, which I did on parts of the trip, would be a controversy in the future. I couldn’t use it on the way to the South Pole because of the headwinds and I couldn’t use it in other parts because of the sastrugi. Then some guys made up their own definitions of doing a traverse that is the first-ever “unsupported” and “unassisted,” thinking normal people will never know the difference, then it sounds like you’re the first ever to do it, and that’s actually what’s written in the papers.

TOJ: O’Brady and Rudd covered over 900 miles. Do you know what percentage of that was on the SPOT groomed road?

Børge Ousland: As far as I know, it’s half the trip.

I think the main thing for me is to get the truth out and I think these guys did great trips and I fully respect their achievements both in the distance and experience they had, but I’m not approving the claiming of first solo crossing and unassisted. That will never happen that I will agree with that.

TOJ: Do you think that there are some still possible first ascents out there?

Børge Ousland: Yeah, there is: to cross the North Pole solo and unassisted. Because I crossed the North Pole solo but I had to resupply because my sled broke. So that’s still up for grabs.

Børge Ousland enjoying the journey across Antarctica.


TOJ: One of the benefits of social media is it allows you to stay in touch with people who care about your journey and also your friends and family. I’m wondering, have you ever looked back and wished that you had social media on one of your earlier expeditions, so you’d be able to stay in touch with people and they’ll be able to track your progress, or do you think that that takes away from the isolation element of any adventure?

Børge Ousland: I’m still doing expeditions for the IceLegacy Project, which I do with Vincent Colliard from France, and every night in the tent we have one to two hours of office work (laughs). I think back on my big solo trips when I didn’t have a sattelite phone, and actually on the first trip to the South Pole in ‘95 when I didn’t even have a radio. I was just by myself for two months. Absolutely no outside contact. I think it was good just to be there with nature and concentrating on my journey and myself.


TOJ: Can you describe the origin of the concept behind the Legacy Project and the significance of it on a global scale?

Børge Ousland: It is a very important project. It came about after I circumnavigated the Arctic in 2010. Me and a few friends sailed around the Arctic in a trimaran in four months through the northeast and northwest passage. Those areas used to be clogged with ice and it took six years to do it just a few decades ago. It really shocked me how much the ice had retreated in the Arctic. That’s what sparked this idea to cross the 20 greatest glaciers on Earth, to show what is happening with them, because almost all the glaciers in the world are retreating, contributing to sea-level rise. We want to document and tell the story of what’s happening. Our role is creating awareness as eyewitnesses. And secondly, we have two goals, we want to inspire people to get out in nature, that’s the best way to preserve it. And we’ve done nine glaciers now. Read more about the Legacy Project.

Learn more about Borge Ousland on his website. www.ousland.no/
Instagram: @borgeousland
Facebook: @borgeousland

Stay tuned to The Outdoor Journal for the next installment of our Alone Across Antarctica series. 

  1. Monday 8th July: Introducing Alone Across Antarctica Series 2019
  2. Wednesday 10th: Unbreakable Colin O’Brady Achieves the Impossible Once Again
  3. Monday 15th: For the Love of the Journey: An Interview with Captain Louis Rudd
  4. Wednesday 17th: Nowhere to Hide on Antarctica: Børge Ousland’s World Record Legacy
  5. Monday 22nd: Mike Horn’s Race Against Time
  6. Wednesday 24th: The Impossible Truth on Antarctica

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