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Athletes & Explorers

Jun 27, 2019

REWILD with Tony Riddle: Part 4 – Barefoot Run Across Great Britain

Tony Riddle has his sights set on an 874-mile barefoot ultra-run across Great Britain to inspire us all to reconnect to our natural human capabilities.

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

Tony Riddle is a rebel with a cause. Working as natural lifestyle coach based in London, Tony’s perspective is superimposed on the acute intention to live this very moment in gratitude, and his overarching commitment to run 874 miles across the UK in order to raise awareness for sustainable environmental practices.

Tony believes that inside all of us lives a tree climbing, wild swimming, bush-crafting beast, and he will be testing the beast within on his 874-mile barefoot run traversing the whole length of the island of Great Britain. During the entire month of September, Tony will run 30 miles per day from Land’s End, at the southern cliffs of England, to John o‘Groats, the northernmost village on the Scottish mainland. Tony will interview experts along the run to raise awareness for environmental sustainability. As an incredible example of human physicality, Tony hopes to influence his growing tribe on the benefits of barefoot running, ancestral movement, and the importance of re-aligning ourselves with nature for emotional, social, spiritual, and physical health.

Tony provides individualized coaching as well as group workshops and retreats to encourage people to abandon today’s sedentary sitting culture and regain the full arsenal of movement that our hunter-gatherer ancestors utilized to survive. Previously in our REWILD series, The Outdoor Journal discussed Tony’s search for practices to make us more in tune with our natural human physiology, how we internalize behavior from our “tribe of influence” and how we can all lead a more natural lifestyle that is aligned with our DNA.

In this installment, Tony to discusses his motivation for running barefoot across the island of Great Britain, daily practices for building the body into a “superstructure,” how he moved past childhood trauma and stepped into his power, and how we can all lead a more natural lifestyle.

Tony runs through nature to train for his 874-mile barefoot run across the isle of Great Britain.

BUILD YOUR SUPERSTRUCTURE

TOJ: When it comes to preparing for the barefoot running challenge, you would think that most people who are training for a month of ultra-marathons start out by steadily increasing their mileage. But you’re starting out with building your body into a “superstructure.” What does that mean?”

“I should be able to just get up every day and run for miles. We are sapiens. That’s what we did.”

Tony Riddle: I should be able to just get up every day and run for miles. We are sapiens. That’s what we did. If you look at the Tarahumara in Copper Canyon, Mexico, those guys are smashing out 430 miles in 48 hours. They’re doing 16 marathons back to back. So that’s in our DNA. They’re not like a bunch of aliens that landed here and just suddenly started running that kind of distance. We could all do it. But the fact is, some people even have trouble running for a bus today. I’m not berating them, I’m just saying we’ve been culturally conditioned, so that’s the social norm.

If I’m barefoot running now, I have to first get the foundations of my feet to understand their role. When I’m not running, I have to have a pair of shoes to preserve my feet, a bit like preserving kids feet, so my daily wear is Vivobarefoot, which I work with. I don’t run in their shoes, I live in their shoes. Hunter-gatherers don’t wear compromising footwear, take them off and go barefoot running. Running is just the byproduct of my lifestyle.

Is running a cardiovascular exercise or is it a strength and conditioning exercise? When you walk, the ground reaction force is only one times your weight. So when you’re standing or whatever rest position you’re in now, your movement brain recognizes one times your body weight. But when you start running, there are two times your body weight in ground reaction forces. When you sprint, there could be three times your body weight in ground reaction forces. But you’re doing that on one leg, alternating legs. So you have to balance this structure on one leg whilst dealing with two times your weight. I’m 75 kilos right now, so that’s 150 kilos of force on each leg and I’m doing that at 180 beats per minute. So is running a strength and conditioning exercise or a cardiovascular exercise? It’s a strength and conditioning exercise!

“I don’t run in their shoes, I live in their shoes.”

Strictly in terms of physiology, I’m going to go out and do more mileage. but how long am I going to be able to go before my physiology breaks down if I don’t focus on technique and if I don’t focus on the mind? If you focus on technique, your physiology gets stronger over time based on the technical model. Then you can do more mileage over time while the mind gets more and more satisfied with the discipline. I have to build the strength to be able to hold that physical framework for the length of time that I have to be out there.

“Running is just the byproduct of my lifestyle.”

I’m working to rewild my posture through ground living. I tend to sit less and rest on the ground more because that’s what most barefoot running cultures are doing. Living in “the human zoo,” my posture is compromised. So I have to follow the path of the wild beings, and for that, there has to be a strength and conditioning program in place to make my physiology strong enough to be able to hold that technical shape for the time and distance I want to cover on this challenge. Otherwise, I’ll be less efficient and I will increase the risk of an injury. That strength conditioning and the technique is about efficiency and minimizing injury because if you’re a hunter-gatherer, you can’t afford to get injured and you can’t afford to burn too much fuel.

FIND YOUR DIET

TOJ: What do you think is the optimal diet for building the human body into a superstructure?

Tony Riddle: We’re all unique, so I would want everyone to answer this differently. I tried Keto years ago and it was great until it didn’t work. The same thing for Paleo, it was great for a bit until it didn’t work. Then I went Vegan, and it worked for a bit. And then I went plant-based. I kept changing until I thought, “What is it that I need? How can I recover better?” I realized through experimenting with different systems the things that aren’t enabling me, like grain. So I removed grain and then I went heavy on the plant-based diet and then I started to supplement with wild meat and it was like, “Wow, this is amazing, I feel incredible on this.” I then tested my microbiome. The results showed me which foods to minimize and which foods to have every day.

Tony explored many types of diets before finding the one that worked best for his body.

If you keep eating the same stuff, which people do on diets like Keto and Vegan, they tend to favor certain food groups and you’ve altered the diversity of your gut because you’re only feeding certain nutrients to that microbiome. So to get to my own optimal performance, I have to figure out what needs to shift in my microbiome first, then I had to look at what was creating inflammation in my system. So I base things on my cells, my microbiome, and then my dosha. In Ayurvedic work, your dosha might be Vata, Pitta or Kapha. Once you know that, then you know there might be certain foods you’re putting in that won’t allow you to recover and perform at your best.

My dosha would be Pitta, which means heat, so the foods with more heat tend to make me more inflamed which affects my performance and recovery. Once I get a map of that, I’ve learned the best things to eat for me to perform – eating like a Tony. I don’t follow a specific dietary book off a bookshelf because we all need our own individualized book to figure out what we need to perform at the level we want to. The closest I can get to giving universal advice is to just introduce more plants into your diet.

If you are eating meat, what’s going to help you recover, eating domesticated antibiotic grain-fed animals or eating a grazed animal that’s been grass fed to grass slaughter? There’s a biologically normal way of doing that and there’s a biologically extreme way of doing that, which one would you think is going to enable you to perform better? If you’re going to eat fish, is it better to eat a wild fish or is it better to eat a farm fish that’s fed on antibiotics? The same goes for the plant kingdom. Is it good to eat monocrop that has been sprayed with pesticides or is it better to choose the full family groups of veggies? There are 80,000 plants out there that you can eat, so rather than just looking at processed foods, go towards natural foods, go towards organic foods because you’re an organic, natural being, and the more you identify with that, the more natural and organic the outcome will be and that then feeds into performance.

“Nature goes in, nature comes out!”

The more natural my environment and the more natural the things I put into my body, the more natural the result will be, the more natural the recovery will be, the more natural it will be to wake up the next morning and feel ready to do the same thing. Nature goes in, nature comes out! Whatever you’re doing, ask yourself, “Does that come from nature, or was it made in a laboratory? Has it been abused mentally and physically by the industrial farm?” If you’re going to eat meat, think about how you can support a different system, because that whole industrial farm system is broken. And if you’re plant-based, vegan or vegetarian, get away from monocropping because it’s destroying the planet and the plants are covered in all kinds of stuff that you’re going to be ingesting. By understanding our own unique system, you can learn to eat more intuitively for your own unique body. Go as clean as you can with high vibrational foods and eat no evil.

RUN A SPIRITUAL PATH

TOJ: Do you feel a spiritual connection to the route that you chose from Land’s End to Joan o’ Groats?

“With my barefoot running challenge, there is also a spiritual connection to the Earth.”

Tony Riddle: It’s funny you asked that. Yeah, I do. I would have liked to have done Ireland as well, to be honest with you. When I had my 23andMe testing done, it came back that my ancestry through my Y chromosome goes right back to Africa, but then they finally made their way into Scandinavia and then into Scotland, Ireland, and the UK. So my Y chromosome is Niall of the Nine Hostages, which is a group of kings that lived in Scotland and Ireland over however many centuries. Whenever I’ve traveled to Ireland I’ve always thought, “Oh my God, I feel so amazing, I don’t know what it is.” I’ve got a real connection to the UK and I’ve gone off and done various spiritual ceremonies in the local style. But there’s more than that spiritual connection. With my barefoot running challenge, there is also a spiritual connection to the Earth. There’s a spiritual aspect of running. It’s a form of meditation for me when I run like that and the more and more I can connect with the earth, the more and more I feel that it’s something beyond the physical experience.

Tony feeling triumphant after a cold water plunge in Ireland.

STEP INTO YOUR POWER

TOJ: When you were a child, your feet needed to be cast and fixed together in a bracing system that sounds more like a medieval torture device than medical therapy. Combined with that story about your past, this 874-mile running challenge reads like a superhero origin story, with a little bit of Forrest Gump in there as well. Do you feel that your traumatic childhood experience impacts you still today?

“That experience literally shaped my whole existence.”

Tony Riddle: It started off like this, I was in a spiritual ceremony and we were in the complete darkness. Suddenly this vision of a pair of boots came up in my mind. My boots from my childhood just suddenly appeared. In that moment, I felt it was a massive insult that my parents had kept these boots, and I couldn’t understand why on Earth they’d want to keep them. It started this journey of me thinking about discussing that memory. Since then I’ve done some thinking about how the initial traumas of life shape us all and the journeys we choose to go on.

Apparently, during the first three years of life, trauma goes right into the reptilian part of the brain. That’s where the trauma lies, and that can literally be governing what you do as an adult. So it’s no surprise that the practices I do to rewild my feet – and through my work as a barefoot coach, a movement coach, a lifestyle coach – you see it before your very eyes, that experience literally shaped my whole existence.

I could choose to remain negative about being born with crippled feet and being forced to wear boots with a bar connecting them, but where’s that going to get me?

In relation to that trauma, I was also really late to speak as a child. I didn’t speak until quite late and my mom never figured it out. She just took me to a specialist because she noticed my sister was talking for me. Later on, as an adult, I went to see this kundalini healer who works with crystals, which all sounds a bit crazy, but the first thing she said when I lied down was, “tell me about your throat.” She asked me to tell her the first thing that came up when I thought about my throat and it was this memory about not being able to speak as a child. Eventually, I fell asleep during the healing, and as I’m coming round, I heard this voice say, “It’s your time to speak. We’ve given everything we can possibly give you, you have to step into your power.”

What came up was this trauma. If they’re putting these plaster cast boots on you every week, with the metal bar twisting your feet out and you’re screaming but no one’s listening to you, how long are you going to keep screaming for? So I guess I stopped screaming and therefore I stopped speaking altogether and it took me a while to start speaking. Until I saw the kundalini healer, that was never clear. Since then, it’s allowed me to deal with even more trauma.

BREAK THE RULES

TOJ: What was your athletic background before you discovered barefoot running and setting this challenge for yourself?

“I used to run even as a kid until I got it in my head that running wasn’t cool, so then I spent a lot of time running away from police instead.”

Tony Riddle: I ran as a kid. I used to run a lot until I got it in my head that running wasn’t cool, so then I spent a lot of time running away from police instead (laughs). Then I joined the army and the army fulfilled the physical box for me and I excelled on things like assault courses, long runs, and boxing. When I left the army, I kind of played around for a bit, wasn’t really doing myself any justice. Then I took up personal training and pilates. From there I opened up a 1950’s style boxing gym but expanded it into a whole movement philosophy inside that practice.

It wasn’t the smartest business move in the world to start a boxing club that wasn’t specifically about boxing, then again, we were well ahead of the game in terms of movement practice coaching. We were years ahead with what we were doing. So what’s coming through now with barefoot running and the movement community, we were knocking around with years ago, but it was just wasn’t the trend.

TAPE YOUR MOUTH SHUT

TOJ: We’re only a couple of months out now, how is training going?

Tony Riddle: In my training, the breathing’s been interesting. I’m working on nasal breathing, so I first started taping my mouth up so I can only breathe through the nose and the moment you start to push too much you feel a desire to breathe in and gasp for air through the mouth, that’s how you know you’re going too hard. Then eventually your aerobic threshold grows and grows and grows.

An ice bath is Tony’s favorite way to recover after training.

I just went out and did 11 miles of nasal breathing on really hilly terrain and when I got home I thought, “I could go out and do that again right now!” It was just one of those runs that I could easily have just gone and done it again. I wasn’t hungry after that. I didn’t feel the need to eat or even drink something. I’ve become efficient in my breathing and running technique so my body doesn’t need to refuel as much as it would for after hours of inefficient movement. It’s incredible when you actually tune into it, what we would all be doing with these practices.

LOSE THE SHOE

TOJ: When you committed to this barefoot running challenge, which you talk about almost nonchalantly, did you choose a goal that was one step below impossible or do you feel confident that you’ll get through it?

“You can’t identify my foot with a ‘socially normal’ foot right now.”

Tony Riddle: I’ve always loved running so that’s not the bit that worries me. I just see it as normal, like I should be able to wake up and just go running. It’s just 30 miles a day. The bit that worries me is the organization and logistics. What I’m looking to do is interview sustainability and environmental experts along the route. The idea is that they will run a portion of each day with me. It might be 5k, or whatever they feel comfortable doing, and then we get the mics out and talk about their specialist field within sustainability and environmental issues.

Although as an infant, Tony’s twisted feet were forced into plaster casts, his rewilding practices have built them into highly adaptive feet in line with nature.

People observe running on tarmac as a problem. It’s really lovely running on tarmac. It’s the most smooth surface, perfectly engineered. And I’m so stealthy, you can’t hear my feet. You can hear a runner next to me in their rubberized, optimizing, “socially normal” running shoes and you can hear them “Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam” as they’re running down the road. You don’t hear that with me. I’m just picking my feet up. It’s really soft. The harder the surface, the softer I have to become on the surface. So even my feet have adapted. My feet have really soft jelly pads, and they’re a bit dirty, but they’re wide, capable feet. I imagine they’re probably just about where a natural foot would be. You can’t identify them with a “socially normal” foot right now. On my barefoot running challenge, my body will adapt to the discipline, it has to, that’s physical adaptation.

As long as someone’s waiting for me with an ice bath, I’ll be happy.

Visit our previous installments of the REWILD series featuring Tony Riddle’s socially extreme, yet biologically normal practices.

Part 1, Tony Riddle: Introducing REWILD
Part 2, REWILD with Tony Riddle: Children and Education
Part 3, REWILD with Tony Riddle: Transforming Your Body
Part 4, REWILD with Tony Riddle: Barefoot Running Across Great Britain

To connect with Tony, visit tonyriddle.com

Facebook: @naturallifestylist
Instagram: @thenaturallifestylist
Twitter: @feedthehuman
Youtube: Tony Riddle

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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.

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WRITTEN BY

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.

WORLD’S FIRST SOLO CROSSING OF ANTARCTICA

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.

A TRUE COAST TO COAST ROUTE

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.

WHAT CONSTITUTES “ASSISTANCE?”

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.

SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACT

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.

A LASTING LEGACY

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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