Where next for the world’s best explorers?
High Life sits down with some of the most intrepid explorers of our time to find out what 2021 has in store for them
Who? Levison Wood, epic walker
Where? Vancouver Island
I haven’t spent this long in one place my entire adult life so I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m looking forward to my next trip, especially having had so many cancelled in recent months. A place that’s been on my mind for a very long time is Vancouver Island. I just want to go and spend some time connected to nature – log cabins, lake swims and long hikes. It’s a bit of a mecca for digital nomads and modern hippies, with a thriving backpacker and arts community these days, and I can imagine myself whiling away a few weeks relaxing with like-minded friends after being locked down in London.
Who? Jill Heinerth, cave diver
I’m very excited to be planning a project in the Federated States of Micronesia. Home to some of the most stunning underwater vistas, this pristine part of the Pacific feels like a world lost in time. Inviting turquoise seas radiate with an intensity that draws you deeper to explore colourful reefs that are resplendent with life. Beneath the surface of these remote coral islands are unexplored caves that have grabbed my attention. I spend much of my life submerged in icy water in Canada, so a trip to the South Pacific will be a breath of fresh, warm air.
Who? Bear Grylls, survivalist and adventurer
After a year of shifting schedules, I’m finishing up the year by completing the Netflix series You vs Wild in the UAE and Italy and then heading home for Christmas. I am really proud that during one of the most challenging times in decades, we launched the very first Bear Grylls Explorers Camp in Ras Al Khaimah, the northernmost Emirate in the United Arab Emirates. It’s located on the highest peak in region and is a world first for us, with accommodation on-site in the form of recycled containers. In the new world, we must all innovate and be ever more environmentally aware if we are to stay ahead.
Who? Dwayne Fields, sub-zero hiker
As an explorer, the most exciting part of any expedition is sharing the stories, experiences and journey with anyone who’ll listen. Hence, the expedition I’m most looking forward to in 2021 sees me and my teammate Phoebe Smith taking 20 young people from underprivileged backgrounds from across Britain on a first-of-its-kind carbon negative expedition to Antarctica under our WeTwo Foundation’s banner. I’m a living example of how the power of adventure and the outdoors can have huge impact in regard to changing lives for the better and I’m excited to see how journeys like the one we have planned to the great white continent can impact the next generation, encouraging them to go out and not just see, but experience the world in a socially and environmentally friendly way.
Who? Mark Synnott, mountain climber
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a huge fan of Bill Tilman, the legendary explorer, mountaineer and sailor who spent the latter part of his life exploring the higher latitudes in his Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter named Mischief. In recent years, I have been following his model and looking for ways to combine my passions for climbing, sailing and exploring. My sailboat, a Stevens 47, is based in Maine, which is the perfect jumping-off point for a voyage to Newfoundland. I climbed and explored on the south coast of Newfoundland in 2011 with Alex Honnold but have never been to the north side of the island. A friend recently gave me a tip that it’s riddled with giant sea cliffs, so the plan is to use the boat as a floating base camp and pioneer some new routes. At the end of the season I’d like to leave the boat up there for the winter, and then pick up where I left off the next season and continue north into Labrador, the Torngats and beyond in 2022.
Who? Felicity Aston, solo skier
Where? The Arctic Ocean
The opportunity to ski across the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole only occurs once a year during the month of April. It’s a mind-bending landscape that is constantly moving under the pressure of wind and ocean currents. The urgency in me to return goes beyond Covid – in as little as five years’ time it might not be possible to ski to the North Pole at all due to the rapid environmental changes taking place in the Arctic. My planned ‘Before It’s Gone’ [BIGnorthpole.com] expedition to ski to the North Pole will be to collect vital information about the sea ice while it’s still there.
Who? Lee Spencer, rowing Marine
Where? The Amazon
In the August of this year, I hoped to be part of a team of eight wounded and injured servicemen who kayaked the length of the Amazon from Iquitos in Peru to Macapá and the Atlantic coast in Brazil. We wanted to celebrate the centenary of the Not Forgotten association and redefine what people with disabilities can achieve, but Covid has meant postponing the trip until August 2021. That disappointment has now turned to excitement as we start gearing up for what will be the adventure of a lifetime. We’ll be rowing up to ten hours a day in an effort to cover 70km. Our goals will be the same, but we hope to see first-hand how the indigenous communities have been affected by the pandemic.
Who? Pip Stewart, adventurer
During my pregnancy, so many people warned us we wouldn’t be able to enjoy adventure travel in the same way. They’re right in some respects but next year my partner Charlie and I are hoping to take our daughter Willow to Patagonia. We’re not planning on any high-altitude outings but will stick to manageable day hikes around Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park to see the towering granite peaks, glaciers, lakes and rivers. There are some gorgeous lakeside yurts we’re hoping to use as a base to explore from. We can’t wait to introduce Willow to the magic of the natural world – the best adventure we could give her.
Who? Nims Purja, record-breaking mountaineer
As soon as I am able, I’ll be flying to Nepal. I’ve not seen my family, like so many others, for months now and I can’t wait to be reunited with the mountains that also feel so much like home. The climbing community in Nepal has been badly affected by Covid and I’ll be doing everything I can to support my brothers on the ground. If I’m lucky I’ll still get in my annual 11 November remembrance climb of Ama Dablam and I’ll be launching my book there…watch this space.