Category: Adventure

Sweden: ‘The Forest of Skule’

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

– Terry Tempest Williams

For those who like to read, please continue

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For those who like extra reading, look at this

It’s certainly been a while since I’ve written something like this, so bare with me if I’m a little rusty.

In 2018 we had our usual trip to the beautiful Swedish wilderness, however for some reason it went totally unrecorded in my journal which was a huge shame as it was easily the best trip we had taken there. As you can read about here, we headed to the Swiss Alps for a new type of adventure in 2019, but for me it was just lacking something…namely the beauty and emotion of the Swedish wilderness.

Thanks to COVID we had a couple of years off from our big adventure but when our chance came around again we knew it had to be Sweden once more and we had to return to the last place we visited, the spectacularly beautiful Skuleskogen National Park – The Forest of Skule. Nestled in the middle of the High Coast World Heritage Site, Skuleskogen is an absolute gem to behold. Absolutely full of ancient history, caves, canyons and wildlife, it’s a site also known for it’s ‘post-glacial rebound’; rising about 8mm above the sea each year.

As per the norm, this blog is written using entries I completed in my journal each night on the trip, so you’ll get an insight into the internal workings of my mind and I’ll probably also be interrupting myself as we go along to comment on, explain, and expand on things – so let’s go!

Day 1: 28 March 2022

Time: 23:55

We have returned. We were here in May 2018 but it went unrecorded. I remember instantly falling in love with the place last time we were here and this time is no different. Skuleskogen is spectacular.

As seems to be the way with our trips, the experience started as soon as I got on the plane in the UK. I wasn’t sat with Olie, Jack or Dan but was instead joined by an incredibly nice chap from Ireland who used to live in Stockholm and was on his way back there as part of his weekly commute to the office (as you do). Anyway, from the moment he sat down next to me we were chatting and it continued until we landed and walked off the plane together. We spoke about our love for adventure, upcoming trips and past excursions – I’m due to do the Camino de Santiago this September and he was extremely excited about that as he did it a few years ago and loved it. By the end of the flight he had well and truly convinced me that I need to move to Sweden (not that I took much convincing whatsoever).

It’s a long drive from Stockholm to Skuleskogen, so we didn’t reach the car park (west entrance) until about 21:00. We drove through what we would almost call a blizzard to get here but I’m sure the Swedes would just call ‘a typical March day’. Last time we were here we were lucky enough to experience near 24 hour sunlight but we’re too early in the year for that right now, so it’s totally black outside and gets dark at about 20:15. It was -4C and getting colder still when we parked up, which made stripping off in the car park to get our hiking kit on a bit more interesting, but it was possibly the fastest time I’ve done it, so that’s something! It was a short walk, just a couple of kilometres, through the forest to where we were planning on staying the first night, which was just as well because we didn’t want to be stuck in the dark for too long when we were expecting temperatures of -10C to roll in.

I appreciate this isn’t particularly cold for some people, but we’re delicate British southerners so we get cold

As soon as we stepped into the forest from the car park we started experiencing a theme that I’m sure will continue until we walk back out on Thursday; we would be happily walking along a solid track in the snow and then suddenly, with no warning, end up falling down to our knees in it before hauling ourselves back up to do it all over again just a few meters further along the way. Maybe snowshoes would have been a good idea? Nevertheless, walking through a silent snowy forest, lit only by headtorches, was pretty great. Anyway, the final destination was a designated camping stop in the park (Lillruten) which we knew also had a cabin free to use for anybody who decided to rock up. We followed the path through the trees for about an hour, seriously slowed down by snow, ice and falling over before eventually coming out into a clearing where the cabin sat. You’d think it would be a moment of joy and relief after a 15 hour day of journeying, but the first words out of my mouth (and similarly Olie’s) after seeing this cabin in the middle of the woods was ‘F**K THAT’. It was absolutely one of those places where people end up being chased by murderers and crazy people. We approached the door which, thankfully, was locked with the key on the outside, so we knew not only were the chances of being murdered slightly lessened, but it also meant we had somewhere warm to stay for our first night.

We had packed our hammocks and tents etc. for this trip, but with a late arrival in the bitter cold we preferred the shelter of a cabin for the first night

We got the log stove burning which warmed the place up very quickly, ate some food and dried off our kit, and now (00:30) I’m sat at the table writing this by candlelight with a nice cup of tea whilst the others are in bed. It’s one of those ‘Peace’ teas by Pukka, but I can tell you that I just knocked it over and this book, the map and various other things are covered in tea and my reaction was the furthest from ‘peaceful’ as you could get – as Jack can probably back me up on as I woke him up with my ‘peaceful’ swearing.

Not much more to report on today really. I can’t wait to see what it all looks like in the daylight tomorrow. I think we’re also headed across the park, over the mountain and down to the coast in the morning. But right now I’m going to bed.


P.S: I really need to pee but what if there are crazy people out there…? What if I’m the crazy person…? I could certainly do with a haircut… I need sleep.

Day 2: 29 March 2022

Time: 22:45

I slept pretty well last night. I was the third to wake up, after Dan and Olie, probably because I didn’t go to bed until about 01:00am though. Dan was already chopping wood to get the fire going for breakfast and it was still -10C outside.

Everything was going so well…the fire warmed the place up really quickly, we had breakfast and were getting ready for the day ahead when I went to wash up my pan. Next to the cabin was a small stream, so I opted to use that to wash my stuff. As I walked along the bank above the stream, before I even got close to the water, the snow gave way and sent me falling through the ice. I caught myself just as I reached my shoulders in the freezing water. I climbed out and ran back to the cabin and burst through the door repeating something not quite along the lines of ‘oh bother, oh bother, oh bother‘ before stripping everything off and hanging it all by the fire to dry. I won’t lie, it was pretty scary but luck was on my side in one way, at least we had the cabin and the fire. If we were camping last night it almost certainly would have been a different story entirely.

Needless to say, this incident wasn’t mentioned to anybody back home until we actually got home – and until I’ve now made it public to the world.

Other than feeling utterly stupid, I also felt immensely guilty. Because of this accident I had delayed us getting started for the day for about an hour and a half whilst my stuff dried. Dan managed to fish out my pan using a very long stick but Jack’s cup, which I had also taken with me to wash up, was lost forever to the depths. Kudos to the log stove though, I managed to put everything I was wearing back on and it was totally dry and comfortable, other than the boots which were still soaked but I stuck with the old bread bag method of keeping my feet dry for the day until the next fire.

We eventually set off just before midday, so I had wasted a considerable amount of time and I knew that the going would be tough as there was at least three feet of snow in places and steep climbs to complete today. As soon as we stepped out of the cabin though, we were greeted by a sight I can only describe as a genuine winter wonderland.

The initial stretch from the cabin was through the forest and – I’ll use this word to describe the place a lot – it was utterly beautiful. The shadows from the sunlight coming through the boughs of the pine trees were amazing and it immediately became clear that we could well be the only people in the area when the path ahead was made of pure pristine snow. We were the ones making the footprints and cutting the way through the snow. One thing that also amazes me is how warm it feels here. It was barely above freezing when we left but it was so comfortable. In these temperatures at home I would be in a hat and gloves and layers and layers of warm clothes. Instead, I’ve been wearing what I would normally wear for a summer walk at home!

We reached a camping spot at Skrattabborrfjarnen where in 2018 we had taken a quick sunbathing break to recover from walking in what felt like a heatwave. When we were there before we had noticed that the cabin there had actually burned down and the only trace of it was a small pile of ash on the concrete foundation – since then however, they’ve built a spectacular cabin. We’re considering staying there on our last night before heading to the car, but I’m not sure we’ll have the time to walk the extra distance as we’ll be up against it with a fairly early flight. I’m sure we’ll end up back at Lillruten instead, but that’s more than fine.


No sunbathing this time though – we stopped to be nosey and check out the fancy new cabin but had to push on. The huge lake that sits below Skrattabborrfjarnen was frozen over and blanketed in a perfect layer of untouched snow. I had taken a picture of Olie stood on the jetty there last time, but can only assume the jetty is hidden somewhere beneath the snow now!

Then (May 2018)
Now (March 2022)

From there it was uphill for some considerable time. I’ve seen it described as a mountain, it’s even called Slåttdalsbergets (Slåttdals-mountain), but compared to others, it isn’t really that big, sitting at just below 300 metres. Saying that though, when you are walking up it in deep, deep snow it sure feels like Everest at points. The snow is unlike snow at home too. I feel a bit embarrassed to say we even get snow at home now. It really is a superlight soft powder and makes me realise why people use snowshoes to traverse it. You can’t even make snowballs with the stuff…anyway, I think it’s amazing.

Again, I appreciate this is nothing new to some people, but we’re British southerners and we don’t get stuff like that!

Luckily the tracks around the park are marked with blue painted spots on the trees as we still haven’t come across any other footprints.

The view from the top of hill was incredible. From the centre park you’re able to see right out over the Gulf of Bothnia and the smaller uninhabited islands to the east and straight into the wilderness in almost every other direction.

After taking a breather at the top of Slåttdalsbergets it was time to make our way down the other side and into the forest below. Absolutely easier said than done. The summit was incredibly exposed so anything that wasn’t lovely soft powdery snow was either a sheet of ice, a block of ice, invisible ice, ice hidden by snow, slightly slushy ice or a bloody massive rock. Treacherous is a good word to describe the next half an hour of descent. I found it easier to walk backwards down the track, kicking my boots as deep as I could into the snow and ice to get some grip. When that failed I opted for sliding from tree to tree to catch my fall until the inevitable happened and I ended up flat on my rucksack like a stranded turtle, waiting for Dan to haul me to my feet.

Our route was supposed to take us north through the incredibly impressive Slåttdalsskreva (Slåttdals-Crevice, but technically a Canyon), something we had walked through on our last visit – a narrow 200m track right through the middle of the towering canyon about 30-40 meters high and only 7 metres wide. After a steep climb up some rocks to reach the canyon which was now below us, it had a thick layer of snow and huge frozen run offs down the walls leading to some unknown potential risks below the feet of snow in the canyon.

Olie stood in the Canyon before turning back

After a quick discussion, for safety’s sake, it was decided that we would not proceed through the canyon but turn back and take a separate route to the coast.

Knowing that the canyon still has snow in it in late May (when we were previously there) we’re sure it would have been safe and frozen solid, however we didn’t fancy taking the extra risk.

The diversion added an extra couple of kilometres to the planned route, but it was a steady downhill trek almost directly to the coast. It was a route we had completed before so we were familiar with it and were able to do it with some speed and ease. Along the way we started to spot so many paw prints in the snow, from tiny birds, rabbits and hares up to foxes and big cat prints which we’re sure must be lynx in this area. We had decided that our end point would be a cabin half way up the coastline of the park which had an outdoor firepit and the most spectacular view over the sea. The track from the canyon very quickly and suddenly spits you out of the forest and onto the beach, with some places where the forest almost skips the beach entirely and drops you straight into the sea. I’ve seen some spectacular sights so far in my 30 years on earth, but in all honesty, this one particular spot in this tiny national park in the depths of the Swedish wilderness must be one of my most favourite places on the planet. Maybe there’s some ancestral tie to the place deep in my history, but it touches me in a way that’s almost emotional and homely. It’s everything that I absolutely love about the great outdoors all in one place; it has the deep dark pine forests, the ‘mountains’, the sea, the snow and the peace and quiet – if you threw some magic in there too, I’m sure you wouldn’t be too far wrong either. Last time we were here I threw my hammock up in the trees on the beach and it was an experience I constantly think about – so obviously I’m happy to make this place home for the night once again.

We opted for using the cabin again instead of camping, but that’s fine. It would be nice to test out my hammock in these temperatures, especially now that I have insulation for it, but I’m also quite fond of a nice cabin with a fire and a not too uncomfortable bed to sleep on.

We’ve had dinner now and I’m writing this by candlelight once again before heading to bed. The others are already asleep. Somehow I’ve got to climb into the top bunk without standing on Dan below. The fire is roaring but it did take a long time to warm the place up compared to last night and it’s still chilly. We’ve got a much bigger walk to do tomorrow to take us back to Lillruten, but it’s a nice one as far as I can remember from last time. I’m hoping to see some signs of a beaver maybe, I know they’re in that area for sure.

There’s probably a whole bunch of stuff that I’ve not mentioned about today, but I’m sure I’ll remember them forever.


P.S. This place makes me feel so happy. It’s like coming home!

Day 3: 30 March 2022

Time: 23:00

As days on the trail go, that was a good one. We didn’t fancy going back up and over the mountain so we took a longer route which took us around it and up to the new cabin at Skrattabborrfjarnen.

Due to the time it took to get the fire going and hot enough to cook on last night, we opted to skip a hot breakfast and just have a quick cold ‘snacky’ one. I’ve got some packs of dried mango and bits which are delicious. We were on the move by about 10:00am this morning, so still a fairly late start but we knew we were good for sunlight until 20:00 and the track is far more friendly the majority of the way. Almost immediately from the cabin we were following those paw prints again and some fresh ones have appeared overnight too.

We passed the south entrance to the park where we had come in and parked in 2018. We would have chosen to come in this way this year but it’s closed due to a broken bridge apparently. From there we started to walk along the length of a river coming from the mountain above us. This was where I was hoping to spot some beaver tracks as we had found some traces of them here last time but there was nothing. I know they are crepuscular, but I was hoping to spot some footprints at least. The winding track through the forest alongside the river, which was slowly getting further below us as we wound around the edge of the mountain, was very C.S. Lewis but we haven’t seen much wildlife here this time, so I guess a lion isn’t going to appear in the snowy forest anytime soon.

On various rest stops we took to eating the snow off the boughs of young pine trees which was actually quite refreshing and gave me the idea to make some pine needle tea when we eventually got to camp.

Halfway along our trail the clouds came over and were threatening to snow on us. There were a few small flurries coming down but the temperature dropped and it was clear something more than a flurry was on it’s way. We reached the new cabin back at Skrattabborrfjarnen in good time so we decided to make that a bit of a rest stop. When we got there we noticed that somebody else had been there since we left and they had come and gone by snowmobile, leaving huge tracks behind. There was no sign of them around anymore though. We sat in the cabin and had a quick snack; some more mango and some pistachios (the oyster of the nut family) as snow began to fall heavily. We had 2km left to go to get to Lillruten and it was only about 13:00, so we were well ahead of schedule. We waited for the snow to stop and continued on our way. After stopping my body temperature dropped and I had to run ahead to get warmed up. In my haste I started following the snowmobile tracks instead of the footpath and had to be called back by the others to re-join the path. We were back on the path we had taken yesterday, so we were retracing our own footprints in the snow all the way back to the first cabin. With the presence of others on snowmobiles and the tracks heading off in the direction of Lillruten, we were slightly concerned that they may have gotten there before us and ‘bagsied’ it. When we turned up the snowmobile tracks were certainly there but they had since left, leaving the cabin all to ourselves again. We got there at about 15:00 with hours of daylight left. I got the fire going in the cabin and Olie got the firepit going outside beside one of the shelters that was there. Even though we’ve been walking a lot over the last few days, it feels like we’ve been indoors too much and I was starting to feel like we had wasted the opportunity to be outside as much as possible. With the fire in the cabin alight, I joined Olie outside next to the much bigger firepit. I collected some pine needles, a whole load of fresh snow and put the kettle on the grill over the firepit to make the pine needle tea that had been on my mind all day. It couldn’t have been fresher!

We sat and enjoyed our tea in the little lean-to shelter as a mini blizzard blew through. It felt like one of those moments that suddenly clicks or turns something on inside you. There was nothing that I would have wanted to be doing at that point but sitting there with Olie, enjoying a nice cup of fresh pine needle tea in the snow, thinking about the last couple of days of walking in this truly magical and beautiful place.

If you listen to the conversation I had with Sean ‘Shug’ Emery, in the ‘podcast’, amongst other things, we talk about what that specific feeling is inside us when things like this happen and why we enjoy it so much and why we do what we do. I believe it must have something to do with our ancestry…who knows, maybe a few thousand years ago my ancestor was sat in that spot, enjoying a nice cup of pine needle tea by the fire with his friends in the snow.

Eventually it came time to call it a night and head into the cabin for some dinner before bed. We’ve got an early start tomorrow morning to get back to the airport. I think the alarms are set for about 04:15am. As soon as we opened the cabin door we were hit by the immense heat coming from our tiny little log stove, ready to boil up some water to make our dinner. I took my boots off and placed them next to the fire and sat there, feet up looking out at the snow as the night drew in and it got darker.

By the time it came to get into bed, it was like a sauna in the cabin. We had to open the door and windows to get a bit of fresh, cool air in before we all roasted in our beds. It’s late now and the alarms are going off in just a few hours and I’m the driver, so it’s probably right that I should get some sleep before making the long journey back to the airport.

It’s been a good few days.


That’s where the journal and pretty much the journey ended for this trip. The next morning was early and cold, up at 04:15am, at the car for 06:00am and at the airport at 12:00pm. The friend I made on the plane journey was on the return flight but we didn’t sit together this time. Maybe he requested specifically to not sit with me this time. And, as usual, Ryanair can still do with lessons on how to softly land a plane.

It may or may not surprise you to learn that I don’t see myself as a particularly spiritual person, however I believe that there is something that comes over each person in certain situations and places. I don’t believe in magic but it’s the only word that comes to mind. I wish I could put into words the emotions that I feel when I’m in the spectacular beauty of this wild part of the world. It’s not something I’ve felt in many other places or situations but it’s something that my soul craves. It’s the ability to escape all the absolute garbage of society and social expectations – what you should and shouldn’t be doing; where you should and shouldn’t be going in life. When I step out into the wild, even just for a couple of days, that weight is lifted and replaced by peace and happiness.

That is why I will always be grateful for – and continue to return to – this magnificent piece of planet Earth.

For those who like to watch things, here’s a very little montage of our trip

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For those who like extra reading, I thought I’d share this with you

I’ve recently been reading the book ‘The Forest of Hours’ by Kerstin Ekman – very much a kind of dark adventure/fantasy story – based in and around the Forest of Skule. It’s no coincidence that I just happened to be reading it, I actually came across it when I was doing a bit of research into Skuleskogens National Park, as there is actually very little written about it generally. Obviously I wasn’t going to be using this book to base our trip on, but as you can probably tell now, it’s a place I’m very passionate about and I thought, ‘why not give it a read?’ Anyway, it’s a great book but I’m not telling you all of this to try and make you read it – I just wanted to share the following extract which I think perfectly describes this truly beautiful and slightly magical part of the world:

No woodland is as wild as the forest of Skule. It lies between the coast and the high hills, starting in the arid, alien landscape below the treeline. Nowhere else is the Baltic Sea so deep, nor do the islands have such precipitous peaks. The sea is a cold autumnal blue and the red granite glows unquenchably beneath the attacks of the waves against the rocky precipices. the forest grows on a hillside and on the steep sides of the dark river ravines. The slopes are covered with moorland and the streams leap from waterfall to waterfall. there are fields of scree and stones everywhere, deep clefts and heavy, sharp-edged rocks. Only the still, clear-water lochs are smooth-surfaced, but their depths chill the eye.

Strands of time run through the forest. The fields of scree are solidified waves of stone, long swells of unmoving time. Tall trees, once whispering in the wind, have sunk into the peat bogs, where time ferments in the marshy pools. Here and there, flowering woodland penetrates the darkness of the firs and the sea of stones, forming wedges of broad-leaved trees, fragrant night-flowering plants and humming frail-winged insects. There, the noble tree sings. The leaves of linden and hazel dance in gentler wind and their roots send tendrils into a richer soil than the meagre ground under the firs.

It is forgotten woodland, flowering in borrowed time.

Kirsten Ekman – The Forest of Hours

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Benedict Allen

Author, environmentalist, film-maker, international motivational speaker.

Arguably no one alive has lived so long isolated and alone in so many potentially hostile remote environments. Benedict Allen is the only person known to have crossed the Amazon Basin at its widest and his catalogue of adventures also include the first documented journey of the length of the Namib Desert and being the only person known to have crossed the full width of the Gobi with camels alone.

I think it’s important for us to realise that ‘explorers’ aren’t in a different category… we are all explorers, it’s part of the human condition

Benedict Allen

It’s not everyday you get an email from one of your childhood heroes confirming he’d love to have a chat with you.

I remember watching Benedict Allen’s documentary Skeleton Coast about his trek down the Namib Desert, where the sand meets the Atlantic Ocean, and being blown away by this world perfectly balanced between beauty and death – to 7 year old me growing up in Buckinghamshire, England, it was unbelievable not only that such a place could exist, but it could also be explored! Moreover, Benedict’s documentary Ice Dogs was the tipping point for me. I’ve always been enthralled by the Arctic and Antarctic, so being taken into these areas by Benedict with his pack of sled dogs was every little boy’s dream (those like me at least). As far as I can remember, as soon as I could read I was reading books about the classic explorers like Shackleton and Scott and seeing their old black and white photographs documenting their journey to the Antarctic – then suddenly, from my own living room, being transported into the Arctic by Benedict Allen and his handheld camera was enough for me to want to become an explorer myself. It was not until I was much older that I truly understood the seriousness and wild hostility of these places and the bravery required to survive them and take those first steps onto the snow, ice, sand or jungle floor.

So you can expect when I received an email from Benedict Allen saying he’d love to have a chat with me about my mission to get people outdoors more, I was equally absolutely terrified and excited beyond belief – my girlfriend rightly described me as being like Paddington Bear on the trail of the great explorer he’d heard of as a child. So, we got it booked in and I remained equal parts excited and terrified up until the moment Benedict’s smiling face appeared on my computer screen ready for our chat.

I didn’t necessarily want a chat about Benedict’s amazing expeditions – no doubt he’s told those stories a million times – I was more interested in his own idols and heroes, his thoughts about exploring and why he believed it was so important that, even in a time of social media, we still need to get out to see the world and allow it to take its effect on us.

You can watch the video here or you can carry on reading below for more information and insights:


As it happens, Benedict was also inspired by those same major explorers who, in the past, I had been in awe of such as Shackleton and Scott but also by Sir Walter Raleigh and the ‘fascinating’ idea of El Dorado. However, his main idol and inspiration was his own father:

‘He was a test pilot…and when I was very little he was testing the Vulcan bomber, this very charismatic aircraft – it would come over our back garden and it was my dad flying it…’

The idea that his father was being a pioneer but also appeared to be a ‘vague’ and poetic character much like himself opened Benedict’s eyes to the possibility of being such a pioneer himself, and allowed him to realise that it was possible to achieve amazing things. Benedict wasn’t necessarily interested in the great outdoors yet though. He later moved to Buckinghamshire, where the Chiltern Hills were literally on his doorstep and where he developed both his interest and confidence in exploring during afternoon family walks in the hills, before realising his dream of exploration in his early twenties.

To Benedict the ‘golden era’ of explorers was coming to an end with the death of Shackleton and there were just a few names left at the time, such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir Chris Bonington, who he looked up to and wanted to be ‘some sort of explorer like them’:

‘Someone in that classic sense of exploration…a person who can head off and disappear into a landscape they’re not familiar with…’

Benedict headed off on his first trip to South America to the area of El Dorado and ‘managed to get away with it’, despite contracting two types of malaria and having to eat his dog to avoid dying of starvation.

‘I just thought the world was my oyster…and it was in a way’

Benedict Allen is only one of two living adventurers included in the Telegraph’s gallery of Great British Explorers, the other being Sir Ranulph Fiennes – so I couldn’t help but ask how he felt about now being on the same list as one of the ‘golden age’ explorers he had looked up to:

‘He’s at the other end of the spectrum…he’s a man of a military background and really the ultimate expeditioner‘ 

Benedict does not have the plan of ‘striding across the landscape’ such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes, but rather immersing himself and disappearing into it. Sir Ranulph Fiennes does remain a model of inspiration for Benedict, still able to conquer these great expeditions at his increasing age. At 76, Fiennes has now almost completed his ‘Global Reach’ challenge to cross both Polar icecaps and climb the highest mountain on every continent – he has just three mountains left. So Benedict feels there is ‘hope for me yet’ at the tender age of 60.


As I touched on earlier, Benedict has been through some pretty tough experiences during some of his expeditions – he’s been shot at by Pablo Escobar’s hitmen in the Amazon rainforest, he’s been stranded in the Arctic, and on the edge of death various times – experiences that anybody else may consider as the final straw and subsequently consider a relatively normal life as an accountant instead. So I was interested to know what it was that kept him coming back and thinking ‘You know what, that was great! Next time I’ll do that in the middle of the desert!’ What motivates such a person to carry on?

The answer, as it happens, is fairly straight forward:

‘A lot of these expeditions are not fun…it’s not the sense of doing it but having done it… I’m not a mountaineer, but I imagine that moment – not when you reach the summit, but when you get down again from the summit… ‘

However, that’s not to say that his motivator is a sense of ‘conquering‘ nature – in fact, he finds the idea of ‘conquering nature’ to be distasteful. – Is that really the only reason you did it? So you can brag about it later? What keeps somebody like Benedict going back into hostile environments is the personal sense of achievement and self discovery after being ‘stripped down and knowing yourself.’

‘Even if you fail, you learn’


Is there anything in particular that you look back on an think ‘That was the best thing I’ve ever done?’

‘What going outdoors does is give you a whole range of experiences’ – whereas living your “normal” day to day life can be seen as a straight line, getting outside and taking a trip gives you a whole variety of of ups and downs, and it’s that variety that is so invigorating.

In answer to my question, Benedict recalled a trip that was ‘appalling at the time… but wonderful afterwards’: crossing the Bering Strait, the pack ice connecting Russia to Alaska, with a team of sled dogs (featured in Ice Dogs). To make matters worse, it was the coldest winter in living memory, with temperatures down to approximately -45 Celsius and very quickly his hands were already being attacked by frostbite. The dogs were able to sense his struggle and almost totally lost faith in him, no longer listening to his commands – waiting for their original owner to return. After some time and hard work their faith and trust in Benedict started to return.

‘And suddenly, this expedition which had been so horrible…these dogs began to listen to me and it was the most wonderful thing in the world…and that is the moment…the expedition continued to be painful but it didn’t matter because emotionally I felt I was getting there, making progress in this unhospitable world’

Role models for the next generation and the impact of social media

When I was growing up, there was no social media or Internet showing everybody getting outside and advocating the wonders of the wild world – our knowledge of the world came predominantly from BBC documentaries made by people like Benedict Allen and Bruce Parry, maybe even Michael Palin, immersing themselves in the unknown, almost magical, lands around the world. Now, with the Internet and social media making the footage and images I saw in weekly documentaries as a child immediately accessible in everybody’s pockets, I was interested to know if there was anybody in the public eye, such as Steve Backshall and Levison Wood, who stood out as a great role model to encourage the younger generation to get outside in a world that is so in danger and at a critical level of destruction:

‘All of them do it in different ways and in their own ways…and I think that’s important too’

And upon reflecting about how we all explore in different ways, Benedict highlights how his style was different too. The current explorers on television, such as Steve Backshall, all use a camera crew (big and small) which limits their ability to complete seriously difficult expeditions. Whereas Benedict was his own film crew, exploring the world with just his handheld camera. ‘These days it isn’t possible to do it in the same way’.

There was one part in particular in the answer that Benedict gave that stood out for me however:

‘I think it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the idea that all humans are explorers ‘

Benedict also touched on the fact that it’s very easy to look at these people and think that they’re special because they do what they do and assume we ordinary folk can’t be like them. This is, of course, a significant problem when you consider that there has been a tendency for middle-aged white males from privileged backgrounds to represent the world of exploring, something that Benedict recognises about himself. But this is something that is changing in time and not so prevalent as it was twenty, thirty or forty years or more ago. For Benedict, it’s still important that we have people going out and documenting the world as it is and showing us the truth instead of letting us get lost in the ‘bubble’ of social media. That is where people like Steve Backshall, among others, come in.

There are also people going out into the world for the wrong reasons, such as to gain ‘kudos’ by doing certain things, and that is not the point of exploration, for Benedict. For him, it’s all about the experience and allowing yourself to be immersed and overcome by the world the around you.

‘For me, I’m just as impressed by the little old lady who walks up a hill – but it’s been a struggle – as I am somebody who climbs Everest with oxygen. Yes one is harder than the other for a human, but relative to their own experience, perhaps that walk up a hill for a little old lady who is frail is a greater achievement’

I was also interested in his general views of the impact social media has on the world of exploration, and whether or not the ability to bring up anywhere in the world on our phones when we’re sat on our sofas (or toilets) reduces the desire to explore in person.

‘There has been a real veracity of truth – and science, I think, has somewhat been eroded by so called “fake news”… but it will settle down because people will want to trust in certain things’

For Benedict though, there are certainly benefits to social media acting in favour of exploration. He sees people posting on Twitter and Instagram about beetles they’ve found in the garden and looking for the names of certain beasts and plants. The information available is endless and often immediate.

He told me that his daughter ran into the room earlier that day to ask if he knew that there was a toad that weighed 3 kilos, information she had discovered on TikTok. Of course there are those who use social media for their own personal and financial gain and those who do observe the world entirely through social media but;

‘I don’t think it will stop my daughter looking for a 3 kilo toad’

Getting people outside

Of course, the whole mission and ethos behind Into The Sticks is to try to encourage more and more people to get outside and engage with the wild world around them, but to start doing that we need to identify what the barriers are for various groups of people. What is stopping people? I was interested to hear Benedict’s theory;

‘What is stopping people? I think it’s [not] believing that they are one of the adventurers’

Part of this is connected to what he was saying earlier regarding those people on television. It’s easy for everybody to sit there and think ‘These people are amazing and special’ because they are intentionally made to look amazing and special. Again, the lack of diversity of who we are looking at on television is a problem, and might lead some to believe that unless you look like the explorers on TV, you can’t do what they do – which couldn’t be more wrong.

Benedict is incredibly in favour of ‘micro-adventures,’ the idea that you can just have an adventure in a day. Just taking your bicycle out, or going for a walk;

‘I think that’s great…it’s making people think “I don’t have to sacrifice my job, or be worried about getting malaria.” – You don’t have to have adventures in the way that people did when I was younger.’

So, in your opinion, why is it so important that people get outside and engage with the world around them?

Benedict highlights a number of reasons why it’s so important to get outside, mostly relating to our physical and mental wellbeing. But he also spoke about the fact that it’s great for your soul and important that you get outside and realise that you are part of something far bigger than yourself, helping to put your problems and life into perspective with the world around you and understand where we sit in the ‘grand scheme of things’.

‘There is so much pressure on us in traditional society and I think it helps so much to step away from your work, away from your problems, to just feel part of things’

I added that we do have a tendency to separate ourselves from the natural world when in fact we are all part of it – we are just another animal living amongst the natural world, not separate from it at all. In fact, Benedict further added that some of the indigenous people he has stayed with in the past do not even have a word for ‘nature’ because it is simply not a separate entity from themselves and they understand that they are just another element of their environment.

Further experiences

The way I’ve heard Benedict speak about the indigenous people he has stayed with in these spectacular parts of the planet, I’ve often wondered if, when it comes time to leave them, he ever considers fully immersing himself into their culture and staying.

I have brief worries that I might feel like that…but I’ve been very aware that I do not belong, I think it’s an illusion to think you do…I know I’m the one most likely to get malaria and I know I would be the one to go mad…

It’s understandable that, no matter how much you may like and admire the way these other cultures live and view the world, the shock would be far too much for somebody in the modern western world to fully immerse themselves – as Benedict says, he would be the one to go mad if he was forced to have two, three, or four wives and lots of children. He worries that he would become trapped, either by the delusion that he could make a life for himself in the jungle (which brings on images of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now) or that he would be framed for something in order for people to keep him within the community – which has supposedly happened previously.

‘My job is to go, find information and come back. And it’s always been very clear cut to me that that’s what I need to do…I don’t like to be distracted from my “mission” and it helps mentally to know exactly what I’m doing…’

When you first said; “I’m going to go to the Amazon, canoe down the river and have a walk in the rainforest” did anybody ever turn around and say “That’s probably not a very good idea”?

Benedict’s parents had very conflicting views about his ambitions to explore and cross the Orinoco Basin when he first expressed his desires to travel. His mother was ‘terrified’ because he was so ill-matched. Not coming from a military background and having little to no exploration experience, it’s understandable to see why she would be so scared of the idea. His father, however, was entirely encouraging, most likely because of his life as a test pilot whose job it was to put himself at risk everyday – especially piloting a huge aircraft like the Vulcan which carried our nuclear weapons.

‘I had very little expert advice, but those people who did give me expert advice just thought I wouldn’t get very far…I’d come back home having had a gap year type of adventure…I really was very fortunate to get away with it’

With the power of retrospect, being now 40 years after his first disastrous trip to the Amazon where he was less than 24 hours from death caused by starvation – having to kill and eat his dog to survive – and now being a father of three young children himself, how would he feel if his children came to him and said, ‘I want to do what you did?’ Would he support them or try to stop them?

Benedict like to think he would support them if they wanted to do the same thing, however, times have changed and so has the condition of the planet we live on:

‘I think if you’re doing an expedition you have a duty to acknowledge that…It’s not enough to just have an adventure if you’re devoting six months to it…There’s more to the world than just using it as a playground’

Benedict, with that in mind, would of course encourage his children to explore the world but would ensure that they did it for a particular reason and to bring something back other than “finding themselves” and growing as an individual. There is a lot that he would want them and everybody in general to be aware of.

We see heroes and heroines out there doing great things, and they are inspiring, but wouldn’t it be better to have role models for the young who are doing something more than just a physical feat?

The younger generation are often isolated from the world which is in trouble around them.

It was really great to have this conversation with Benedict Allen and to see that our views of exploring and the world in general are very much aligned.

There is much to be learned from people like Benedict and one of the many lessons I’ve taken from our conversation is this:

We are all explorers, we should all get outside and explore the world but for the right reasons. Leave the world in a better shape than you found it, be aware of the trouble the planet is in and use your explorations of the world to learn how you can help preserve it for the next generation.

A huge thank you once again to Benedict Allen and the team at Jo Sarsby Management, it was certainly a highlight in this wannabe explorer’s life.

On the Heart of Wales Line Trail

You can visit and follow Dave Outdoors here:

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Hello, my name is Dave.

I am a keen hiker, wild camper and general outdoors enthusiast.

I started my venture into the outdoors world in 2016. The idea behind me venturing into the outdoors came from a good friend of mine. His dad passed away suddenly and was a serving scout leader in the local community. In his memory, and to raise money for the scouts, we hiked up Scafell Pike in the Lake District and wild camped by Sprinkling Tarn. The landscape, views, vistas and natural beauty left me gobsmacked. From this point on, I ventured into the wildness, learnt to map read and found some amazing trails situated very close to my hometown.

It wasn’t until January 2019 that I started a YouTube channel. Something to document the amazing places I’ve visited and share with likeminded people like you. This journey I’m on, along with several others has inspired many people to venture outdoors, improving their mental wellbeing and overall making that first initial step out the front door.

If you would like to join an ever-growing community, then come join me on YouTube, under the name Dave Outdoors and share the adventures with me. Below are a couple of video from July 2020, tackling another section of the Heart of Wales line trail – epic countryside views in 28-degree heat. It also shows the importance of going equipped with the correct gear.

Part One

Part Two

As you can see, this trip was not solo, fellow YouTuber and good friend ‘A Shropshire Lad’ who I reached out to on YouTube a few years ago joined me. He’s my partner in crime and we face these adventures together. The laughter is definitely never too far away.

Hope to see you all over at Dave Outdoors.
Take care and stay safe

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If you loved that and want some more Dave in your life, make sure you follow him using the links at the top of the page!

Brecon Beacons: ‘Going it alone’

Trip dates: 11th – 13th September 2020

Location: Brecon Beacons, Wales

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” – Amelia Earhart

Earlier this year I took a little solo trip to the Brecon Beacons in Wales for a long weekend of walking about and climbing some big hills. I didn’t intend to write anything about it, but have been thinking about the experience ever since and thought it would actually be good to do something about it, especially for those individuals who may want to take solo trips themselves but can’t quite pluck up the courage to do so. So here we go… this shouldn’t take long.

Our return to Sweden, for our usual annual wild camping trip, was cancelled thanks to COVID, and due to trying to stick to lockdown measures and social distancing rules etc. etc. we couldn’t all meet up for a bit of adventuring together. So, after the first lockdown I thought it was a pretty good opportunity to get out and do some solo exploring and the Beacons were beckoning.

For months before I had a circular route planned out which would incorporate Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big – starting and finishing at Garwnant on the beautiful Llyn-onn Reservoir. It was a route of about 33km (20 miles). I would have a big trek, tick off those peaks, camp nearby and then return to the car the next day then drive to the Black Mountains for a little bit more exploring.  Things didn’t exactly go to plan and that’s why I thought it would be good to share this little trip with you.

It was an early start, leaving home at about 05.30am on a Friday morning to make the long drive over to the Llyn-onn Reservoir. I arrived early enough to fit in a quick bit of breakfast before getting my pack sorted and leaving the car looking lonely in the vast, empty car park. Not far along the track (going north), emerging from the pine trees are the Cantrel and Beacons Reservoirs, two beautiful stretches of water completely dwarfed by the huge mass of Cefn Crew leading up to Corn Du above it and gradually becoming more and more veiled in cloud. On a side note, I haven’t yet been fortunate to see the spectacular views from Snowdon’s summit on a clear day, so I was really hoping the cloud would clear by the time I made it to the summit of Pen y Fan, just short of 1km above me, giving me something other than the usual view of a thick grey screen – but it already wasn’t looking likely.

A very grey start (looking across Cantrel Reservoir)

I spent the whole first section of the walk totally alone, not seeing anybody until I made it to Pont ar Daf car park which seems to be one of the most popular starting places to make the ascent. It was still early and the car park was packed and overflowing onto the verges already. Anyway, I weaved through the various people walking up in sandals and flip flips and as I got higher, the views surrounding me became more and more impressive until I eventually hit the clouds and was plunged into that all too familiar grey abyss. The long line of people seemed to stop and turn around at the cairn I could only presume marked the first little summit of Bwlch Duwynt, just below Corn Du and for good reason. The wind had picked up and seemed to be trying to blow everybody off the top of the ridge. With a fully packed rucksack on my back acting like a sail, it made the ascent to the summits of Corn Du and Pen y Fan that much more interesting, but no less enjoyable. Reaching Pen y Fan I wasn’t surprised to be surrounded by cloud, so I didn’t hang about and celebrate making it, but as soon as I took my first step down towards Cribyn, the cloud vanished completely and I was greeted with unbelievable views all around, including that of the incredibly picturesque Horseshoe Path and the Upper Neuadd Reservoir below.

Possibly the most challenging section of the route is actually the steep climb up to Cribyn but, personally, I think the view is far more rewarding looking back towards Pen y Fan. I was fortunate to be the only person on the small summit of Cribyn so I took the opportunity to have a bit of a rest and take some pictures before being joined by a young couple. I felt I was possibly interrupting something that could have been quite special, so hit the path once more and let them have the summit to themselves.

Horseshoe Path

Because I’m sure there is nothing worse than being woken up and told to ‘jog on’ by a disgruntled farmer or the police at 2am, I always try to do a lot of research into areas to wild camp before I start planning any route. Being a popular route for hikers and campers alike,  I knew there must have been some good camping spots that people often took advantage of in the area. I had previously watched a video by the excellent Outdoor Intrigue (love their stuff and Ben and Megan seem like super nice people) of when they hammock camped at the Upper Neuadd Reservoir – an old dried up reservoir bordered entirely by woodland with a little island of trees in the middle.

I decided to skip Fan y Big and instead followed the route all the way down to the entrance of the reservoir to claim my camping spot for the night. It was still fairly early, about 16:30, but I figured it was best to use the last remaining light for making camp. As I made my way through the trees, I came across a couple of other campers who had already settled in for the night but, fortunately, the spot I had my eye on whilst planning the route was still available – the island would be mine! Traversing across the reservoir, I discovered it wasn’t quite as dried up as I thought, jumping across streams and unintentionally walking through a number of bogs was worth it to have my own “island” for the night – I’m not sure if it’s technically an island if there’s no substantial body of water, but still…it was mine.

The island is mine

The strong winds returned and were blowing straight up the length of the reservoir, so I set up my tarp against it to make some shelter for my hammock then got some dinner on the go (sitting in a hammock surrounded by mountains is possibly the only way to make packet rice enjoyable). I changed out of my wet and cold clothes and climbed into the hammock to get cosy. It was the first time I had used an underquilt on my hammock, something I was quite sceptical about at first but would now absolutely recommend to anybody who enjoys sleeping in their hammock all year round as it kept the wind and the cold off all night. As soon as I settled in for the night, the wind completely changed direction and started blowing straight down the length of my tarp and over the top of me. Then it turned into a bit of storm. But thanks to the underquilt (and a cheeky bit of whisky) doing its job I was too cosy to do anything about it and slept right through.

The view from my hammock of Pen y Fan in the clouds

Whether it was because of the beautifully clear weather the next day or not, I found the second half of the walk far more impressive than the first. The route back to the car took me south through Taf Fechan Forest, along the incredibly scenic Pentywn Reservoir and up onto the southern hills of the Brecon Beacons with views stretching over Vaynor to the south and Pen y Fan to the north. A huge wide-open area of nothing but little rivers, rolling hills and sheep. I felt relaxed, rested and peaceful as I descended back down to Garwnant, my car and some homemade apple cake I had left especially for my return.

Grabbing a coffee from the café at Garwnant and sitting on the ground next to the car, I starting to make plans for what I needed to do next. As I mentioned earlier, I needed to get across to the Black Mountains for another route I had planned for the day, then camp again and head home the next day. But returning to the car after such a great day and a half of walking, I didn’t fancy doing it again straight away. I was still feeling relaxed and the effort I put into getting up and over those hills that morning left me feeling pretty lifted. I had achieved what I wanted to do. So…I made new plans.

South Wales is home to one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the UK, in particular, the Gower Peninsular, home to Rhossili Bay. It was turning into quite a beautiful day, blue skies and warm sun – the beach was calling. Instead of making the 2 hour drive from Garwnant to the Black Mountains (in the direction of home) I made the 2 hour drive from Garwnant to Rhossili instead (away from home). This turned out to be a brilliant decision.

You don’t have to put yourself through hell to experience the great outdoors

I arrived at about lunchtime and somehow had the beach to myself with the exception of a handful of surfers. I emptied my rucksack of all the camping and hiking kit and replaced it with a blanket and a warm jacket, then made the beach my home for the day, staying until the sun had dropped below the horizon in front of me.

I wasn’t going to write about this trip because, as you can tell, it wasn’t particularly exciting or adventurous but for that reason, I thought I probably should. Reading through lots of different blogs, watching various videos on YouTube etc. there seems to be a lot of pressure to go fairly ‘hardcore’ when it comes to having a bit of an adventure and wild camping. Yes, usually I would just go out with a tarp and hammock and spend days on end camping and walking about, but that isn’t the only way to do these things. You don’t have to expose yourself to the elements, get cold, muddy and miserable to have adventures. I left home with a list of things in mind for what I wanted to achieve: a big trek,  some of the main peaks in the Beacons and an overnight camp on a little island. With everything on the list achieved, I didn’t need to go and spend another day and a half walking about the mountains and camping. Instead, I hit the beach, relaxed, took some quiet time to myself and ate a massive pizza for dinner. Reflecting back, having that time alone to go where I wanted, to go at my own pace and to be quiet and stress free, it was one of my favourite experiences of 2020 – granted that’s not saying much for 2020, but I would say that’s pretty good…wouldn’t you?

Switzerland: ‘More up and down than sideways…’

Trip Dates: 23rd – 27th May 2019

Location: La Fouly, Switzerland

Accommodation: Camping Des Glaciers

”Switzerland is a small, steep country, much more up and down than sideways” – Ernest Hemingway


For the last 3 years Dan, Olie, Jack and I have explored various parts of the Swedish wilderness, and last year we had the best trip there we could have asked for – exploring the absolutely beautiful Skuleskogen National Park on the east coast, camping on the beach in near 24-hour sunlight and bathing in glorious sunshine.

Unfortunately I didn’t record the trip and it went totally unpublished (can’t remember why!), but it was without a doubt, an awesome few days. I might try and write a little something about our trip to Skuleskogen but I’ll have to do some thinking.

We decided that we simply couldn’t beat our experience in Skuleskogen National Park if we went again this year, so we set our sights on something a little bit different.

We wanted a change of scenery and something slightly more challenging to get stuck into. After months of discussing and looking blankly at maps, we thought The Alps  (largest mountain range in Europe) would be an interesting contrast and provide that challenge we were after. The tricky thing, however, was deciding where exactly we should go in The Alps – after all, they cover a huge area of 192,000 km² and spread themselves across 8 countries: France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria and Slovenia.

A factor we had to bear in mind when it came to choosing our destination was the roaming laws. Fortunately in Sweden we had the option of, within reason, camping wherever we wanted to. The roaming laws, however, are slightly more strict in many other European countries – including the 8 countries that are home to the Alps. Of course, once you get further up into the mountains this is more manageable, but we opted to look for a remote campsite where we would be able to base ourselves. This then gave us the option each day of leaving behind some unnecessary bits of kit, allowing us to explore the surrounding area with lighter loads. With this in mind I started doing some research into campsites in the Alps and eventually came across Camping Des Glaciers in the very small and remote town of La Fouly. It’s tucked away in the southern corner of Switzerland and as the crow flies, more or less a mile from the French and Italian borders. The pictures on the campsite’s website looked pretty great, with the campsite based at the foot of The Aiguille de l’A Neuve – a bloody big mountain (not a direct translation).

I sent the website link over to Olie, Dan and Jack (featured in all Swedish trips plus others), and organised a little meeting to look into everything else. A while later we were all sat around my dining table with a couple of rapidly emptying wine bottles and we booked the campsite, then the flight to Geneva and a Jeep Renegade to drive around the Alps in – on a side note, the Jeep turned out to be an Opel (Vauxhall) Mokka which is very different to the Jeep Renegade – anyway…we were going to Switzerland!

We knew that this was going to be a very different experience in comparison to what we had grown accustomed to in Sweden. We had the option to relax a bit more, have our own little base for 5 days and take advantage of the facilities that came with a campsite – like a shower. It was more or less going to be luxurious and civilized in comparison and because of this, Olie, Jack and I even opted to leave our huge rucksacks at home, instead, taking suitcases and small day packs for our daily treks.

So, time passed and the day had come to fly to Switzerland

Much like the style of my Sweden articles, the rest of this piece will be written using the entries from a journal I kept every day during the trip. Unlike other articles however, my journal entries on this trip were fairly small and simple, so I’ll interrupt every now and then to explain or elaborate on certain bits. It’ll make sense once we get going.

Oh.. also bear in mind that just hours before I got on the plane my girlfriend gave me this advice:

‘Always listen to Dan. Dan is sensible and if he says not to do something, don’t do it.’ 

Thursday 23rd May 2019 – Day 1 

We have a campsite. An actual tents on the ground, toilet block consisting, reception bearing, humanity inhabiting campsite. It’s definitely the contrast to the Swedish trips we’ve been looking for.

Not entirely sure how I feel about it yet. I already miss my hammock and the forests.


The view I had whilst laying in my tent

This campsite is incredible though. Halfway up a massive snow peaked mountain, surrounded by even more mountains and even more snow. It’s so much better than the photographs on the website make it look. Currently the site is basically empty so it’s silent except for the sound of the river of glacial water running from the mountain above us.

We had an early flight out from Luton this morning, so we’ve all been up since about 03:00am. I have to say, the drive from Geneva Airport to La Fouly could have started better. Due to some navigation difficulties we had a nice little drive around the terminal a few times before eventually hitting the correct road and heading away from Geneva in the right direction. The drive was pretty much just one very long road for a couple of hours, but half of that was around Lake Geneva which I didn’t realise was so massive and beautiful. I would come back just to spend time around there I think. The road then wound it’s way up into the Alps and away we went.

The winding, twisting mountain roads would prove to be quite nauseating but we’ll get to that later…

It’s now 21:00pm and we’re a bit tired to say the least. We decided that today would be the day to relax, acclimatize and check out the immediate area before going exploring tomorrow. I’m not too sure of our plans for tomorrow exactly, but the mountain looks enticing. Every time I look at it, I’m just blown away. It’s hard to tell the size of it, but it looks like an amazing backdrop or painting and it is enormous. Definitely need to get up there at some point.


Taken whilst stood in the river. Camp was just behind the trees on the right.

We had a quick nap once we’d set up our tents and then did the next most important thing and found a nice local bar which served even nicer, well needed, cold Swiss beer. We had a couple of beers each then headed back to camp and made dinner. I think Wayfayrer meals are great, but you certainly don’t get the same reaction from them as you do from a beautiful, crisp, cold beer. We did realise at the bar that being able to speak French would have been helpful. None of us really know anything in French other than ‘Where is the swimming pool?’ and ‘Where is the library?’ and not forgetting the very useful, ‘When is your birthday?’.. none of which are particularly helpful questions. Especially when we wouldn’t understand the answer. Lot’s of pointing and gesturing was required..

In bed now and it’s nearly 22:00pm. Going to get some sleep. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Thursday was definitely a day of relaxing and getting our bearings, but Olie and I did have a little exploration that afternoon to check out the river that ran down from the mountain and alongside our camp. We got a very little way up the mountain and realised how unfit we were.. so that didn’t bode well, but we had a little wander about to get an idea of what we would do the next day. The mountain was definitely calling.

Friday 24th May 2019 – Day 2 

”Wear Sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.” – Baz Luhrmann

For the first time in a very long, long time, I slept nearly all night whilst camping. I woke up at about 08.15am which was an absolute treat!

We eventually had breakfast which was accompanied by a freshly baked baguette Dan had collected from the camp reception.

We discovered that we could actually order fresh breads and pastries at reception for the next day. So fresh croissants became our go to option for the rest of the trip. It would have been rude not to really…

During breakfast we made the plan to follow one of the routes up the mountain above us. The map told us that there was a cabin way up there somewhere which we could go and find and potentially stop for some lunch or something before making our way back down. Firstly however, we had a quick stop at the local shop in town to get essentials – I bought a very nice 10 pack of Boxer Biere which I stored in the river to keep cool as today has been super hot.


The Ascent (Dan left/Olie right)

We started the trail at about 10:00am in a small pine forest which lead up the mountain. As much as I love the mountains and hiking, I seriously hate going uphill.. but this was actually a very pleasant start to the trek. After a few breaks we eventually hit the snow line where it got slightly more interesting. Deep holes were covered with snow, which when stood on went right up to the waist in some places. It was pretty fun until we found the occasional massive rock to crash into underneath. This made progress up the mountain very slow but we eventually broke out of the treeline, losing our shade from the sun – and it was only getting hotter! We really weren’t expecting it to be so hot this weekend. Just a couple of days ago I was looking at the weather forecast and it predicted snow today!

We reached a section where the trail had been completely buried by the snow. The only option we had, if we wanted to keep climbing, was to stick to the rocky ridges that protruded from the snow.


Rest Stop (Dan left/Jack right)

The problem being, we didn’t know how deep the drop would be from there through the snow and to one side was a massive gorge with a couple of waterfalls running down into it and on the other was a perfectly fresh, 45 degree slope of snow. Under which could have been anything. The next rocky ridge leading up the mountain was on the other side of this slope, and not knowing how deep or how sturdy it was, we paused for a moment to think of some options. Then Olie and I stopped pausing and just went for it. It was strong enough to take our weight so after some jumping about we crossed it and climbed up onto the rocks on the other side. Jack and Dan stayed where they were.

I like to think I performed a fantastic example of a dynamic risk assessment here.

Dan took the opportunity to get his camera out and take some photos. Jack took the opportunity to rest and Olie and I took the opportunity to leave them behind and climb up the mountain. When the trail started to get harder, we picked a goal to reach which was a small peak just above our spot on the ridge.

It was maybe just 400m or so away but that 400m or so away was up a very steep slope of slippy rocks, ice and snow. We gave up trying to walk some of it and resorted to scrambling and bouldering some sections – definitely got the blood pumping. As the base of the peak loomed above us, we found the only way up was a very precarious looking wall which had a chain fixed into it to help you climb it bit by very slippery bit. I think it was Donkey from Shrek that said ”keep on going, don’t look down.. keep on going, don’t look down” and that was some pretty sage advice.

We reached the top and, as we stood looking down to where our camp was, we were absolutely blown away. The view was incredible and awe inspiring. Everything below us was tiny, the town was minuscule and Jack and Dan, who were just a few hundred metres below, looked like ants.


Our view from the top

The scary thing was though as we looked behind us, back up the mountain, we weren’t even half way up! The real peaks of the mountain still towered above us completely. The scale was so enormous that it hardly looked like we’d made any progress at all.


The view looking up


The peak we were stood on is circled in this picture.. The top of the mountain is just sticking out from above cloud.

Dan had eventually decided to cross the snow and walk up the ridge below us, which is where he stayed. From his view, the peak we were stood on looked tiny, but from where we were, it was a large area which eventually linked up with the main trail we had started from, however it was totally inaccessible due to the snow. We just didn’t have the right kit to traverse the rest of the way. The cabin we had sought out was not going to materialise, but it didn’t matter. The view we had from up there was worth every step.

We waved down at Dan who waved back in a ‘get down from there!’ angry parent kind of way. Pointing at us and then down to where he was. ‘I don’t think Dan approves of this’, Olie said, as we sat down for a minute, took some photographs and carefully abseiled off the peak using the rusty old chain back down to Dan. Jack was sensible enough to stay put a little bit further down on the other side of the slope.


Dan is stood fairly central to this picture if you can’t see him

We started our decent back down to him which, due to being so steep, was actually harder than going up the ridge in the first place. So, much to Dan’s disapproval, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just slide down the precarious looking snowy slope. Thanks to my boots having the worst grip in the world, it was so much easier and only when I got down to Jack did I go through the snow and hit a big rock.

It’s over a week later and I still have a big purple bruise on my knee

On our way back down the mountain, as we dipped back into the treeline, we met a group of German hikers. They asked how difficult it was and, looking at them in their jeans and trainers, I wished them luck and let them keep going. Never did see them come down…

We eventually got back to camp and I retrieved the beers from the river and it took us less than an hour to go through the whole pack. We are now also incredibly sunburnt, especially Dan. I just read a bit of my book in the sun, played rummy with Jack and Olie and later I think we’ll enjoy a nice bottle of wine we managed to get for free from the reception currently being chilled in the river.

*’Always listen to Dan. Dan is sensible and if he says not to do something, don’t do it.’  Dan is also the person who brought sunscreen and refused to put any of it on before climbing the mountain on a super hot, clear day and had to spend the rest of the day in his tent hiding from the sun. I wouldn’t say that was particularly sensible. At least I just totally forgot to bring any in the first place.

I must admit though, the free bottle of wine came from a rather large cock up on my side as I didn’t understand the booking site I used for the campsite and overpaid considerably. Therefore, free wine and ice creams were part of paying us back (as well as a massive discount on the outstanding amount we had to pay).

Lesson learnt today: Wear Sunscreen – cheers Baz.


Dan’s sunburn developing nicely (Olie on right)

Saturday 25th May 2019 – Day 3

I woke up this morning at 07:30am after another pretty successful night’s sleep – actually I was woken up by Dan asking for the car key which Olie actually had in his tent instead, so that was annoying but he made up for it by returning with some croissants. I do like a croissant. It was raining already and had been for a while, but I was so warm and comfortable in bed that I really didn’t care.

Due to opting for a suitcase over my rucksack, I took advantage of being able to fit a comfortable camping bed, three sleeping bags and a woollen blanket to go in my tent. It wasn’t exactly wild camping this year..

We made some more breakfast – well, I made a coffee and Dan stayed in his tent hiding from the sun. He is very burnt…

A plan was made to follow a circular track that ran next to the river and through the valley, across and back along the base of the mountains opposite, eventually leading back into the campsite. It wasn’t going to be a challenging route and probably no more than 18km, which suited us after yesterday’s climb. It stopped raining and Dan tentatively revealed himself from his tent to brave the very overcast sun for the day.


Dan (left) and Jack (right)

The track started in the same small pine forest as yesterday’s but ran along the side of the mountains instead of up. We took a slight detour once we came across a huge waterfall coming down from the left and running across the track and into the river on our right. The climb up to the waterfall was steep but manageable, so it was definitely worth having a closer look. As we reached the top of the ridge, we were cut off from getting any closer due to the snow and ice that had built up at the bottom of the falls, under which you could hear the water flowing heavily. It wasn’t worth the risk of falling through and getting wet and potentially quite sore.


Coming down from the waterfall (Dan, Olie, Jack)

We continued along the track, or what was left of it – in various places the path had been completely wiped out by landslides and rock falls. Whilst climbing over one precarious landslide I managed to slip and cut my hand – Stevie Nicks makes a landslide sound far more romantic…

We crossed the river on a very wobbly bridge and climbed up and out of the ravine into a pretty little village called Prayon, one of the most picturesque villages I’ve seen, and also where the route took a huge incline.

The track we were on was supposedly a cycle track, but I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a bike on it. I’ll leave that to the likes of Mel I think!

Once the track left Prayon it wound through a large pine forest, occasionally cut and redirected by streams and rivers crashing down from the huge mountains above with spectacular views across the valley.


View across the valley to the waterfall we had checked out (Olie)

We got a little stuck at times due to the lack of detail on the 1:50,000 scale map we were using, and as the navigator for the day, that’s the excuse I’m sticking to. After a few short breaks to check the map and then check it again, then again, we noticed the clouds rapidly descending towards us from the mountain tops, bringing with them even more rain. Packs off, coats on, hoods up –

Apart from Olie who didn’t want to put his coat on because it’s actually a poncho and he’s worried it makes him look stupid – he’s not wrong.

-packs back on and keep checking the maps as we head in the general direction of La Fouly. As the town came into the view the rain began to seriously try and get Olie to put his poncho on…it failed and he was happy to get wet for the walk back to campsite.

I’ve been back in my tent, away from the rain for a little while now and can hear the occasional bit of thunder around us somewhere. We can also hear small rock falls and avalanches rumbling down the side of the mountain above us, which makes me grateful that the campsite isn’t directly below it…So far we’ve actually seen and heard them at least two or three times a day and it’s an impressive sight to see and some of them make a truly awesome noise which I originally believed to be a plane over head until I saw the debris coming down.

I got a really good video of this but for some reason I can’t upload it..

I wouldn’t be surprised if we get some more beers tonight…It’s only 16:45 but I’ve been in my tent for about an hour now and a beer would be really, really appreciated. It doesn’t sound or look like the rain’s planning on sodding off any time soon.

On reflection…whilst laying here, listening to the rain pounding on my tent…without my beer…this trip may not be as inspiring as Sweden was over the last few years, but we’ve had the challenge we were looking for and the whole area is absolutely stunning. Definitely one of the most picturesque places I’ve been so far.


Walking out of Prayon

Sunday 26th May 2019 – Day 4

My camping sleeping pattern of being too hot, then too cold, then too uncomfortable and then really comfortable but a bit too warm but too comfortable to do anything about it then overheating slightly so roll over to shift some bedding about and get uncomfortable again…and repeat…came back last night. However, lucky me, I also had a song stuck in my head going over and over and over again…So I was a bit tired to say the least this morning. I blame the soundtrack from the musical Hamilton for that as I was playing some of it to Jack last night which then caused the title track to be stuck in my head for bloody hours until the rain kicked in and I was more concerned about my tent either filling with water or just floating away…neither happened.

Anyway…for some reason this morning the other three sat in the car for ages after breakfast, so I grabbed the map and had a look at any potential paths to follow for our last day’s trek. The tracks around the site and La Fouly in general were quite limited, we had walked the majority of them already over the last couple of days, so I looked further out of the area. When I was researching the area a while ago during a slow day at work, I discovered a couple of large lakes in the nearby area. I eventually found some of these on the map and discovered that they were either at the top of some bloody huge mountains that weren’t accessible at the moment, over an hours’ drive away, in Italy or, even worse, in France. This left just one other lake, not so big on the map, but it did have a circular track that went around one side and up in the mountains and back round to the lake. Perfect. Lac Des Toules, in the Bourg-Saint-Pierre region, was where we would spend the last full day in Switzerland hiking. I did a quick google of the lake and it looked amazing. It was actually a reservoir controlled by a gigantic dam. It looked pretty impressive.

I showed the others the plan and booted them out of the car and told them to be ready in 20 minutes, then drove to the toilet block for the morning constitutional. We were tight with time, as by now it was nearly midday, Lac Des Toules was nearly 40 minutes away, the route would be about 3 hours and Jack has been desperate to go to a pizza place in La Fouly since before we got on the plane to Switzerland. We then also needed to get all of our kit packed up as much as possible in order to leave super early for tomorrow morning’s flight. Time was against us and the longer we took, the less likely a nice meal on our last night was looking. Oh and we’ve ran out of gas in our stove, so it was either a nice hot meal in some restaurant or cold boil in the bag meals..

I got back to the camp just before the 20 minutes was up and we were pretty much all ready to go. We stopped to refill the water bottles and we were away, perfectly on time… then Jack needed to get something from the shop in La Fouly again. About 20 minutes later they all came out of the shop and got in the car. Olie had decided to buy some cheese for the journey-

this very shortly turns out to be a bad idea

-and some Swiss Army Knives were purchased too. Just as we were leaving La Fouly, Olie decided to open his cheese which immediately stank out the car, it smelt like goats cheese, but we weren’t too sure what it was. Not long after that, and before we even reached the next town out of La Fouly, we had to stop to let Dan get out of the car as he was feeling very sick.

I blame the cheese smell, plus the incredibly bendy mountain roads – not my  general driving style.

This happened a couple of times on the drive to Lac Des Toules and just as he got in back in the car the last time, the huge dam we were expecting to come across appeared in the valley ahead of us.


Dam (focus didn’t work very well)

Almost stitching the valley together, the dam was massive and so much bigger than the pictures online let on, which meant the lake or reservoir behind it must also be pretty spectacular. As we wound around another stomach churning mountain road we disappeared into a tunnel which ran adjacent to the lake. We were expecting to come back out of the tunnel and be met with a glorious sight, but what we actually found was very different.

If you Google Lac Des Toules right now, it’ll show you hundreds of amazing pictures of a beautiful, almost perfectly blue, lake surrounded my mountains – just lovely! What it won’t show you is that right now, Lac Des Toules is actually just an absolutely colossal empty hole in the ground with little to no sign of there ever being water in there in the first place. I’m not sure if we actually took pictures of it, but if you imagine a huge hole in the ground, you’ll have a fairly good idea. Lac Des Toules appeared to now be a quarry. At this point Dan informed me that the map he bought of the area was nearly 5 years out of date. Something he had forgotten to mention previously.

Image result for lac des toules

It doesn’t look like this at the moment..

We drove to the end of the huge hole in ground, parked up in a lay-by and looked at the map. The track I had planned wasn’t going to be particularly interesting anymore and we were far higher up than we originally thought we would be. Just above the lay-by we were in people were still skiing down the mountains in the same area the track was supposed to be. The same path however did head off down away from the lake, towards a little town further down the valley then came back on itself, so we chose to do that. It was a little shorter than planned, but after driving nearly 40 minutes to get there, we didn’t see any point in driving even further to find something else.

We found a place to leave the car just off a small dusty road directly underneath the dam which towered above us –

I can imagine it would be quite scary and daunting if it wasn’t just holding back a few rocks and lots of absolutely nothing else.


Our car. Definitely not like a Jeep Renegade.

-so we didn’t have to worry about losing the car or forgetting where we left it anyway. The track followed a line cut through the valley by a small river and ducked down into another pine forest. Along the way, on a small open part of grassland, we spotted a number of Mamottes –

Groundhogs basically

-which are so much bigger than I was expecting. I imagined them to be a similar size to a gopher, but I was very wrong. They were pretty much just badger size. If a badger somehow managed to have babies with a guinea pig, you would have a Marmotte.


The route was certainly picturesque with the occasional gap in the trees presenting a perfect view through the valley and the small town below. Coming down on our left hand side from the mountains were numerous waterfalls that then ran under the track and crashed down into the river on our right which at times was a shear hundred foot drop below us.


At a junction where the track turned right to go over the bridge and up into the town above, the route continuing ahead had been completely destroyed by a recent rockfall. We weren’t going in that direction but if we were we would be stuffed. Unlike the other rockfalls and landslides we were able to climb over, this one was far too dangerous and had torn away the entire track instead of just burying it. Olie and I still walked out as far as we could to have a peek though, obviously.

We crossed a little bridge over the river and climbed down to the riverside to have a little break.

Dan took some photos, and I just ate some pistachio nuts…anyway…

The river was much deeper where we had stopped, potentially caused by the landslide just on the other side of the bridge crashing into the river. I sat on a boulder next to the water and it was a perfect moment to just stop and absorb the peacefulness of the surroundings, with nothing but the sound of the river flowing under my feet.


A little while later we walked up the other side of the valley, along yet another bendy winding road and into the rather lovely small town of Saint Pierre. Much like many of the little towns and villages we had been through, the place was silent and we seemed to be the only people out and about. Mind you, it’s been raining pretty much all day, so they were probably sensible enough to not be walking about in the rain..


Saint Pierre

We dropped back down into the valley and started on the stretch leading back to the car through the forest. Lucky for us, the whole track had been downhill until coming up into the town, unlucky for us though meant that the rest of the trek back to the car was all uphill and not a particularly friendly incline either. So we took our time and trudged all the way back up the mountain towards the dam…in the rain…


We stopped for a short while at the open section of grassland again to watch the marmottes. On our way down we only saw two or three but this time the ground was littered with them on both sides of the valley.

They’re probably an absolute menace to local farmers, but they’re also a bit cute.

Fortunately we found the car exactly where we left it and climbed in. We had finished our last little walk about in the Swiss Alps. All that was left was to go to the pizza restaurant Jack had found and just relax, pack our stuff away and get ready for our journey home tomorrow morning.

So now everything is packed away. On the way out my luggage weighed about 4kg over the limit, but I got away with it somehow and now everything feels even heavier. Really not sure how I’ve done that.. All of my smelly, wet and muddy clothes are shoved in one of my bags and I’m just in my normal clothes for the first time since Thursday morning and it’s rather nice. I think I’m going to have a cold night as I have packed all of my bedding away apart from one sleeping bag. So tomorrow morning should just be a matter of getting up at 04:00am and packing up the tent which takes a whole 2 minutes. Should be fine. Which also means I can enjoy some beer and pizza tonight without regretting it too much tomorrow morning.

At this point I actually stopped writing as plans changed slightly..

Dan was hiding in his tent from the daylight again and Olie and Jack had just returned from having a chat with the lady on the campsite reception desk. One detail that had been missed regarding the pizza restaurant was that it actually wasn’t opening until June or July, so pizza was no longer an option. She did recommend a nice place to go called Café du Dolent in Prayon, the town we had walked through on Saturday. We decided that was a much better option compared to hiding in our tents and eating cold boil in the bag meals in the rain.

The cafe/restaurant was definitely a bit more of a ‘locals’ place though. We walked in and immediately realised that nobody really spoke a word of English and again, our lack of being able to say anything of use in French, Italian, Dutch or any other language that might be useful in Switzerland became an interesting obstacle. I took the lead and, with some gestures and what will probably turn out to be complete gibberish, we got a table, worked our way through the menu and enjoyed a lovely meal together.

If you’re ever in Prayon for whatever reason, get over to the only bar/restaurant/cafe in the village and order yourself the Carbonara with salmon. It was glorious and I’ve actually made it myself about 5 times since being home. The chef and owner of the place could potentially be a murderer (scary eyes), and if you get to sit at our table, you’ll get to eat right underneath an interesting photograph of him posing with a massive dead ibex that he shot.. but other than that, the food is great and so is the beer we sampled multiple times.

And with that, our time in Switzerland came to an end.

The Afterthought

As mentioned already, we decided to go to Switzerland for a change of scenery and something a bit different and relaxed compared to Sweden. I touched slightly on it in my journal entry about how I felt this left me and the others possibly feeling like something was missing though.

The whole area was absolutely stunning and I couldn’t find a fault with the place at all. It really was beautiful and I would definitely go back but not necessarily to do what we did this year. I think the feeling of missing something was because of the lack of dependence on the surrounding environment. In Sweden, because we really were just living in wilderness and sleeping in the forests every night, we had to rely on everything around us to keep us going. In Switzerland, that was totally removed. By having our own campsite and being able to leave stuff behind for the day or being able to sit in the tents and relax whilst it was raining, we didn’t have to rely on the environment to give us firewood, shelter or somewhere to hang our hammocks for the night. I think what was missing was being in touch with that inner caveman that needs checking in on every now and then. It wasn’t a wild camping trip, but it was a beautiful one.

I think we’re planning on getting back to basics next year and exploring Norwegian wilderness – searching for that missing piece of adventure. So that could be interesting!

Thanks for taking your time to read my article. I hope, if anything, it’s just given you something interesting or entertaining to read. Just below the group photo, there’s a little slideshow of some of the featured images from the article along with some others from the trip.

Thanks again.

Dan Kemp Photography

Dan Kemp Photography (Olie, Jack, Me, Dan)

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