Six years ago I successfully summited Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain peak. This adventure I signed up for on the spur of the moment, nourished my sense of adventure and was the start of six epic years so far.
I embarked on adventures that were beyond my wildest dreams. Climbing the world’s highest peaks, sailing to the Arctic, encountering endangered wildlife and exploring the different corners of the world. As you all know, these adventures come with epic, heroic stories I’ve been writing down.
So I’m leaving a dream life? I won’t deny that, but to get heroic and adventurous stories, risks are often taken. And where there is risk, injuries and even death sometimes are just around the corner.
That time I got frostbite
Elbrus, June 2013 – After having climbed Kilimanjaro and Mont Blanc the previous years, my mind was set to climb Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. I traveled to the southwest corner of Russia, close to the Georgian border and allowed myself a week to reach the summit. Bad weather on summit day forced us to stay in basecamp. On our reserve day, the snow storm continued but our guide opted to start the summit bid nonetheless. Half of my group retrieved to camp after suffering from the cold but I persisted a bit longer, until my guide said we had to descend. I still remember the cold as if it was yesterday (and I’m never cold!). It was freezing like hell, and the wind had blown all the snow in my face all night long. Despite wearing a balaclava that covered most of my face. The top of my nose and my lips peeled off . Also two of my fingers were completely numb for a month!
That time we almost starved to death
Finland, June 2016 – My first trip to Scandinavia. Despite having found limited information about a trail in Karelia, I managed to create ourselves a 10 day itinerary in which we would spend some great time in the outdoors hiking and canoeing. Internet research told me that there would be resupplying options halfway our hike, but when arriving on the scene, it turned out not te be the case. For the following six days of our expedition we had limited supplies. A few old slices of bread, 2 days worth of pasta and rice, and bouillon. Lots of bouillon. Returning was no option as we were already at least four days traveling away from a shop. Our efforts to fish failed as well, but hey have you ever tried fishing without a rod or bait?
That time we almost were attacked by polar bears
Spitsbergen, August 2017 – Our biggest adventure so far. A 11 day solo kayaking expedition in Spitsbergen. The Arctic archipelago Svalbard is home to over 3000 polar bears (vs 2000 people), one of the most dangerous predators still alive. During our expedition we needed to hold vigil 24/7, making this a very tiring expedition. Long story short: on our second last day we found a small cabin we could have a long sleep in. After 16 hours of sleeping we ate before doing the dishes close to the water. At that exact time, a mother polar bear and two cubs ran into our camp and went through all our bags that lay near the cabin. Afterwards they had a peek in the cabin as well. We witnessed the whole scene at a mere 50 meters. Fortunately our lives never were in real danger, but if we would have slept one hour longer, we would still have been in the cabin when the polar bears intruded.
That time we almost died while kayaking the fjords of Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen, August 2017 – Same kayaking expedition. While our lives never were in real danger when the polar bears invaded our camp, that was not the case one day later when we kayaked back to Longyearbyen. The weather on our last day was a bit unpredictable before we started our 2km crossing of the Adventfjorden. We were halfway when the weather deteriorated and got caught up in a storm. While I, at first, managed to do fine, Linsay didn’t. Ten days of paddling and lack of sleep had caught up on her and she was totally fatigued. The waves nearly capsized her kayak on several occasions while the wind was blowing her out of the fjord in the open sea. I paddled back several times, taking huge risks by paddling with wind on my flanks, until I got too fatigued as well and had to pull myself together to reach shore. Linsay had gone out of sight ten minutes before so I ran to the end of the fjord, hoping to still be able to help her. Fortunately she had just been able to reach the shore at the outer end before being blown into open sea.
That time I got bitten by a dog with rabies
Jordan, 2018 – My intention was to hike across Jordan, along the Jordan trail. 800 kilometers through desert landscapes that is. While the high temperatures were more than enough challenge for me, the Northern border with Syria had more in store for me. During my first stage of hiking, groups of dogs had attacked me several times as the trail ran across nomadic camps. Fortunately, I had luck on my side and managed to get rid of them on every occassion. That luck changed on day two when another group of dogs came after me. From the very first second I had my eye on that one dog that appeared even more aggressively than the others. On his first attempt, he missed. But the second time he managed to bite me in the ankle. ‘Rabies.’, was the first thing that came in mind. As I hadn’t got any vaccinations before arriving in Jordan, I needed one asap. Two days of traveling back to Amman made it a close call, as vaccinations are needed within 48 hours at the latest. It was only later I learned that rabies proves to be fatal in all cases.