Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 9 - blissed out! Part I

I won't pretend to have found the following quotes through anything other than the internet.  Whilst I might think I am well-read, it all depends on the titles.  I have read absolutely none of the following although I have dabbled a little in Thoreau.

One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.
Thomas Jefferson

The doer alone learneth.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.
Henry David Thoreau

We are rarely proud when we are alone.

Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.
John Muir

I have heard so many people say it is irresponsible to travel alone.  Throughout my entire Outdoor Education career I have worked in groups, taught safety in numbers and planned to the strengths of the weakest link.  My only real experience of solitude was a 24-hour assignment set during my Philosophy of Outdoor Education class at the then Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside, Cumbria.  Colin Mortlock was my lecturer and he challenged us to spend 24 hours alone.  A friend of mine crawled into his wardrobe - he managed two hours before his room-mate got fed up of hearing him fart in such a confined space and pulled him out.  Another friend was doing well until it started raining and she was in danger of being drowned on her little island that used to be a small rise in a sheep field.  I don't remember anyone lasting the full 24 hours.  I lasted three.  My orange bivvy bag filled up with rain as I tried to wait out the weather on the fell top.  My sleeping bag was drenched and I was absolutely miserable and promptly gave up.

At eighteen I thought the outdoors was about survival.  I never realised that being outdoors was not about working against nature but living with it, in harmony. 

Don't push. 


The late Bill Mason taught me that through his books and videos.  Journeys with Wilderness Inquiry as a "plug" showed me the way and all my subsequent adventures with Jane have helped build upon this philosophy.

Last year I spent my first real solo time in Uummannaq fjord.  Five days with the Folbot Kodiak and a humpback whale, hundreds of icebergs and little old me in between.  It was amazing.  Both liberating and a real test of my expedition plans and the boat.

I have wondered if having contact with the outside world during TSS2010 makes a nonsense out of the idea of solitude, but there were plenty of days where contact was not possible and this beautiful campsite was one of them. 

In returning to my thoughts of safety in numbers I can only add that I honestly think my days of travelling with groups are over.  Small groups maybe, Jane and I definitely, but I really need to make time for me and the big sky, the open water and the call of the wild.  Jack London is on my reading list.  He is partly responsible for this whole northern adventure.  But when you have lain in your sleeping bag and heard the Arctic Fox announce his arrival, the whale exhaust his lungs when passing by, boulders crash and icebergs calve then the wild has truly called, and I wish to live long to answer that call again and again.

Of course, the last quote I have chosen is just going to make you wonder!

You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.
Al Capone


  1. There might be a little break now as I travel south to Nuuk and Ilulissat for a month. I'll be back with the remainder of the expedition on my return at the end of September.

  2. I, too, most like being in the woods eithr alone, with my Border Collie "Maggie" or just my wife. Once, many years ago when I was a Boy Scout we were challenged to spend 24 hours out alone in the winter snow in the forest of the Applachian Mts. We were allowed only our scout knife, a small ahnd axe, flint and steel, one metal cup and some beef broth cubes. I found a small oerhang and made a fairly comfy bed with pine boughs (could't do that now) and made a snow and pine bough wall to provide some shelter. Fed a small fire msot of the night and returned to the cabin the next day for lunch so very hunger. Quite an experience and one I look back on somewhat amazed!

  3. I did 24 hours alone living under a tarp on an Outward Bound course when I was 17 - loved it. Wrote lots, thought lots and slept lots. Really need to think about revisiting that experience...

  4. Very nice photo's, pity about the Blog adds pasted over pictures.
    You are I think bitten by the call of the wild and driven by your innate nature. Together may you conquer mans lust to abuse your soul companion.

  5. Did you weigh your gear before you left? I would assume you easily exceeded the stated max weight but wondering by how much. Thanks.