There are the high places and there are the dry places.
For a certain breed of men these are the two arenas we voluntarily pit ourselves against, both present their potential risks and rewards.
The details of each expedition may vary greatly but the narrative, the underlying structure is always the same:
“Can I withstand the challenges of this environment, endure the levels of discomfort necessary to keep moving forward no matter what, fight against the pain, the urges to retreat, until it’s seen through, or will I break?”
All expeditions offer challenges, most being physical or mental; internal obstacles, questions of confidence or self-doubt, fatigue, fitness, strength, sleep deprivation and lack of energy etc.
The great expeditions have all of the above of course, but they go beyond merely challenging ourselves; these also challenge nature, climbing or traversing terrain and environments where man cannot naturally survive.
Frozen deserts, hot deserts and the thin air atop of the highest peaks; save from using technology, man does well to keep away from these places, he has not nor never will he belong there; that is unless he wishes to suffer, to be tested. In these circumstances it’s still a question of withstanding rather than surviving, on a short timeline over exposure to either of these elements will cause death.
For the majority, keeping a safe distance from such bitter domains is a no-brainer, the idea that some would want to experience such harsh conditions voluntarily, is incomprehensible . To a few however, there’s an inescapable lure, part of their self-identity is interwoven with the experience of overcoming such challenges. It’s how we feel truly alive.
This isn’t suffering for suffering sake, far from it. There are far easier cheaper and quicker ways of inflicting pain upon ourselves if that’s what we were solely after.
But this is about endurance, the true meaning of the word.
Forget VO2 levels, body fat percentage, lactate threshold watts/kg ratios and all other ‘scientific measurements of endurance fitness’.
Endurance is a measure of one’s ability to withstand. Literally how well can you endure?
Where better to find out than crossing the Nullarbor Plain, a 1200 kilometre treeless desert.
Wish me luck!