Two men — including one Leucadian — have taken their experiences on various expeditions and have compiled them into the ultimate book about what to and not to do on such excursions.
Dr. Terry M. Williams, of Leucadia, and Aaron Linsdau, of Oregon, wrote “Adventure Expedition One,” released Feb. 15, following personal experience and four years of research.
The book aims to be the ultimate guide for explorers, including information on preparation, financing and training.
Williams, a retired emergency physician, and Linsdau, a motivational speaker and author, recently discussed their new book, which is available to purchase on Amazon at amzn.to/2GuP0Yk.
Q: Why did you want to write this book?
Linsdau: The original idea for the book came to me almost four years ago after coming back from my Antarctica expedition and a climb down in Mexico. I wasn’t able to find any book that gave me an overview of what are all the things that I need to know on that expedition. There are pieces in different books on polar exploration, but there’s no one compendium of, ‘Hey, here’s everything you need to know in a general expedition.’ That was the genesis of my idea. I went along for quite a while but I needed a good medical section. When I met Terry, that was the, ‘OK. Perfect. I now have a wrap for the book.’
Q: How did you two meet?
Williams: We actually first met at an airport [in November 2016] when we were both on the way to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. We ended up traveling the rest of that trip together. We were tent mates on the climb of Kilimanjaro and got to become good friends. We hatched this idea of doing a collaboration on this book.
Q: What are each of your relevant experiences and your authority for writing such a book?
Linsdau: I’ve had the world record for the longest expedition surviving to the South Pole, 81 days from drop-off to pick-up. It’s a course of 720 miles across the — I wouldn’t call them ‘wastelands’ because they’re negative — but the ice on Antarctica by myself. Everything that went wrong was attributed to me, including I got sick, coughed up blood, just all the excitement of having to eat 70 pounds of butter on the expedition to have enough energy, along with the other food that I’ve had. I put that expedition together. It took about 10 years to put the funding, the planning, the training and the doing to make it happen. I’ve had three expeditions across Yellowstone National Park in the winter, down to minus 45 degrees in temperature. In Antarctica, wind chill got down to almost minus 100 on some days. I had an expedition across the tundra in Greenland above the Arctic Circle. I’m headed back to Denali this year on another expedition to try and sum it up. I’ve been on Mount Elbrus in Russia, the tallest mountain in Europe. I’ve trekked into the Sahara on camels in a little expedition. I’ve done quite a bit in long-distance trekking.
Williams: My main contributions to the book were in the medical section. I also contributed the writing about training and nutrition. My main qualifications there are I’m a board-certified emergency medicine doctor, recently retired after 32 years of full-time emergency medicine work. My interest in adventure and exploration started when I was young. I’m a whitewater kayaker and have done quite a few expeditions in Northern Colorado and the Grand Canyon. I’ve done a reasonable amount of Alpine climbing. I’ve climbed several of the Cascade Volcanoes, including Rainier and Mount Hood. I’ve climbed Mount Whitney and have done a few international climbs. Besides Kilimanjaro, I’ve climbed Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America and a couple of other climbs in Bolivia.
Q: What do you cover in the book?
Linsdau: The book goes through the entire process of developing an expedition, from the germination of the idea all the way to coming home. A lot of times, people have this thought of, ‘Oh, I want to go somewhere. I want to try something big. I don’t even know what to do.’ There’s actually a chapter-and-a-half on what is an expedition and places to go. Once the reader has an idea of the expedition he or she wants to do, the book goes into the planning, financing and physical training in three different sections. For the planning, it talks about how to prepare your equipment, what kind of technology is required nowadays, a fallback plan, how to deal with injuries and illnesses, things like that.
One of the major questions for people is the financing of how do you actually go about raising $100,000-plus for a major expedition to the polar regions. The book talks about self-funding, nonprofit crowdfunding, traditional sponsoring, how to do that and where to start.
The book then goes on to the physical training aspects of, ‘OK. You’ve got the money and you’ve got this gear and a plan, how do you actually physically prepare for that?’ It gives a good overview of the preparation. One of the things that we tried to avoid in the book is getting too specific in any one particular endeavor, simply because there’s no way we can cover kayaking, hiking and biking across the Australian Outback. We left those specific activities to other books, just because otherwise this thing would be an Oxford English Dictionary.
We contacted a bunch of experts on what we call skills — field diagnostics, first aid, handling hot climates, cold climates, hydration, nutrition — which are universal for any expedition. That, of course, brings the reader to the section on equipment and the 10 essentials of, universally what are you going to need for your equipment, what are you going to have to be able to handle in any situation.
The book dives into the medical aspects of expeditions across the world. Dealing with very strange diseases and how to avoid them is the most important thing. There’s a special consideration section for women, children and elderly because on the climb that Terry and I had on Kilimanjaro, we did have a bunch of older climbers who definitely caused some challenges.
The book goes into a full expedition day, describing one full day in Antarctica, and that’s an excerpt from my book, ‘Antarctic Tears.’ We get into the very nitty-gritty of, ‘OK. Here’s what an entire day looks like on an expedition.’ You also get a return and recover section. We also include a survival list of the real survival tools you need and some selected resources that we’ve used.
Q: How did you prepare for your own expeditions before a book like this existed?
Williams: I just did the best I could, reading everything I could get my hands on of people doing prior climbs or similar whitewater expeditions. You’re also picking up knowledge as you do things yourself. I think that’s why one of the sections I am the most proud of in our book is Aaron’s chapter on a full day in Antarctica. When you read books that others have written, you’re often looking for those little tidbits of knowledge that you’ve never quite figured out the best way to do it yourself. How does somebody else do this?
Linsdau: For my preparations for my expeditions like my polar travel, I found one book on polar exploration by an author named Dixie Dansercoer. That’s really the only book I ever found that gives you at least some of the information on, ‘Hey, how the heck do you do this?’ Dixie’s got so much useful information in there but it’s not hugely voluminous. There’s just small details that were missing that I supremely suffered for. Like, I really should have done this or that. The whole genesis of this preparation was that I scoured the info on the internet, read a bunch of books. You piece and part it together but there really wasn’t a good overall vision of how to do an expedition. There’s a lot of painful learning, shall we say.
Q: What challenges have you faced on your own expeditions?
Linsdau: One of the most traumatic experiences and challenges that I faced was I developed a severe lung infection when I arrived in Antarctica. I didn’t even know it because the air is so dry there that you develop a cough. It’s very similar to a bronchitis-type cough, so nobody could really diagnose it until I got in the field. Once you’re flown in and dropped off onto the polar plateau, it would cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 to come pick you up, unplanned. Once you’re out there, you’re literally committed to this. By day 12 or 15, I started coughing up blood. It felt like I was smoking two packs a day. It was really bad. Fortunately, I had some azithromycin with me, so I could begin self-dosing antibiotics. Normally when you recover from that type of infection, it requires almost a full month of rest, recuperation and recovery, all of which doesn’t happen in Antarctica. My original plan was to round trip to the pole and back but that just disintegrated.
I broke my shovel down there. Without a shovel in Antarctica, you can’t build up the shelter to protect your tent and you cannot dig up enough ice to make water. In Antarctica, after two days you’ll die of dehydration. The runners on my sleds broke. I ended up falling into a river in Greenland in the Arctic. I dunked my boots and almost got wiped out from hypothermia crossing a river there. Getting my boots dry was a pretty magic trick in Greenland. I had my boots shrink to the point where I almost couldn’t wear them in Yellowstone when it got to minus 45 degrees. The cold was so severe that my food bowls I was eating out of shattered.
Williams: That’s one of the things that I think makes this book more fun to read. We intersperse short stories of some of the near-disasters we each had throughout the book and to illustrate some of the points we’re writing about. An incident that I included in the book were a time that I was climbing Mt. Shasta by myself on a beautiful day suddenly turned white-out with no visibility. While I was trying to get down off the mountain and was in the storm, I hiked for several hours without being able to see my feet. I got some frostbite on my face and fingertips, even though it was just Northern California. The wind was just blowing to as high as 100 miles an hour at about 12 degrees, so it froze some of my skin. Another one that happened just this summer was I was doing a cross-Sierra hike with two friends off trail, and one of the guys got sick and developed serious symptoms that required evacuation. We had to figure out how to hike ahead for help and take care of him and find a place that the helicopter could sneak in and do a partial hover and evacuate to a hospital.
I did a trek several years ago in Nepal to the Everest base camp, and everyone knew that many hours of uphill hiking with a light pack on would be required. You need to show up to a group effort like that ready to go. One of the people who showed up on the very first day developed knee pain. Talking with this team member, it turned out they had never really trained to the point of hiking even four hours a day with a pack, let alone eight or 12 hours a day. What ended up happening was she decided she would need to hire a pony to continue on with the group. At our dinner that night, she discussed that and asked the group to all pitch in to pay for her pony. Of course, people weren’t happy that someone would show up out of shape and expect everyone else to pay the extra expense of trying to get her up the mountain.
Linsdau: I do a lot of solo expeditions but also on team expeditions. People just massively under-appreciate the effort that it takes. You can work out a few times a week for an hour or so, but when you’re on an expedition, you’re going for eight, 10, 12, 14 hours. Some days can be 16 hours. If you haven’t really tried yourself for doing that, boy, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, people just aren’t really ready for that kind of grind.
Q: What are your goals with the book?
Linsdau: The primary goals of ‘Adventure Expedition One’ is to make people better prepared for an outdoor expedition, wherever they are in the world, whatever they may be doing so that they have a wonderful experience, they’re able to document it and, most importantly, they come home safely.
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