Earlier this week we caught up with two former Royal Marine Commandos aiming to set a new world record by crossing the 5 biggest islands on earth unsupported and on foot.
Ant Lambert and Louis Nethercott, both veterans of Afghanistan, use the skills they learnt while in the military and an ambition to be the first to accomplish something never done before to achieve a task that not only helps them on their own journey to recovery but that also raises funds and awareness for charity.
Q. Expedition5 is a challenge relying on grit and determination. Where did you get the idea to cross the world’s five largest islands? What are they? And is there a world record in there?
A. A year or so ago Ant and I, having fairly recently left the Royal Marines were not finding civilian life to interesting, morale was low to say the least. We got together and decided to do something about it. We agreed that we wanted to have a go at a big expedition. We wanted to do something different to a Mt Everest summit or a ocean crossing, something unique. After a few months of all sorts of ideas (some ridiculous ones), we came up with the unsupported and human powered crossing of the five largest island on earth. Greenland, Papua New Guinea, Borneo, Madagascar and Baffin Island. Through our research we discovered that there is currently no recored crossing of all islands by one man or team and that if successful we would be the first people to have ever achieved this feat.
Q. How long are you expecting it to take overall?
A. We crossed Kalimantan at the end of 2016, aim to have Papua New Guinea and Madagascar completed in 2017 and then will conduct the arctic phase of the expedition (Greenland and Baffin Island) in 2018.
“….at points I was very concerned for our safety”.
Q. You and Ant were both in the Royal Marines, so no doubt you are well suited to the task, what commando unit were you in and what were your specialisations? What have you been up to since leaving the Corps?
A. We both served at 42 Commando and both were General Duties Marines. On leaving the Royal Marines Ant took up a career in commercial diving, that has taking him all over the globe. I left the Marines mid 2016, so this is really my first endeavour as a civilian.
Q. You are doing this to raise money and awareness for mental health issues affecting serving and forming serving personnel. Would you mind talking a bit more about this?
A. As former Royal Marines Ant and I both served in Afghanistan and unfortunately lost friends and witnessed blokes sustaining life changing injuries, as so many other lads do. Witnessing such horrors can often have a substantial effect on people from a phycological perspective. It is our aim to raise funds to support the people who suffer from these issues, as so many do.
Q. To date what has been your best experience on the challenge so far?
A. Finding aircraft that had been shot down during WW2 in the deepest dark jungles of Papua New Guinea is something I shall never forget, it was such a privilege to see such untouched history from so many years ago.
Q. And the worst?
A. There was some incredibly nerve wracking times is Papua New Guinea, it can be a extremely volatile place and often this results in violence. We came away with nothing more than a few jungle infections and a bit of sun burn but at points I was very concerned for our safety.
Q. An expedition of this magnitude will of course require careful planning and the right kit – without giving an extensive kit list what do you carry with you? What are you emergency evacuation plans? And what’s the most valuable piece of kit you own?
A. As you mentioned the list is endless, from water purification to visas and permits. It goes with out saying that in such extreme environments you need the best and most reliable kit possible. We are incredibly lucky to have the support of Rab, they have kitted us out with the clothing required. We also needed advise on what kit is going to do the job and suit each individual environment and the guys at Trekitt in Hereford have helped us hugely on this, as well as providing us vital kit such as GPS. Satellite communications is something that is so important for so many reasons, safety right the way through to morale. Again with are hugely grateful to have the support of Inmarsat. They have provided us with Isat2 phones and a Isathub meaning we can connect to the internet in the most remote places on earth, incredible kit!
Q. And boots obviously have an important part to play. How many pairs of boots are you expecting to get through?
A. Our boot sponsor Alt-Berg make absolutely bomb proof boots, I am still on my first pair after about 3000km and they still have plenty left in them!
Q. Louis, you represented Great Britain as the mental health ambassador for the 2016 Invictus Games. What was that like?
A. I felt honoured to be asked to play my part in raising the profile of mental health issues within our military community. It is something I am very passionate about. I met some incredible people and was able to watch our guys and girls compete in the Games. It was a humbling experience and shows the true value that challenge, whether through sport, expeditions or adventure has on recovery both physical and psychological.
“We are both very honest with each other and I think that is the key to any successful expedition partnership”.
Q. This will no doubt inspire others to partake in similar challenges in the future. Who has been/is your inspiration/hero?
A. Many of my friends have significant life changing injuries that they have to deal with on a day to day basis. The way they get on with life with such positive attitude and the things they achieve is incredible – it inspires me daily.
The rolling kunai grass hills and mountains of PNG. Razor sharp the grass sliced through our skin as we walked through mile upon mile in this rugged and wild country. ##papuanewguinea #adventure #adventuretravel #realadventure #exploration #survival #journey #humanpower #wilderness #wildernessculture #expedition #madexplorers #mountains #adventurer #travel @rab.equipment @trekitthereford
Q. Being just the two of you – do you ever argue? Are you looking forward to spending time apart?
A. We very rarely argue, there are days where we don’t really talk unless a decision needs to be made and after time we bicker a bit like a married couple. We are both very honest with each other and I think that is the key to any successful expedition partnership.
Q. Outside of planning and training what do you both like to get up to in your spare time?
A. To be honest there is not to much time left over. Recovery takes some time following each expedition. We try our best to send time with our families and friends, I play bit of guitar and Ant spends a lot of time in his garden growing all sorts of veg.
Q. You are raising money for Help4Heroes and The Royal Marines Charity. How much are you aiming to raise and how can someone donate?
A. We haven’t set an amount we are aiming to raise at this point but basically as much as we can, they are both great charities that make a difference to so many people. Head over to our website (Virgin Money page) and donate there, every little helps!
Q. What do you both have planned for the future?
A. Expedition5 is a huge undertaking. Right now I am just thinking about getting across the next island (Madagascar) safely. I am not sure what the future holds but I will endeavour to live every day to its fullest.