Reframing success

(This blog is taken from the Everyday Exploring Facebook group where it was posted on July 20, 2017)

It feels strange. Sitting in a coffee shop, warm, dry and with endless food and drinks if we want them. No more daily rations of dehydrated food and energy bars, filtering water or continuing along this summer's daily trend of making progress each day as we move to the next camp spot - making progress in latitude, longitude and mileage.

Our trip ended too soon. We should still be in the Arctic. In the raw wilderness, engulfed in the subtle shades of tundra, with the wind, mosquitoes (though not simultaneously) and shore birds for company. And it feels odd having this time to reflect on what has happened, as well as coming to terms with our new normal.

We both wake each morning sharing stories of our vivid and intense dreams; kayaking nowhere, dragging gear through mud over and over again, starting to paddle and realising we've forgotten something essential. Our subconscious processing the events of the last few months even while we sleep.

It's easy to feel like we've failed. That the expedition hasn't been a success. We work hard, we plan meticulously and are both extremely determined, without being flippant. It's fair to say we are not used to not completing something we set out to. And so these feelings take adjusting to as well.

We are fortunate not to have the endless "what if?"s on loop in our heads. On the final kayak there was nothing more we could have done to change the situation we found ourselves in. And there is certainly some comfort in that. But it doesn't change the fact that we didn't complete what we set out to. How do we find any comfort in that?

What we've been reflecting on over the last few days, is that exploration is about discovery, not necessarily about completing what you set out to do.

Carving out a new path is always going to have more unknowns and uncertainties than following a well-trodden one. But it also makes it far more interesting and rewarding.

And it's those times when things don't go to plan and situations aren't as expected, that you learn and discover the most. Both about the world around you and (as cheesy as it sounds) about yourself.

One of the main aims of the Due North: Alaska expedition is education through exploration. To share this journey with others - in all its ups, downs, twists, turns, landscapes and people - was a huge part of what drove us on each day when we were exhausted.

We'll continue to leverage what we've learned and share it as widely as we can. And all of the human-powered miles we did travel will be a success. Even if we didn't reach our final coordinates.

And so, although we find ourselves in a situation we had planned never to be in, we are beginning, bit by bit, to reframe success.

Luke and Hazel



Stuck in the mud: a changing Arctic

(This blog is taken from the Everyday Exploring Facebook group where it was posted on July 13, 2017)

This is a very different update to the one we had hoped to provide.

We are safely in Utqiagvik / Barrow - where we had aimed to reach - but we're not here by kayaking as planned.

Despite making great progress along the Arctic coast, over the last few days of paddling through the historical inland route, we've witnessed some very real and hugely significant changes to the dynamics of the landscape up here.

Changes that don't appear on recent satellite imagery, certainly aren't on paper topographic maps and weren't known by anyone whose kind advice we sought for this remote section of the expedition.

In this wilderness we found dry lake beds where once stood huge swathes of water, shallow waters - inches deep - full of mush in those that weren't fully dried up yet, and streams that once flowed suddenly stopping - with the bow of our kayak running into grass or sand instead. The pictures below tell their own tale.


Birds standing in the shallow water in the middle of 'lakes' miles wide seemed to be taunting us. With a deep layer of mud just below the surface and the overpowering stench of escaping methane gas - we tried over and over to drag and slog our way through, yet kept getting stuck - with not even enough water present to drag an empty kayak through.

So when we reached what would be the final lake (which we had named 'just one more lake') of our expedition at 5am, after 30 hours of hauling and portaging 100kg of gear over tundra, dry lake beds and mush - only to find its water level as low as the rest with increasingly dangerous waist-deep sludge, we knew we could not continue. We camped up.

As well as being exhausted and disappointed, we felt very sad - as much in knowing this would be the end of our journey as for these lakes and the landscape that felt so unwell.

And so this historical Inupiat trading route, last taken decades ago, is certainly no longer possible by kayak and with it goes a little bit of history.

It's true that with advances in technology and progress in exploration, many routes have opened up - much more accessible than they once were. But here, in the North at least - as with expeditions to the North Pole - some are becoming more impossible.

We wanted to see for ourselves and record evidence of a changing Arctic. Well, we've seen it and struggled through it and it's engrained in our drysuits, our boots and our memories.

We'll be posting videos and photos and will be talking about all we've seen and heard on this trip for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, around Scotland, and at the Dundee Mountain Film Festival when we get back.

It's been more of a journey than we could have ever anticipated.

We hope you've found and continue to find it of interest.

Thank you all so much for following Due North: Alaska.

Luke and Hazel



Explorers in Residence

Hazel and Luke are delighted to be the newest Explorers in Residence of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. The press release is copied below.


For immediate release 21/04/17



RSGS Announces Two New Explorers in Residence

The Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) is excited to announce the appointment of two new Explorers in Residence. Luke and Hazel Robertson were appointed as the society’s Explorers in Residence on Thursday 20th April, joining Craig Mathieson who also holds the title.

The role of Explorer in Residence (EiR) was introduced in 2014, by Chief Executive Mike Robinson, in order to recognise some of our best young explorers and the role that exploration still plays in inspiring people about the world around them. The aim of the EiR role is to excite people about the world’s physical and cultural variety, to awaken people’s personal potential and better inform them about global issues.

Talking about the role of RSGS in exploration Mike Robinson said:

“RSGS has an incredibly rich history of association with many of the most influential names in exploration of the last 150 years. We were founded by David Livingstone’s daughter, Agnes, Ernest Shackleton worked for the society and William Speirs Bruce, who was a council member, led the first Scottish Antarctic expedition in 1902. In addition we have hosted most of the leading lights in exploration of the last 130 years including Hillary, Amundsen, Scott, Stark, Mallory, Shipton, Kingsley, Bird, Nansen, Armstrong, Heyerdahl and many many others. However this is not an historical role, we continue to play host to most of the leading contemporary explorers and adventurers.

“I am delighted to welcome Luke and Hazel Robertson on board as our latest Explorers in Residence. They have a wonderful energy and an infectious enthusiasm and are great role models for future generations interested in the world around them. I look forward to helping Luke and Hazel accomplish much more and wish them the best of luck as we follow them, albeit remotely, on their Alaskan adventure.”

Speaking about their appointment as the latest Explorers in Residence, Luke and Hazel said:

“We feel truly honoured and humbled to be named as an 'Explorers in Residence' for the RSGS. It's a title that has much weight and significance given the staggering history of the organisation and the centuries of explorers who have shaped it. Built in to every one of us is the curiosity associated with human nature and we truly believe we are all explorers.

“Through this partnership, we're aiming to inspire people through exciting learning and engage with anyone who has an interest in the world around us.

“Promoting science and encouraging participation in outdoor activities is one of many goals we share with the Society and we want as many people as possible to explore the natural environment and the human societies who call it home.”

Luke and Hazel leave for their next expedition, Due North:Alaska, on Saturday 6th May. Due North:Alaska will see the pair travel the entire length of Alaska purely using their own power, a world first. In 80 days Luke and Hazel will travel 2000 miles by running, kayaking and biking. To follow their journey search “Due North Alaska” or follow Luke, Hazel and RSGS on social media.


Notes for Editors:

Luke Robertson:

In 2016, with an artificial pacemaker and less than two years after undergoing brain surgery, Luke became the youngest Brit, the first Scot and one of less than 20 people in history to ski 730 miles solo and unsupported to the South pole. Luke has also completed successful expeditions to Norway and Greenland and competes in long distance endurance events. These include the Ben Nevis Triathlon, the Ten Peaks Ultra and the 250 mile 8 day inaugural Cape Wrath Ultra. He can also be found trying to go fast on bikes and skis. He is an ambassador for Marie Curie, the Polar Academy and the Greener Scotland Campaign and a patron of the Royal Geographical Society and the Scottish Royal Geographical Society. As well as TEDx speaker, he has delivered presentations to a variety of audiences and has been a guest contributor to the BBC website. He has 6 years of business experience.

Hazel Robertson:

Hazel has led an expedition in Canada, climbed Kilimanjaro unsupported via the treacherous Western Breach and loves anything that takes her outdoors, including back-country skiing, mountain biking and long distance multi-day ultramarathons. In 2016 she ran a 140 mile Ice Ultra on snowshoes in Arctic Sweden and the very first 250 mile Cape Wrath Ultra through the beautiful and remote west coast of Scotland.

Craig Mathieson:

The existing RSGS Explorer in Residence (EiR) is Craig Mathieson. Craig successfully led the first dedicated Scottish Expedition to the South Pole in 2004, man-hauling his sledge 730 miles over the Antarctic Continent. Craig founded and runs the Polar Academy, a charity which uses the medium of exploration to build children’s confidence and understanding of our planet. Each year the Polar Academy trains and takes a group of specially selected school pupils on an Arctic expedition to Greenland.

For further information please contact:

Gemma McDonald RSGS Communications Officer

01738 455 050



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A symbol of hope

As daffodils spring up all across the country, they provide a sign of hope; a burst of colour and light after the dark winter months, reassuring us that spring is here and the warmer summer months will soon be upon us.

These flowers also represent hope to people living with terminal illness, and their families. Daffodils are the symbol of our charity partner, Marie Curie, that seeks to bring light in the darkest hours, offering expert care, guidance and support to help terminally ill people, and their families, get the most from the time they have left.

When Luke was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2014, he spent 10 days in hospital alongside people with brain cancer. Here, he saw first-hand the amazing work of the Marie Curie nurses in helping both the patients, and their loved ones, to enjoy the last of their time together.

After waking up from five hours of life threatening, but ultimately life saving, brain surgery, Luke was told the mass in his brain was instead an extremely rare cyst, and not a brain tumour as had been originally suspected. He had been given another chance. Very much humbled by his time in hospital he focused on raising as much money as possible to support the Marie Curie nurses.

 Luke telling stories about his Antarctic expedition at the Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh

Luke telling stories about his Antarctic expedition at the Marie Curie Hospice, Edinburgh

4000 hours

Starting with Luke's Due South: Antarctica expedition, and then in further joint challenges (such as the 250 mile Cape Wrath Ultra), we have both raised over £85,000 to date for this wonderful charity. When you think that £20 will pay for one hour of a Marie Curie nurse's time, that's over 4000 hours of dedicated time, when people and their families need it most. We are so grateful for your generosity to date and so proud of how many lives you have helped. 

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less" - Marie Curie

We feel very lucky to have Marie Curie as a partner on these expeditions and challenges; it really helps us with the motivation to keep going when things get tough. Having met some of the nurses, patients and volunteers, and listened to their empowering and tender stories, we are honoured to raise money for this fantastic charity. Thinking of their stories helps us to dig deep and keep going, giving us that motivation to succeed. 

Daffodils to desert

 Hazel and Luke during some dune running practice in Scotland (note snow on the ground!)

Hazel and Luke during some dune running practice in Scotland (note snow on the ground!)

Although Spring has settled in Edinburgh, it is quite different to the balmy 40oC or so we expect to encounter during the gruelling Marathon des Sables later this week. We fly to Morocco on Friday and start our 156 mile race through the Sahara desert on Sunday. You'll be able to track us via this link so tune in to see our little dots moving amongst the sand dunes from the comfort of your sofa and have a nice cold glass of water for us!

It doesn't stop there though...a week after finishing our beach holiday to Morocco, we will be running the London Marathon (in fancy this space) and then getting a little bit of rest before Due North: Alaska starts on the 11th May. 

We'll have live tracking for Due North: Alaska from and will be regularly updating social media throughout the expedition. We're really looking forward to sharing these adventures with you all!

Hazel and Luke

ps. If you'd like make a donation, Luke and Hazel's JustGiving site can be found here. Any amount will make such a difference. Thank you.

Due North: Alaska is proud to be supported by:

Floradix | TentMeals | Freeze Pro Shop | Ashmei | C. Wilson Meloncelli - Flow State TrainingGoalZero | NIGOR | EXPED | LaSportiva | Osprey | PETZL | Julbo | ORTLEIB | OPTIMUS | Bio-synergy | Celtic Paddles | GSI Outdoors Nuffield Health | Standard Horizon | Katadyn | HydroPak | Reed | GoNorth | |Sockeye Cycle Co. | Black Bear Inn | Rose Point | Buff

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Coming home


Coming home

A short edit we made of coming home for a training weekend.

Spot the bike and horse puns :)


If you like, check out our shiny new  YouTube and Vimeo channels and subscribe for regular videos of our adventures.


Hazel & Luke

Due North: Alaska is proud to be supported by:

Floradix | TentMeals | GoalZero | NIGOR | EXPED | LaSportiva | Osprey | PETZL | Julbo | ORTLEIB | OPTIMUS | Bio-synergy | Celtic Paddles | GSI Outdoors Nuffield Health | Standard Horizon | Katadyn | HydroPak | Reed | GoNorth | |Sockeye Cycle Co. | Black Bear Inn | Rose Point