Follow-up for Nastawgan: “Look-at-me-Heroes” thoughts


Latest Nastawgan arrived at my door yesterday. It just takes a little longer for it to arrive in Germany! I was so glad to read your “rant” because I’ve been in a similar pain. Just a few of my personal recent trials and tribulations: last summer, on a hike through the Pyrenees, I met a Belgian self proclaimed explorer ( on a quest for another “first” – to hike the HRP unsupported. This meant for him to start out at the Atlantic with 49 kilograms on his back – excluding water, including ALL the food, ALL the stove fuel and whatnot. He made it to the Mediterranean, and sure it has some value to see what the human body can (is willing to) endure. But – why?

Or an example from Germany: The self proclaimed farthest-ever hiked women on Earth: with a real-time counter of her kilometres up front on her website. A bestseller author, inspiring other people – for what? Kilometers? This is my review (translated from German) for her latest book:

“Had so many hours to contemplate, and ended up counting kilometers? What a pity. After all, long stays out-of-doors can lead to so much more than Olympic higher-faster-farther. I also dare to question the title of “Most Hiked Woman in the World.” What about those who have had the good fortune to discover other thoughts along the way, to whom kilometers mean nothing because they have come to realize what really counts? Couldn’t it have been GONE a little more humbly? To those who (quite rightly!) seek a happier life out-of-doors, kilometers are pretty much the least important thing at the end of the day, the end of the journey, or the end of one’s life. Despite the fact that the author’s website presents this in an entirely different way.”

No lingering at beautiful places? No time to smell the roses?

To put it clearly into words once again: it’s not about the people themselves, it’s about the messages they convey. But, we need specific examples to better illustrate a point of view. And Adam Shoalts or Frank Wolf are simply sticking out like a sore thumb.

Frank, 35 days from Yellowknife to Chantrey Inlet, probably the fastest known time ever (FKT, But at what price? I met Frank on the Back River when he was literally flying by. 35 days (from Yellowknife!!) in comparison to my 50+ days from Jim Magrum Lake. Again: why? No lingering at beautiful places? No time to smell the roses? Fishing? Investigating historic sites along the way? Climbing lookouts en route, waiting for wind or rain to cease? Eating ready-made meals instead of a proper self-cooked meal? Or worse: no meals at all?

Shoalts, with his heroic tales, in mud up to his crotch, under mosquito torments, through life-threatening rapids, mean grizzly bears all over the place. What are the effects of such messages? What do readers do with their plans when they hear and read that? Some might plan to paddle from Yellowknife to Chantrey Inlet in only 30 days, others might prefer to stay at home, and giving the ordeals the Arctic allegedly has to offer a pass. Neither can really be considered wise. Please, these cannot be the messages! That is a road to perdition. To me, such reports are a testimony of poverty. Book titles like Alone Against the North: An Expedition into the Unknown are hard to bear, to put it mildly. Or reviews like this one:

“When reading Beyond the Trees, one gets the impression of author Adam Shoalts as a kind of Jack Kerouac meets Jack Reacher: an obsessive wanderer at his calmest in the midst of catastrophe.”  – Atlantic Books Today.

Shoalts the Jack Reacher of the Arctic? Gosh, am I peeved.

What’s next? Conan the Barbarian of the North? Where is this going to take us? Wouldn’t it be better if we looked at wilderness not as a battleground, a frightening place, but as a place of healing? The following sentence is handed down from the mother of Omond Solandt: “I often feel the need to go camping in the woods. It irons the wrinkles out of my soul.” (Che-Mun outfit 63, winter 1991) I dare say, Frank and Adam would have been irritating to her, to put it mildly.

Conan the Barbarian

This discussion is about much more than just them. Or, to borrow from Willie Dunn: “I pity the country, I pity the state, And the mind of a man, Who thrives on attention.” (original word is hate)

Money and attention are false idols. The real heroes are the silent ones, out there, those who have been canoeing through the North for decades, without wanting to make a big fuss, pleasantly unobtrusive, who talk little about their voyages and therefore are talked about little, those you meet by chance at some river bend. And they are out there! Probably not only a few. I know one and the other.

Carsten Iwers, Germany

1 thought on “Follow-up for Nastawgan: “Look-at-me-Heroes” thoughts”

  1. At first, when I heard Bob’s rant, I agreed.
    I had thought the same things.
    I’ve been soloing in Ontario, Nunavut, Labrador, Nunavik, Northwest Territories, BC since I was 19 or 20.
    I am 67 and soloed last year on a Northern Ontario Covid Fly-in.
    I have trips planned in Nunavik, Quebec and BC in the next three years.
    So what?
    I love to do it.
    When I was in my 20’s, I would carry a canoe and full pack.
    I portaged aggressively and challenged myself on rapids, resulting in a few swims.
    I had no training, but I was doing what I loved to do and I was challenging my limits.
    Admittedly, this is not for everyone.
    We are all adults and can choose our paths.
    So if Adam Shoalts can do this or like many of the others on You Tube (ie. Northern Scavenger, James Baird, etc) can do this and make a living at it….GREAT for them!
    The secret of life is to find out what you love to do, then figure out a way to get paid for it.
    These guys have done this.
    Are they any different from the Fish’n Canada Guys or Bob Izumi or the countless of fishing and hunting shows on TV and You Tube that venture to remote places, most of us will never afford?
    Just because Evel Knieval jumped over cars or across canyons doesn’t mean others have to also try it or say I’m never riding a bike again, its too dangerous!
    These people find sponsors and are making a living at doing what they “love” to do.
    Is Kevin Callan a bad influence because he endorses Winter Camping or back country canoe trips?
    Kevin also will go solo.
    People (myself included), love to read about other’s adventures which challenge the limits and stretch the boundaries.
    So, maybe instead of criticizing, we should grab a box of popcorn, sit back on the couch and enjoy other’s adventures, as we would enjoy a movie about scaling Mt. Everest or sailing solo across the Atlantic.
    There are always three groups of people, regardless of the situation:
    agree with you
    disagree with you
    don’t give a crap.
    When you read or listen to these adventurers, you are free to choose your category.
    There will always be people in the other two categories.

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