On March 25th Andrew Badenoch will be embarking on a journey unlike any I’ve ever heard of; he will travel from Seattle to the Arctic Ocean and back over land and water one a fatbike (a bike with super fat tires that can handle terrain that renders a normal mountain bike useless, like snow) and a packraft (small inflatable boat). He will use no fossil fuels to propel himself, or even to cook. His goals? To show the possibilities of sustainable travel and, of course, to have an incredible time.
I interviewed Andrew via email yesterday to find out more about this trip and how it fits into his larger 77Zero project.
What is the 77Zero project?
77Zero stands for “7 Continents. 7 Seas. ZERO Fuel.” On one level, that refers to my goal to explore all seven continents by sailing between them and without using any fossil fuels or biofuels for transportation, heating, or cooking. Overall, the project is about completely phasing out such fuels and making them a relic of the past.
Your first expedition is called FatBikeRafting the Arctic. What do you expect this trip to be like?
I hope I’ll stay on the razor’s edge between the gruelling and the sublime. A lot of it will be long, cold, wet days. On the other hand, summer that far north brings 24-hour daylight and warmer days than many assume. I’ll travel through a lot of ecosystems so I’m mostly just expecting a huge range of experiences.
Are you going to wear your kilt while you do that? (Andrew is fond of wearing kilts.)
No! But not for the reasons one might think. As a practical matter, you can’t stuff yourself into a drysuit while wearing a kilt. I’d have to pack it for many of the water sections, and replace it with another layer of something else. That would effectively double the weight I’d carry in the pants/skirts category.
Kilts do pretty well in a relatively wide range of weather conditions. They’re not great when it’s really wet, but their main failure is in the modesty department. Bikes + kilts + wind is a good equation for getting on YouTube for all the wrong reasons.
Has anyone done anything similar to this before?
There have been a few fatbike and packraft expeditions on sections of the coast connecting Alaska and British Columbia. It’s most common to travel the Arctic on foot, dogsled, snow machine, or skis when everything is frozen. Andrew Skurka did an Alaska-Yukon loop in 2010. Our routes are significantly different because he didn’t take a bike, I’m not taking skis, and our weather windows and start-finish locations are not the same. The Canadian portion is the wild card of this trip in many ways. Most of my resources for that section come from early 1900s polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?
I have a few personal motivations. I’d like to sail the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean at some point. Since I’m currently between sailboats, this will allow me to get a feel for the region from a different, but valuable, perspective. Also, I grew up in Alaska. Its in my bones and it’s been way too long since I’ve been there. And more simply; I love packrafting, mountain biking, and visceral connections with wildness.
We’re also making a documentary about the trip. I want to give people a way to think about adventure that doesn’t require dropping a bunch of cash on airfare, Land Rovers, and guides. My bigger goal is to get people into the wild. Our culture tends to look at nature through TV survival shows and car windows. I don’t want to discount the very serious risks and dangers in it, but I don’t think fear of nature is a healthy mindset to start from.
Going even further, recent studies have shown that people widely underestimate the benefit of having a relationship with nature. This lack of understanding of how much nature improves our overall psychology can create a disconnect. I’d say that reflects my experience as well. Ultimately, this disconnect becomes a problem for us as individuals, and it becomes a problem for nature because we become less inclined to protect the wildness that remains.
How did you get the money to do this?
My cost of living on this trip will be much cheaper than that of living in an apartment in a city, a lot cheaper actually… even if done perpetually. If you don’t count the documentary and the gear (which I’ve mostly collected over time), the total cost is probably only about $500 per month. It’s important to shift that perspective up front.
To answer your question, I run some websites that generate more than the $500 minimum monthly requirement. Some of the gear was also provided by the manufacturers.
Making the documentary in such an extreme and remote environment adds significant expense. If I’d decided to head south and not film it, I could have left with three days of planning, gear I had on hand, and zero dollars beyond what my sites generate. Since I decided to add so much complexity, I turned to Kickstarter to bridge the gap.
What are the greatest potential threats to your completion of the expedition?
Weather, logistics, and injury. The expedition includes a lot of difficult to research and difficult to traverse areas bracketed by huge variables regarding bodies of water that may or may not be frozen when I get there, and a temperamental ocean on the last leg. If I get stalled at the beginning, and the ocean turns nasty near the end, I may run out of time. Those variables also add logistical problems as far as making sure I can get food when I need it, and dealing with unpredictable equipment failures. Lastly, it’s hard to predict wear and tear on the body, and just as hard to predict accidents. I had to scrap an earlier version of this expedition last year when I lost concentration for a split second and broke my collarbone mountain biking.
Wild animals could be included under injury or logistics as well. Everybody seems to want to talk about bears in terms of getting attacked. Since I’ll be spending so much time north of the tree line where I won’t be able to hang stuff out of the reach of critters, I’m more worried about getting my food pilfered by animals in the middle of nowhere while I’m asleep.
How long have you been working on the 77Zero project?
The training started when I bought my sailboat in 2008. Since then it’s gone a few directions that I didn’t predict.
What did you do before you became a full-time adventurer?
Internet marketing allowed me to move to Panama full-time in 2006. After I got back to the US, I got a gig running the internet marketing efforts for a small company and leveraged that into starting a small ad agency/consultancy.
What would you like to do for your next expedition?
I think this where I’m supposed to act like a pro athlete and say, “I’m just looking at next Sunday’s game.” But… the plans for the next expedition are to work sailing back into the equation. The exact plans will be largely determined by the capabilities of whatever boat I can scrounge up.
How long did it take you to grow that beard?
It’s at about 5 months in most of the pictures and Kickstarter video (below).