Jack Williams – an up and coming outdoor adventurer and public speaker from Solihull, West Midlands. He has conquered many obstacles from the desolate Sahara Desert to the freezing cold temperatures of Icelandic glaciers.
In 2016 Jack was diagnosed with testicular cancer and is currently preparing to take part in the 2017 Fjallraven Polar to help raise money for small charities that involve more research into fighting cancer. He is as always very high in spirits and ready for the next adventure and we have been lucky enough to interview him before his up and coming expedition to talk about his passion for the outdoors.
What spurred you on to become an outdoors adventurer?
A mate down the pub… in short. And David Attenborough. I remember sitting in bed watching a condensed version of the Planet Earth series and thinking ‘I’m going to walk from one end of Africa to the other’. This was a bit bold, but none the less I thought I’d start training, and where better to start training for a crossing of Africa than in the Malvern hills? However odd this may have been, the views from the tops of this comparatively little bumps took my breath away and I was hooked on getting outdoors and hiking up high things. I am still yet to hike the length of Africa…
Where did your love of the outdoors come from?
I have always been outdoorsy. I may not have grown up in the Highlands or the depths of Snowdonia, but I live in a rural area and would be outdoors at every opportunity, whether it was searching for the elusive worm or building a den! I progressed from mud construction to Cubs, and then the Sea Cadets, where I my passion grew, and in varying fields, be it kayaking, hiking or simply a good camp.
Could you give us some of your favourite outdoor destinations – one far away from home and one maybe close to home and why you love to visit these places?
My favourite outdoor destinations would have to be first Namche Bazzar in the Himalayas. This Himalayan trading town is the perfect blend of busy Tibetan life and the natural might of the Himalaya. That being said, if I were to choose a place void of any human settlement it would have to be the Sahara Desert, it made me feel like I was Lawrence of Arabia, exploring the world for the first time. As for places closest to home, I’m going to choose Grindsbrook in the Peak District. I have lost count of the times I have wandered up here, but it is my go to day out – the perfect escape, and not all that far from home. Plus, the start/end of the walk is dotted with great pubs too!
What is your most memorable moment from the many adventures/expeditions that you have been on?
I think the moment that sticks out to me the most is the moment I crawled into my sleeping bag at the end of the wettest coldest day of my life during the crossing of the Vatnajokull. My skiing wasn’t what it could have been, and as I was at the back of the group where I spent most of the day with my pulka crashing into the back of me and knocking me over. The surface snow was slush, and with a light drizzle of rain falling for the entire day I was thoroughly soaked through and utterly frozen. The rest of my team shovelled me into the first tent as soon as it was erect and after throwing a bunch of hand warmers into my sleeping bag I crawled in.
I’m not sure I can repeat the words I used to describe the sheer joy I felt as I started to feel my feet for the first time in 14 hours.
Do you have a piece of equipment you love to use the most/couldn’t live without?
My dry bags. They’re super lightweight inexpensive bags of ‘peace of mind’. I cannot stand the rain, not least because of the damage it can do to all your gear and the kit your carrying. Shovelling everything into a bunch of dry bags is a huge step towards being able to forget about the rain and just enjoy your day.
What is your next expedition and what do you hope to achieve?
My next expedition is a particularly exciting one. I was lucky enough to gain the votes needed to join a 300km expedition across the Arctic known as the Fjällräven Polar. After being diagnosed with testicular cancer barely six month ago, this trip is a very special one to me, and I hope to inspire others in a similar situation to mine to embrace the outdoors and to use it to fuel their ambitions. Adventure makes me feel alive, and after finding out about my cancer, feeling alive is all I want.
So many people helped me with my place on this team, so to say thank you, I have chosen to fundraise for Worldwide Cancer Research. My chance of survival went from ‘nope’ to ‘of course’ thanks to the fantastic efforts of medical researchers. Without charities such as Worldwide Cancer Research, there is no way I would have been able to go on this expedition.
And finally…what advice would you give to the people out there that may spur them onto start their own adventure?
I think that adventure is to a human what milk is to a cat – once you’ve had a bit, you just can’t stop. It may be easier said than done, but to anyone debating an adventure, stop debating and just go and adventure! Don’t over complicate it. Adventure is everywhere, you just need to go and find it, and once you do I dare you to stop!
If I could change anything from my first adventures it would be some of my kit. Get good gear, good advice and good boots! Wear merino – it doesn’t smell! It’s all too easy for rubbish gear to put a new adventurer off stepping outdoors again.
Jack is taking part in the 2017 Fjallraven Polar expedition. He is raising money for Worldwide Cancer Research, a charity which is obviously very close to his heart. Worldwide Cancer Research help to fund the most innovative and challenging research, no matter where in the world it occurs to reduce incidences of cancer and improve survival for everyone. We would love if you could support this cause by visiting Jack’s Just Giving page and also visit his personal website here.