From hiking Australia to Explorer
In this post we continue the series of interviews with interesting outdoors people that have inspired us to keep getting into the outdoors!
Louis-Philippe Loncke is a Belgian explorer who discovered hiking in Australia back in 2004. This experience has led him to bushwalk all over the country and to become a maniac in unsupported treks to remote corners of Tasmania or deserts. His 2008 world first expedition across the Simpson desert brought him the respect from the explorers’ community. Just in Australia he has over 3000km of walking and an impressive resume of Firsts:
In just 12 days he crossed the entire West MacDonnells National Park unsupported from Mount Zeil to Alice Springs. He climbed Mount Zeil, Razorback, Sonder and Giles underway. He carried all his food for the trip and only took water from waterholes (no tanks). The trek was 330km long and he thus walked the entire Larapinta trail except off-track from Ormiston Gorge to Mount Giles and then a direct off-track part to join back the Larapinta.
Two weeks after completing the “Mountains of the Outback” trek, he walked in the same unsupported way across Fraser Island from its Southern to Northern tip in 9 days. He used the official Fraser walk and the beach up to Orchid beach then went inland to cover the last 26km in 3 days of jungle, almost impenetrable vines, drylakes and sand dunes without seeing a single dingo !
The most daunting trek was a 49 day trek (without food resupply!) across Tasmania’s wilderness starting from Cradle Valley to the South Cape climbing 19 peaks from Mount Ossa to Federation peak passing through Mount Anne.
It took him 2 weeks of bush bashing from Federation peak to reach the South Coast track mainly following the New River with a leg infected with the trench foot disease. That’s an average of 2km per day to cover 30km as the crow flies. Having a broken GPS and the only way to locate himself was by triangulation when climbing into the trees when it was possible. All his routes can be found on his website.
So, to the questions
How about a bit of background on yourself. Live where? Work where?
I was born in Mouscron in 1977, a small town in Belgium at the border with France. I didn’t do many sports in my youth but was a boyscout and learned how to use a map and compass but no real 2-3 day hiking before backpacking Australia in 2004-2005. I live and work in Brussels as management consultant.
How did you first get into adventuring/ hiking / trekking? Any particular mentor or group?
Before going to Australia, a friend invited me on a weekend walking trip in Ireland. I had no clue that there existed hiking socks and bought my first boots for the trip. He used the “Walking in Ireland” from the Lonely Planet to guide us. In Australia, I came to scuba dive and found the same book for Australia in a bookshop while looking for a road atlas. I started doing a few hikes with it in the Blue Mountains and after 6 months I had covered more than 1100km in 40+ bushwalks. I remember reading that I needed gaiters for Tasmania but had no clue of what it was, never heard the word in my mother tongue before. I bought a pair and also a fuel stove. After a hike in the Grampians, I was invited by a couple to stay with them for 2 nights. During one of the evenings we watched “Alone across Australia” from Jon Muir. I was amazed by his achievement and never thought I’d be doing myself some real adventures. Jon Muir is still the biggest adventurer to me with Mike Horn, both in different disciplines but both pushed beyond limits of what was thought impossible. I could even say, what most contemporary adventurers don’t even imagine as it’s close to be mad gutsy insane.
After Australia, I moved on to New Zealand for the summer. I was in extremely good shape, trained, lightweight style and fast as walking longer hours aiming at completing the maximum of tramps in half the recommended days, except for the Dusky track, which I did alone in bad weather. On that specific tramp, I was with 2 other parties: 3 young Israeli who just finished the 2 years army duty and 3 professional US Marine Corps. We each covered the daily distance in roughly the same time. It was the hardest and most dangerous hike we all had done. One of the Marines told me at the end he was amazed by my solo walking skills, adding the Dusky was one of the hardest things he’s done with crossing Alaska on ski just above it. So I understood that with proper fitness, training, gear and will to mental ability to push and still be smiling I could do great long walks but didn’t know I would be doing world first expeditions just a few years after.
Solo or with someone? Who is your preferred hiking partner?
I prefer to go solo, especially on unsupported treks. It’s very hard to find a partner who wants to share the same preparations, commitments and aims. Even if this was ok, he/she should be able to have the same fitness as I have (not stronger, not weaker). A difference pace will in total increase the time to cover the distance and in some ways decrease safety (catching up someone who waits can lead to less focus and this is where accidents happen). But some easier walks or I’d say normal known routes, being in group is more fun. The other advantage of being not solo is being able to take easier photos or video of someone in action. I never have a camera crew following me in extreme environments. And it certainly adds safety to call for help if someone falls in a hole, crevasse or would collapse from being tired or attacked by a wild animal. My last expedition to Everest Base Camp wasn’t solo. It was not easy to lead 2 walking partners who were fitter and less tired and didn’t often wait for me.
If you had a couple of months off just to hike, what would be the three multi day hikes in your country ( or nearby) you would complete?
The GR20 in Corsica (France) & the length of the Pyrenees (France-Spain) and certainly a trek in Scandinavia maybe Lapland (Finland).
Alright, unlimited finances, money and time what would be the three multi day international treks you would complete?
The Te Araroa in New Zealand, Peru to South Patagonia, Alaska or entire Himalayas. But that’s excluding kayak treks and my next hardcore expeditions which I intend to start in a few years.
My three favourite bits of gear are? Why?
I like my old MSR Zoid 1 tent. Small, light, safe. Any 800gram sleeping bag rated to 0° C or less. A beanie. It’s hot and is also a cushion.
I really hate it when I am hiking / trekking and …..?
I see trash or people smoking or playing music. It’s just unfair to be in the wild and be reminded of our cities. Worse: kids having a portable videogame with them !
I knew we were in trouble on that trip when …….
You’re going up and it starts snowing and you don’t want to go down before you reach the summit. The decision between reason and passion! Reason should be taken of course.
What trips have you planned in the next 12 months?
I’m preparing an attempt to be the first to cross Iceland unsupported from North to South (not the “easy” trek inland) from the highest to lowest latitude. It’s a double first as during the summer part I’ll take GPS points to be followed 6 months later during the winter part in close to 100% darkness. It’s very scary to imagine walking in whiteouts in the dark or should I say blackouts ? You can follow the adventure and the preparations of this Iceland Trek. Now I’m busy to design a special Kevlar carbon fiber pulka where I can sleep in it to resist heavy winds and the weight of the snow, I call it the sleeppulka for the moment, no final name for it yet.
What is your favourite outdoor website?
What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?
In Sydney, I used to go the Activate Outdoors, it felt they were more independent and had more experience because a bit older than in the other nearby shops. They were the first Aussies who knew about my first crazy long walks and they eventually decided to support me. In Europe I go often to Decathlon. Their Quechua brand for outdoor is good for general purpose. They don’t sell specific expedition gear.
Many thanks to Louis-Philippe for agreeing to this interview. Please take the time to check out the blogs he has kept on his adventures, they are wild reading!
We are always on the lookout for more interviews to share on Our Hiking Blog. Drop us an email if you are keen, or know of someone inspirational that we could contact!