Tom Avery: My Life In Travel
'The Scottish Highlands in February is a real adventure playground'
Saturday 16 July 2005
Making sandcastles on the beach in Cornwall with my family. We used to go each summer, which was always fantastic.
My last expedition; we were trying to determine the first person to reach the North Pole. An American explorer - Robert Peary - claimed to have got there first in 1909 in just 37 days. We recreated his journey, travelling along the same route using husky dogs and wooden sleds and got there in almost the same time, with just five hours to spare. That vindicated his claim. While we were there, we came across his old base camp, which nobody had found before. There were old fuel cans and sled runners, which gave us a real shot of adrenalin.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
The Scottish Highlands in February when they're covered in snow; it's a real adventure playground. Unfortunately, I don't get up there nearly as often as I'd like.
What have you learnt from your travels?
When I travel to polar regions, I always take an eye mask, because the 24-hour sunlight can make it difficult to sleep.
Ideal travelling companion?
When I travel it's mostly for expeditions. My last companions were a pack of Canadian Inuit dogs. There are less than 400 of them left in the world and they are amazing; loyal, strong and incredibly friendly. They really pushed themselves for us.
Greatest travel luxury?
A Leatherman pen knife, which has all sorts of gadgets on it. It's incredibly useful for fixing anything from skis to sleds, but can be a bit difficult to get through airports these days.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I'm probably an adrenalin junkie, because I'm not very good with culture and I don't like lying around on beaches. I have just been to Sardinia for some R&R, though, which was lovely.
I tend to read travel and expedition literature. I have just finished Thor Heyerdahl's The Kon-Tiki Expedition and I always take a Lonely Planet.
Where has seduced you?
Verbier in the Swiss Alps. I have skied a lot and Verbier has it all, from fantastic skiing to great nightlife; no other resort can offer such extensive skiing. Kyrgyzstan is also absolutely stunning. When I was there five years ago, we climbed nine mountains that nobody had scaled before, which was amazing.
Better to travel or arrive?
Worst travel experience?
Falling into the Arctic Ocean about 100 miles from the North Pole during my last expedition. Luckily, I only got my legs wet. It's strange because it feels warm at first, even though the water is -2C, but when you get out all your clothing freezes solid. You have to run around in circles and keep moving.
A French exchange when I was younger. I hated being sent off to live in a barn in the middle of nowhere, but it was very good for my French.
The Hotel Lenin in a town called Osh in Kyrgyzstan. It was a concrete block in the middle of nowhere. It was a post-communist horror story, with rats running around, leaking pipes and no hot water.
The Capo d'Orso in Sardinia. It is in a spectacular setting right on the water's edge and they do amazing food. We were very spoiled there.
Favourite walk/swim/ ride/drive?
The Haute Route across the Alps. It's the big ski traverse from Chamonix to Zermatt. You cover 100 miles over six days, staying in huts.
Best meal abroad?
Anything Italian - especially antipasti, which is a winner every time.
First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
Get something to eat, because airline food is pretty ordinary - if you are lucky to get anything at all.
I'd love to go heli-skiing in Alaska. Off-piste skiing in Europe is great, but it tends to get tracked out pretty quickly and you don't get the big snowfalls that you get in Alaska.
La Paz in Bolivia. It's about 13,000 feet above sea level in the Andes and surrounded by spectacular icy peaks.
To Iceland in August. I'll be spending four or five days dog sledding and exploring the ice cap.
Tom Avery will be speaking at Pioneers in the Park at the Belvedere Restaurant in Holland Park, London to celebrate the launch of Johnnie Walker Green Label whisky on 25 July; www.pioneersinthepark.com.
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