Wild Camping With – Ian Finch
Me and Ian both met on a chance meeting back in November 2015 when we had both booked onto a navigation workshop with Paul Poole mountaineering. We soon clicked once we realised we were similar characters, both had similar dreams and aspirations, both interested in pursuing a career in expedition leadership and both looking to get out more and explore the world. We caught up not long after and decided to go on a two day trek and wild camp in the Carneddau mountain range, Snowdonia National Park. We have remained good friends ever since, and now help each other with various different expedition planning stages and strategies. I got a chance to interview Ian, here is what he said –
Tell us a little about your life and some of the adventures you have previously been involved in?
All of my journeys, long or short involve the story thread of native cultures. Within this there is my search for simplicity, wisdom and a way of living. Since leaving the Royal Marines in 2007 I spent my time reading, researching and attempting to visit 1st nation communities that reside in remote regions. Sometimes the trips are a short cultural hit and sometimes I am fortunate enough to travel through countries for some months at a time. Either way I’m there to explore and learn and to push my mental boundaries learning about who these people really are and how the modern world is affecting their ancient traditions. I then try to educate and inspire on my return through blogs posts, photography and film. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with the Inuit of Greenland, the cultures of Tibet and Nepal and most notably the 1st nation groups of Canada and Alaska.
What inspired you to get out and start living a more adventurous lifestyle?
I have always loved the outdoors but it took time to nurture and develop. The mountains, woodlands and the forests of the UK are beautiful places where I spent many a weekend. In these locations there is a knowledge and a power there that I resonate with and these wild places are now part of me. I grew up with a father who was a hunter, a fisherman and an all round outdoorsman. His influence has been huge yet there was something inside of me that came from a place where I couldn’t explain. Deep down I found I loved pushing myself in the solitude and magnitude of the greater outdoors. I didn’t really know what I was following, maybe just an instinct and intuition.
What did you learn from the native cultures on your journey along the Yukon river?
The most important thing(s) I learnt about the native cultures is how strong their link is to the land and how their ancient traditions reflect that. Their lives and heritage are centered around this natural connection. Historically they used the river and its wildlife as their only food source so they view the animals and landscape with an almost spiritual significance. Their respect for all living things (this includes the wilderness itself) is magical, believing everything contains a spirit. I had many conversations with tribal elders and local fisherman and found those belief systems permeate everything that they say and do. Sadly, when I left each community my connection to the river became ever deeper. I didn’t see it just as a thundering body of water destined for the sea, I saw it as a provider of life not just for the people but the animals that depend on it and that has stayed with me until this day. The landscape and environment is not a place we intermittently live and visit once in a while. We are part of it in its entirety, we work together and that’s why some of us feel at home when we return there. Its part of our DNA.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up on your journey, and if so what motivated you to keep going?
Never, I would’ve died before giving up. It was too important. I was passionate about this trip for two years, It just wasn’t in me to quit. In all honesty you can puff out your chest and say pure determination and grit got me there but I was consistently pulled towards the end by the story for what I was there to discover and a desire to tell it completely and honestly. When you have that drive you’ll go to the ends of the earth.
If you could join any expedition past or present, which one would it be?
I would’ve liked to have been part of the perilous 1804 American expedition of Lewis and Clarke called the Corps of Discovery. These two men and a small bunch of hardy souls paddled (upstream) for 1000’s of miles on the Missouri river exploring and mapping the western continent of the USA. Their goal was to initially find the source of the river but second to that to find a waterborne passage to the Pacific Ocean. Also one of their goals was to map and make contact with all the Native American tribes that were, at this time, un contacted all over the great plains of America and into the mountains of the Rockies. It took two and a half years to complete and return. Sadly, they are still largely ignored by modern explorative history. Their story is absolutely incredible and breathtaking to read. In that time span they only lost one man to illness, an amazing feat even in todays terms. It may not have been an exotic journey or a polar epic but it exploration terms its up there with the greats.
What would be your ultimate wildest journey?
I have often dreamt of a journey where i walked across an entire country, with a young or old person from the countries indigenous group, with the aim to reconnect either person back to their lands where they currently live or grew up. We’d do this by researching history, talking to elders, remembering the old ways, meeting descendants of the people and walking the ancient trails. For me it would be a truly incredible journey that would not only bring me some powerful moments but for the other person it would provide an opportunity to reconnect them with their environment and landscape in the spirit of their ancestors.
What’s your advice for someone looking to plan their own adventure, but may be lacking the confidence to do so?
I think It all begins with passion. Yet passion is a result of doing something you instinctively enjoy. I would encourage them to sit down with a pen and pencil and write if money and time were no object where would I love to explore in and around my home city? I’d then expand that to where would I explore in my country then continent, then globally. I’d then get them to hang these dreams on a wall, on your bathroom mirror or magnetised to your fridge. The power of seeing these journeys everyday and night would subconscious pull you in the direction of making them a reality. In the short term i’d say follow your instinct and just step out the front door, head into a woodland, take time to smell, touch and look up. Spend an afternoon watching how the winds affect the forests. Look down at your feet and watch how the trees effect the ground. Spare a thought towards the power of the outdoors and how everything you see is connected. When you begin to join those dots the greater outdoors becomes something than just a place to visit. It becomes a way of life.