An exploring and adventuring couple originally from Stonehaven are seeking to become the first people in history to travel the length of Alaska by human power alone.
Expedition ‘Due North: Alaska’ will take 80 days, cover more than 2000 miles, and will see husband and wife Luke and Hazel Robertson complete the equivalent of kayaking to Iceland from the UK, cycling the length of the UK and completing 30 marathons back to back.
They set off in early May 2017, soon after taking on the ‘Marathon des Sables’ – a gruelling 156 mile multi-stage running race through the Sahara Desert, billed as ‘the toughest footrace on earth’.
Luke, who has an artificial pacemaker and came through brain surgery to become the youngest Brit and the first Scot to ski 730 miles solo and unsupported to the South Pole in 2016, and Hazel, who among other endurance events has run a 140 mile Arctic Ice Ultramarathon and the 250 mile Cape Wrath ultramarathon, are fundraising for charity Marie Curie, for which they are both ambassadors.
The couple, both 31-years-old, originally from Stonehaven and now living in Edinburgh, will begin their journey in the very southeast of Alaska.
From the Pacific Ocean they will head north through the temperate rainforests of the Pacific coast, passing glaciers and mountains, and through boreal forest.
They will then race through tundra desert high above the Arctic circle, before travelling along the open the Arctic Ocean to the finish.
The journey is supported by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who said: “A true world-first expedition is a rare thing nowadays and I am very proud to support ‘Due North: Alaska. Hazel and Luke’s journey through one of the last great wildernesses is both daring and unique and I applaud both their ambition to educate an inspire others through their exploration and to continue to support Marie Curie’s Fundraising efforts.”
The US state of Alaska, which is more than seven times larger than the UK but has a population only 15 per cent of that of the UK, is often called ‘The Last Frontier’ and is one of the world’s last great wildernesses.
Through Due North: Alaska, the couple expect to come face to face with bears, moose, lynx, orcas, humpback whales and bison. As well as clouds of midges!
The expedition is working in conjunction with Education Scotland and youth groups to provide a fully interactive educational expedition that will seek to engage young people and make the journey as accessible as possible to as many as possible.
Throughout the expedition they will be filming, blogging, vlogging, updating social media, as well as hosting live Q&A sessions.
Luke said: “The prospect of engaging the next generation and helping inspire them through exploration is something that we’re very passionate about.
“We want to get young people excited and inspired about the outdoors and the environment and this is reflected in the visions and values of the expedition.
“That’s why we’re teaming up with Education Scotland and youth groups to develop a fully interactive and educational expedition that will engage young people across the globe.
“When skiing across Antarctica, I arrived at the South Pole with the equipment I set out with. During Due North: Alaska, we have three transitions and three different sports, and so the logistics and equipment are much more complicated. This is also journey that has never been attempted.”
Hazel added: “We’re looking forward to continuing to fundraise for Marie Curie a charity that we’re proud Ambassadors for. We want to reach out to as many people as possible and give them the opportunity to join us; playing a part in this world first journey.
“As on any wilderness expedition, we’ll have to rely heavily on our equipment, but because we are carrying all our gear we’ll need to travel as light as possible and so every piece of kit has to be essential. We’ll also be relying heavily on each other - both of us working to our strengths as part of this team expedition, and also for motivation when things get difficult (which they certainly will at times).
“We are under no illusions that it will be tough but are confident that we have the experience, the knowledge and the determination to see it through.”