Weekend Warm-Up: Into the Empty Quarter

Desert
Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron hauling their cart in the Empty Quarter Desert. Photo: Humphreys/McCarron.

In the first of ExWeb’s new Weekend Warm-Up series, we bring you an adventure story from the heat of the Arabian Peninsula.

On a journey inspired by their hero, Wilfred Thesiger, an English travel writer and explorer, Leon McCarron and Alastair Humphreys walked 1,600 kilometres into the Empty Quarter, a particularly desolate section of the Arabian Desert spanning the countries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen.

Writing about Thesiger and the inspiration for the trip, Humphreys said:

Major Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger, CBE, DSO, FRAS, FRGS—to give his full title—was the stereotypical old-fashioned British explorer: tall, craggy-featured, and equally at ease wearing Arab robes or a sharp London three-piece suit. He was eccentric, hard-as-nails, and lived a life filled with extraordinary adventure.

Thesiger had “the man’s courage to live out the boy’s dream.” His greatest book, Arabian Sands, is considered a classic of British travel writing. It encouraged me to think ambitiously, but simply, about big journeys of my own. His prose is sparse and measured, thoughtful and honest. He was committed to always testing himself. He lived ascetically and strived to match the Bedu’s high standards: The harder the life, Thesiger believed, the finer the person. And ever since I read Arabian Sands I dreamed of one day making a journey in his footsteps, into the Empty Quarter desert.

You can watch the festival cut below, or the full 60-minute movie via the following link (Password: DesertFilm). Access to the full version will expire on the 28 May.

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK specialising in adventurous travel and expeditions, such as mountaineering, polar travel, and ocean crossings. Ash juggles a day job as a public health scientist with this second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, national and international outdoor and adventure magazines, and various websites. Bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

Alongside writing, Ash also spends some time undertaking his own adventures, and completed a 640 km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in 2018. His next arctic journey is a 700 km trek along the coast of Baffin Island in Canada.

Read more at www.ashrouten.com

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