Top 10 Expeditions of 2018: #3: First Winter Crossing of Tasmania

Louis-Philippe Loncke hiking in his drysuit in Tasmania. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke

Over the last 12 months, ExplorersWeb has documented incredible adventures in climbing, cycling, running, walking, skiing and anything involving force of will and dedication to a dream in the outdoors. As this year comes to a close, we present our countdown of the Top 10 Expeditions of 2018.

At the end of September, experienced distance hiker and desert expert Louis-Phillipe Loncke completed a 52-day winter crossing of Tasmania. During his time in the Tasmanian wilderness, Loncke became known as the Mad Belgian by locals, and it’s believed he made the world’s first unsupported winter crossing of mainland Tasmania. He walked, paddled and bushwhacked from the quaintly named town of Penguin, in the north, to the South Cape, covering a distance of around 500km.

No stranger to hauling heavy packs through challenging terrain, Loncke started off with a whopping 62 kilos on his back, including food, water, snowshoes and a packraft. Despite the refrigerator-weight of food, his push for the finish was touch and go. He brought food for 40 days, but had to ration drastically in the final two weeks. In the last week, he had to make do with dining sumptuously on hot water, aspirin and a handful of nuts. In all, his weight dropped 16kg.

A long-distance hike may not be as technical as one of the cutting-edge climbs or ski descents on our list, but Loncke had to overcome many difficult obstacles along the way: icy whitewater rivers, dense scrub and deep mountain snow. The mild blizzards and sloppy wet snow he dealt with are in some ways even worse than dry arctic cold. Finally, while Sherpa porters are famous for carrying equivalent loads, they usually do so on mountain trails, not bushwhacking, and they use tumplines, which bear staggering weights better than western-style backpacks like the one Loncke used.

The trip comes 12 years after Loncke first spent time in Tasmania, completing a full crossing of the designated national park wilderness area and summitting fourteen peaks. Since then, the Mad Belgian has been named European Adventurer of the Year after completing a number of world first unsupported crossings including the Simpson Desert in Australia, Death Valley in United States and the Bolivian salt flats. Like many of Loncke’s other original undertakings, his winter Tasmania adventure may remain unrepeated for some time.

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is a full-time PhD Exercise Scientist from the UK. Outside of work Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer who has written for Rock and Ice, Outside, Red Bull, The Telegraph, Financial Times, UK Climbing etc. In 2018 he led a 640km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia.

See more at www.ashrouten.com or contact him via ash@explorersweb.com

You can support Ash's ambition of becoming a full time writer at www.patreon.com/ashrouten

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Brigitte Muit
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Lou-Phi is unassuming, but without a doubt inspired! And strong! And inspiring! We caught up in Belgium last month and I interviewed him. The audio is on http://www.patreon.com/brigittemuir