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South & Southwest Coastal Path 2020

One of my favourite routes in the UK is along the south and the southwest coastal paths.  Following my return from Alaska I threw some kit together and headed for the New Forest, and from there to Lymington and onto the south coast along the Solent.  I made it onto the SW path as far as Weymouth, by which time I had received the government text about covid and the initiation of our first lockdown.  With that I concluded my journey and headed off home.  I had been treated to peace, quiet and solitude, with so many days spent out in nature and overlooking the sea, almost all with brilliant sunshine.  I had well and truly thawed out from my experiences in The North.

The Iditarod Trail Invitational 2020

The Iditarod is a phenomenal event.  In 2015 I raced 350 miles from just outside of Anchorage to McGrath.  This year I also concluded my journey in McGrath, but my goal had been Nome, a total of 1000 miles from the same start line.  Conditions this year were horrendous, with considerable snowfall and warm temperatures making progress extremely slow and energy-sapping.  With limited time due to work commitments I ended my journey at McGrath.  Sadly no foot racers made it to Nome this year on account of the conditions.  When funds and Covid permit I will return to complete that journey, and in the meantime I will pine for all those trail miles I am yet to explore.

Pre-Brexit Pro-European Fling 2019
Dr Mark Hines Canada
Dr Mark Hines Iceland Sonder Fat Bike

I do love travelling, so it should come as no suprise that the thought of travel in Europe becoming more restrictive was not a welcome one.  The ease of travelling, living and working in Europe is a privilege I have enjoyed immensely, including the cheap roaming on my phone, cheap banking, health cover, and ability to just swan across borders without the need for visas or tedious queues.  Therefore, I decided to spend March on a tour of the EU countries I had never visited before, plus a few that I had along the way.  I flew out to Estonia, and from there made my way, mostly by bus, to Slovenia, via Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Austria.  The journey was a delight, and I look forward to many more ventures in these beautiful, culturally and historically diverse lands.

Canada C2C Summer Edition 2018

A return to Whitehorse to continue the journey south, picking up the Cassiar Highway and entering a land of bears and wolves.  When the skies were clear the scenery was beautiful, but amidst summer forest fires, the air soon thickened with the smell of burning woodland, and visibility was poor.  It was an extraordinary experience, and arriving at the finish at the Pacific Ocean, close to the US border, had been a challenge in all sorts of ways I had not expected.

Icelandic Winter 2018

Cycling in Iceland is a daunting undertaking, and especially in winter.  It is not particularly cold, with temperatures comparable to those in the UK, but the conditions are brutal.  The high winds are legendary, sometimes pushing me off a road, sometimes into it.  The winds were strong, rains were heavy, then the snow would come, then more winds.  The bike would suffer as water got into mechanisms and froze up, seizing the brakes and the gears.  At night the snows would force me off the roads earlier than planned in search of campgrounds.  It was an epic experience, but tough throughout. 

Dr Mark Hines Billboard SUP London
Big Ben to Black Sea SUP 2017

So far the second best journey I have ever attempted.  I left London along the Thames in late May, 2017, and paddled out along the estuary, then hugging the coastline to Folkestone, before paddling across the Channel and into France.  I used the canals while I could, switching to bike to get across Germany and join the Danube, from where I continued my journey to the Black Sea.  It was a mixed adventure with some cycling, a little hiking, and mostly SUP, and it was epic in proportions.  I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Dr Mark Hines Arctic Canada Sonder Fat Bike
Canada C2C Arctic Edition 2017

A journey from the top to bottom of Canada began at the Beaufort Sea, Arctic Ocean, in the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.  From there I cycled along an ice road cut into the sea until I reached Inuvik, from where I joined the Dempster Highway (featured in Ice Road Truckers), and progressed to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, via Dawson City.  Having nursed a damaged bike the whole route without scope for repair, and with the start of my next expedition close at hand, I decided to split the journey into winter (Arctic and sub-Arctic) and summer (temperate zone) halves.

Dr Mark Hines Ultra Trail Gobi Race
Ultra Trail Gobi Race 2016

The Ultra-Trail Gobi Race is a 250-mile (400-km) race in China's Gobi.  The event is organised by the Chinese, and throw at it everything they can to make it an incredible event for the races.  In this they succeeded like no other race I have experienced.  We plot our own routes between checkpoints and are self-sufficient throughout.  The whole event, including race staff, support teams and fellow racers, made this a truly wonderful ultra, and something I was very pleased to be a part of.

Dr Mark Hines Yukon Quest
Sled Hauling the Yukon Quest 2016

As a fan of The Far North, Canada, Alaska, and solitude and sled-hauling, the 1000-mile journey from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, was the best thing I have ever done.  This was a solo endeavour, hauling a sled along the route of the world's toughest sled dog race.  During my quest I suffered with some mild frostbite and a few broken ribs, shared the trail with wolves and mountain lions, and finished wanting to do it all again.

Dr Mark Hines Iditarod Trail Invitational
Iditarod Trail Invitational 2015

Although a veteran of three finishes in the YAU, at the start line of the ITI I was once again considered a rookie.  As such, I was only permitted to race in the 350-mile edition, but that included a mountain pass and some truly challenging conditions.  This event was an entirely different animal to the YAU, requiring greater experience and fitness, and reaching the finish was a greater challenge than two of my three Yukon finishes.

Dr Mark Hines Assam India
Assam 2014

My first visit to India was for La Ultra / The High, where I was fortunate to meet many like-minded people from across India.  In 2014 I returned to India to spend time with my new friends, before traveling to Assam in the northeast, for a few hundred miles of hiking.  This was a hugely rewarding trip, meeting many people who had never before seen a westerner, and a cultural indulgence I will always remember with happiness.

Dr Mark Hines Yukon Arctic Ultra
Yukon Arctic Ultra 2013

My third and final YAU in 2013 was in good conditions, used mostly as an excuse to get back into sled-hauling ahead of travels to Point Barrow, Alaska.  This was a comfortable finish for me, placing second in the foot category whilst saving something back for my exploits on the sea ice shortly after.  But then, every journey into the sub-Arctic is an adventure, and this was no exception.

Dr Mark Hines La Ultra The High
La Ultra / The High 2012

La Ultra / The High is arguably the toughest footrace in the world.  It takes place along mountain passes in the Himalayas, which reach above 5000 metres, with high altitude and low oxygen making racing a formidable challenge.  This was my first event with a dedicated support crew, and I was privileged to have the team from Summit Fever Media with me from the start.

Dr Mark Hines Yukon Arctic Ultra
Yukon Arctic Ultra 2011

When I finished the YAU in 2009 I did so as a complete rookie, with a mind only set on reaching the end.  The challenges of that year were played down due to the conditions being some of the best the race had ever had.  With this in mind I felt I owed it to myself to return and see the Yukon in tougher times.  With temperatures routinely below -40 Celsius and stretching below -50 C, I was not found wanting in 2011.

Dr Mark Hines TGO Challenge
TGO Challenge 2010

The Great Outdoors (TGO) challenge is an event that takes participants along their own routes from Scotland's west to east coasts.  It is a celebration of the great outdoors, and one of the most pleasant, enriching, and thoroughly enjoyable events I have had the privilege of participating in.

Dr Mark Hines Transalpine Race
Transalpine Race 2009

The Transalpine race was one of the most spectacular, and definitely the best organised event, I have ever done.  Beginning in Germany, the race route took us through Austria, Switzerland and into Italy.  The alps were an incredible setting and the weather was extremely kind.  Tight cut-offs made it an excellent challenge.

Dr Mark Hines Yukon Arctic Ultra
Yukon Arctic Ultra 2009

The Yukon Arctic Ultra was my first cold weather event.  I fell in love with the Yukon on that first visit, and returned to the sub-Arctic or Arctic almost every year since.  Still, despite many returns, that first experience was the most important.  The pristine whiteness, the crystalline snow, and the journey along trails in one of the world's last true wildernesses keeps calling me back.

Dr Mark Hines Jungle Marathon
Dr Mark Hines Marathon des Sables
Jungle Marathon 2008

The Jungle Marathon was one of the most exciting and fun ultra races I ever did.   A week spent running through dense jungle, along cut trails, and sleeping in hammocks by rivers was an extraordinary experience for me, and I loved it.  This race took place in the Brazilian Amazon, and unfortunately no longer exists, but other races in other jungles are out there.

Marathon des Sables 2007

The Marathon des Sables was my first ultra endurance race.  Confidence I might finish came from years travelling in Egypt, and the Egyptian Sahara in particular, coupled with my academic background in exercise physiology.  Completing this race and writing a book about my training and experiences was what set me on the path to become a professional adventurer.

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