Interesting interview with Dermot Cosgrove who is making a solo traverse of Iceland in July 2019 in aid of Irish Dogs for the Disabled.
What is your background briefly?
My background is military, more specifically six years in the French Foreign Legion serving with an anti-tank / reconnaissance platoon of the 2nd Infantry Regiment and later while stationed in the Horn of Africa I took part in ceasefire observation missions and two tours of Somalia as part of the UN mission. I followed this up with becoming a field based security consultant in ´96 specialising in projects in remoter areas of Africa and the Middle East such as the Sudd Swamp of southern Sudan.
Some of the river crossings on my route across Iceland are described as intense & intimidating for drivers. All I can say is, thank God I´m going on foot!! #SoloAcrossIceland pic.twitter.com/OG3m54stz0
— Dermot Cosgrove (@DermotCosgrove) April 16, 2019
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
Its been very natural for me to move into long distance hiking, covering long distances on foot is something the Legion loves, it´s the basis of their unofficial motto “Marche Ou Creve” – March or Die which originates from the North African campaigns of the late 1800s when Legionnaires had to march to remote posts. I´ve always been an avid nature enthusiast and bird watcher so day hiking as part of that has always been a part of my life so mixing long distance hiking and wildlife watching has been very fluid. The Legion and my work as a field consultant very much encourages being able to work independently and being resilient. There are very few jobs these days where you have to combine man management, administration alongside navigation and knowledge of communications equipment and throwing disaster planning on top.
#Walk4TheDogs2 #DaysToGo80!!! ??#SoloAcrossIceland The first settlement on my route south, #Kópasker Only a little over 2 months to go & looking forward to the trail ahead. #FuelledByFirePot #MappedBySplashMaps #WaterToGo #Birdwatching #RifstangiPeninsula pic.twitter.com/AZv7JCmRt1
— Dermot Cosgrove (@DermotCosgrove) April 16, 2019
1 min pitch for what you are doing now?
In July of this year I´ll be heading to Iceland to walk from the most northern point on the Rifstangi Peninsula across the Icelandic Highlands to the most southerly point at Dyrholaey (not far from the town of Vik). I´ll be doing it solo and completely independent of resupply, I´ll be using a purpose built Benpacker Hiking Cart to hauling all my food and equipment. The route is a mixture of 4×4 tracks and hiking trail which will take in the famous Laugavegur & Fimmvorduhals hiking trails over the last half of the trip. When I decided to get into remote long distance hiking I thought I could also do some good while I was doing it so during all these challenges I’m raising funds for Irish Dogs for the Disabled who are a Cork based national charity who train and supply specialist assistance dogs to people with disabilities (mostly children) 100% free of charge and are solely supported by fundraising and charitable donations. They also supply therapy dogs and this year they´ll be supplying what I believe is Ireland very first court dog to help victims of sexual assault during their testimony.
You’ve done a few of these walks before, why, what inspires you?
In 2017 I hiked the Arctic Circle Trail in West Greenland and followed it up in 2018 with the first section of the GR10 hiking trail in the French Pyrenees. I select the trails based on the type of challenge they present, the remoteness of Greenland and the mountainous terrain of the Pyrenees plus their nature value. Greenland was my first foray into the Arctic Tundra where I saw Caribou, Arctic Fox and Sea Eagles at extreme close up. The Pyrenees gave me close encounters with fantastic Griffon Vultures.
Solo remote hiking is a unique way of seeing nature in action and it´s very personal experience which I find hugely inspirational.
I also have the added motivation that I´m able to help someone have a better quality of life.
Why Iceland (it does look beautiful), how long will it take?
I select my trek based on being able to do them within the four week time frame that my job allows along with their nature value plus they have to offer a specific challenge. Greenland was the ultra remoteness, The Pyrenees was mountains and Iceland the challenge will be distance plus the scenery of the Highlands and it´s undoubtedly one of the best bird-watching locations in Europe. The intention is to complete the 600kms in 25 days, 21 days of walking plus additional rest days along the route. As with Greenland I´ll be carrying a satellite tracking beacon and posting a link online so people can follow my progress.
How can people find out more about you & your work?
My own personal website will be live from the 15th of April where people can learn more about me, my love of the outdoors and bird-watching. There´ll also be more about the work of Irish Dogs for the Disable and how to donate. Plus I´ll have a blog where I´ll be updating people about my training, the equipment I use, I´ll also be doing reviews of outdoors equipment and books and there´ll be periodical guest blogs from people involved in the outdoors and wildlife.
Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?
Future plans, in 2020 the intention is to up things a gear by returning to Greenland in March for a Winter expedition. I´ll be teaming up with friend and mentor Huw Thomas to ski and sled haul a deviation of the Arctic Circle Trail which we´ve christened the Great White Walk (Game of Thrones fans). I’m also researching a trip for later on in 2020 (September) where the aim will be to trek an even longer distance than the 600kms in Iceland.