Meet our new Scout Adventurer, Joe Doherty

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From childhood introvert to South Pole pioneer, Joe Doherty’s journey has taken him to an inspirational new summit: the official Scout Adventurer squad. Gearing up to mentor the next generation of thrill-seekers, we chat to the 25-year-old from Hampshire to see how Scouts shook things up – for the better


Let’s start at the start. What was it like for you growing up?

I’m originally from Andover, Hampshire, which was the setting for a perfectly standard sort of childhood. I wasn't the most confident or outgoing kid; I spent a lot of time with my Nintendo 64. Everything, even going outside, I found nerve wracking. In this respect, Scouts pretty much changed my life. 


And how did you get into Scouts?

I was ten years old when my dad said to me, ‘Right, you've got to go and do something— I'm sending you to Scouts.’ He was a Scout leader, so begrudgingly I went along. That was the key moment that put me on this path. After that, I was off: it was like I’d been let off the leash.


Is it safe to say you had no sense of adventure prior to joining?

Honestly, I can’t remember myself having any natural outdoorsy-ness before Scouts. None at all. It was a transformation in the total sense of the word.


What was the real turning point? The first thing you fell in love with?

My very first winter camp. It was at Fearnley Cross down in the New Forest, and it just blew my brains. Sharing tents, staying up late, lighting fires, climbing, raft building, cooking in the outdoors—it was a sensory overload that left me amazed.


 ‘My dad said to me, ‘Right, you've got to go and do something—I'm sending you to Scouts. After that, I was off: it was like I’d been let off the leash.’


Now you’re a huge part of Hampshire Scout Expeditions (HSX). How did that come about?

After finishing at my local Explorer group, I heard about a six-week trip to Peru with a County based group, HSX. I thought, that sounds interesting, and signed up for the selection weekend. I was successful in joining the team, and the rest is history.


What kind of history?

In Peru, we built an orphanage, hiked Machu Picchu, climbed a 6,000m mountain and spent a week sightseeing around the country. The group embarks on an international trip every two years, so I stayed on after this to take a leadership role on the next six-week expedition to Nepal when I was 19 years old.


How does the group work in between expeditions?

We don't meet every weekend, more like a weekend every other month, and it's not really in Hampshire, either. We all tend to drive out to somewhere mountainous (North Wales, Dartmoor or the Lake District, that kind of thing) and rarely to the same place. Truly, it’s one of the best things I've ever been a part of.

Tell us about your latest expedition 

Around the time of the Nepal trip, eight of us discussed a dream to be the first Scouts in the world to ski to the South Pole and ski back. I lot of people think it was just me running the show on this one, but there was a huge team that took this from a dream to reality.

 ‘HSX is truly one of the best things I’ve ever been part of.’

Is it the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Absolutely. 61 days of skiing there and kite skiing back, so two and a half months on the ice. We camped in the some of the world's harshest environments; it was a pretty surreal experience to be where you're fairly confident no one else has been before.

Were there any ‘wow’ moments out on the ice?

We took a little plane to the edge of Antarctica, landing in the middle of nowhere. It was just ice on the horizon for hundreds and hundreds of miles. You could almost see the curvature of the earth. I thought, what have I signed myself up for? Do I really want to do this? It was a massive moment to know that this is actually happening. I'm here.

How did you eat out there?  

It was all dehydrated rations, which really helped to save on weight. We'd ski for eight hours a day, and every hour we'd stop to eat for ten minutes. I was eating about 12,000 calories a day and roughly 250g of chocolate, which—especially for a chocolate lover like me—sounds fantastic, but by the end it was too much. Even with this diet, we were burning so much energy that I lost 18 kilos by the time we got back.

Did anything go wrong during the expedition?

Answering what didn't go wrong would probably be easier. My skis broke on the last day so I had to walk, I sat on my favourite pair of sunglasses, my iPod glitched and was stuck for a whole week on some bagpipe music my dad had put on there. I cannot recommend the sound of constant bagpipes to any human being. Not even the Scots—you'll go crazy.

 ‘What went wrong? Answering what didn’t go wrong would probably be easier.’

What does it mean to be a Scout?

For me, to be a Scout means to be on a constant adventure, or at least on the lookout for one. An adventure is something you can't predict, it's uncertainty—what you'll be doing, the people you'll meet, where it'll take you. That’s the scary bit, but also the bit that makes life exciting. Making Scouts a constant part of my life meant keeping my life a constant adventure.

Do you have any advice for young adventurers?

Grab any opportunity to break free from your comfort zone—they are absolutely everywhere. And it's such a cliché, but never give up. I had six months to raise £77,000 or I wasn't going to Antarctica. People told me to start making other plans but I didn't think about giving up on my dream. To raise the funds, we contacted around 3,000 companies to sponsor us, and only four replied. Life is full of this kind of rejection, but you can get to where you want to be if you refuse to give up.

 ‘Making Scouts a constant part of my life meant keeping my life a constant adventure.’


How important to you it is to pass on your knowledge?

Hugely. There are no shortage of people like me who quite happy to be contacted on social media or email or, better yet, chatted to in person by people who are just looking for advice on how to get started. I know that I have the knowledge and tools to help budding adventurers get past those first few stumbling blocks and not be put off.

Who is your favourite fellow Scout Adventurer?
They’re all amazing, but I love what Alistair Humphries has done, proving adventure doesn’t need to be big or unattainable. He founded the idea of micro-adventures and it’s a really important message he’s pushing. I went to the South Pole, but someone else’s South Pole could be a wild camp in the New Forest. I won’t ever look down on anyone for the scale of his or her adventures.

‘I won’t ever look down on anyone for the scale of his or her adventures.’

What’s next for you?

Besides my new role as Scout Adventurer, I’ve recently helped set up an initiative that’ll be coming online soon: ‘My South Pole’. We’ll be holding free talks around Hampshire, and hopefully the country, to ask young people, what’s your South Pole? After that, we can offer help and support, and get people on their way to achieving their goals. 

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