Leon McCarron is a Northern Irish adventurer and filmmaker. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and specialises in long distance, human-powered expeditions.
At the end of 2012 Leon crossed 1000 miles of the Empty Quarter desert with Al Humphries, roughly following the route of explorer Wilfred Thesiger and pulling a cart loaded with their supplies.
Just prior to that he had completed a 6-month, 3,000 mile expedition walking the length of China, from the Gobi desert in Mongolia to South China Sea in Hong Kong. National Geographic produced a 4-part TV series of his journey.
Leon’s exploits didn’t stop there with other journeys including a 14,000 miles solo and unsupported bicycle ride from New York to Hong Kong, a folding bike trip around the British Isles to climb the six highest Peaks, and the descent of the longest river in Iran, the Karun, and a crossing of Argentine Patagonia on horseback.
At BAM we love Leon’s humble and determined approach to completing challenging adventures in remote parts of the world. His passion to share his stories through writing and making films provides inspiration for others.
Do you have a secret skill or talent?
I play the Irish tin whistle – not very well, but I play it! I often carry it when I’m travelling and use it to make friends – music is a great icebreaker!
What would you have chosen as your dream job?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a postman or a professional rugby player. Neither are looking likely now! I think my dream job now would be to be a Foreign Correspondent – I have a romanticized ideal of it in my head, reporting from the beach in Cuba, or from a dusty frontier town in the Wild West, but I still think I’d like the reality too!
What things do you do to stay fit and healthy?
I’m a big believer in exercise being a key part of living a happy and fulfilled lifestyle. I’m not very good at any sports, but I like to try my hand at all of them. As an only child, I’m particularly fond of the loner sports – cycling, running etc. Variety is key – and I love seeing people out on the road early in the morning putting in the miles before work.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
I have many.
Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Probably someone funny, or someone very intelligent who likes to talk. Billy Connolly would probably be a good bet…
What’s your worst joke ever?
A dyslexic man walks into a bra….
Your favourite drink?
Good single malt Scotch…
All time hero – Bob Dylan. Currently listening to Bruce Springsteen (The Pete Seeger sessions)
In the Footsteps of Captain FitzRoy and Charles Darwin?
At the end of November 2014, BAM friend Leon McCarron and Tom Allen set off for Patagonia to follow the Santa Cruz river across the country. Their journey was inspired by the story of the first European exploration of the river, undertaken by Captain FitzRoy in 1834.
He had been charged with charting the coastline of South America, and his crew included a very young and very impressionable Charles Darwin, who fancied himself as a bit of a geologist and amateur explorer. Both FitzRoy and Darwin left detailed writings of their journey along the river which, sadly, ultimately ended in their failure to find the source (though they came heartbreakingly close.)
Leon, Tom and their friend Jose used these diaries to make a journey in the footsteps of FitzRoy and Darwin, travelling through the steppe on horseback from the Atlantic Ocean to the foothills of the Andes and the vast Lake Argentina that feeds the Santa Cruz.
There was another reason for their trip, too – in February 2015, construction is due to begin on two dams, which will flood huge sections of the valley and change the ecosystem and landscape completely.
Leon, Tom and Jose were not just following in the footsteps of the first explorers; they were perhaps simultaneously the last explorers ever to see the Rio Santa Cruz before it changes forever.
On Leon’s return we quizzed him on the BAM Bamboo Clothing gear he took with him.
So Leon, why take BAM’s bamboo clothing with you to Patagonia?
“On these expeditions, choosing the right kit is so important. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of nowhere with under-performing gear. That’s why I love BAM – I know that the clothing is 100% reliable. I’m committed to using BAM’s Bamboo clothing because of how flexible it is – it’s just as useful during the start and end of expeditions when I’m sitting around in hostels and coffee shops poring over maps and making last minute plans. It’s invaluable to have clothing that is so functional in all scenarios.”