An infantry officer with over 20 years military service has completed the toughest challenge of his career, the world’s longest paddle race, the Yukon 1000.
Lieutenant Colonel Dan Holloway, 42, serving with The Royal Yorkshire Regiment and his canoe partner, Armed Forces veteran Nick Spicer, formerly of The Royal Yorkshire Regiment, attribute their success to the skills and experiences gained from their time in the British Army.
Without the skills and experiences the Army had given us, we would have not learnt, adapted and coped with the immense wilderness." Lieutenant Colonel Dan Holloway,
The Royal Yorkshire Regiment
Advertised as an extreme, expeditionary survival race, 2,000 teams apply but only 30 teams make the cut to take part annually. The race follows the footsteps of the early adventurers, 1,000 miles down the Yukon River from White Horse, Yukon Territory, Canada to Dalton Highway Bridge in Alaska.
“We cannot quite remember who messaged who in 2019 to say, “fancy doing the Yukon 1000?”, said Dan “But our interest was piqued, and after some research we thought it sounded like a great idea."
“At the time, we clearly did not understand the full scale of what we were planning to undertake. How difficult could paddling a canoe 1,000 miles unsupported down a river be?”
A delay in 2020 due to COVID and finding time in their dairies meant they finally got to participate in this year’s endurance and survival challenge, where those racing must paddle for a staggering 18 hours a day, and be completely self-sufficient, to survive in true wilderness.
The Army and Combined Services skier, who has also represented the Army at rugby and kitesurfing, said: “We had to take everything we would need with us for up to 10 days, with no opportunity for resupply and no mobile phone coverage, so it was a total digital detox and self-sufficient journey."
“Once we were past Dawson City, around 450 miles into the challenge, one of the most remote places on earth, we were out of helicopter range and any rescue would take between 24 and 72 hours."
“I cannot describe the vastness of the wildness in the Yukon Territory or Alaska, we were just insignificant on the mighty river Yukon, with little ability to ‘bend’ the river to our will.”
Currently stationed at the British Military Mission in Kuwait, he has served in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Estonia: “This has been the toughest challenge of my military career, it tested us physically but mainly mentally."
During the darker moments, when we thought about withdrawing, we were motivated by the thought of the love and support from our families, friends, and for the charities that we were supporting, the power of purpose can push you past the impossible." Lieutenant Colonel Dan Holloway
“The race is absolutely brutal, but after paddling for 18 hours a day for 7 days, with the weather varying from biblical rain, electrical storms, to searing heat and the light reflecting off the water. Surviving off limited sleep while in physical pain, and for long period of time without sight of another human being, it starts to wear you down."
Adventurer Dan, who is Acting Chair of a Mental Health Charity, and his race partner Nick finished seventh, raising £70,000 for their charities: “One thing is for sure we both had dark moments, when we thought about withdrawing, questioning what we were doing on this mighty river and selfishly leaving our families to do something that is beyond the possible and fully testing our mental resilience."
“It does not matter what your previous experiences are, the size you are, how ‘manly’ you think you are, it is ‘okay to not be okay.’ I am not embarrassed to say that we shed a few tears on the Yukon.”
The former Pangbourne College student from Reading, joined the army as a sense of duty to the country and a sense of giving back. He has visited 19 countries due to work, adventure training or sport which have included Australia, United States, Belize, South Africa, Norway and Latvia.
The Army has given me the skills and confidence to perform and deliver under pressure, but it has also given me unique opportunities to make my career interesting and rewarding." Lieutenant Colonel Dan Holloway
Mentioned in Despatches for his actions in Afghanistan, Dan said: “The Army has given me the skills and confidence to perform and deliver under pressure, but it has also given me unique opportunities to make my career interesting and rewarding."
“It has taught me humility, compassion, diligence, and it has been a huge privilege to serve the country and be a member of the British Army.”
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