Crossing the Simpson Desert alone

Australian born Ian Vickers’ journey has taken him from the British infantry to video producer, sea cucumber diver, and now, registered nurse. He always harboured a romantic dream of crossing the Simpson Desert alone. With just his two legs, a pair of walking poles and a custom trolley loaded with his gear, he made his dream a reality and raised more than $5,000 for cancer research along the way.


To raise funds for cancer research, Ian walked solo across the Simpson Desert, carrying his water, food and equipment in a purpose-built cart.

Whether you’re just out on a simple day walk or on a 20-day expedition, there’s no better feeling than knowing you have everything you need to survive and be comfortable.

A lifetime dream to cross the Simpson Desert

Since I was a child, it has always been a dream of mine to cross the Simpson Desert, just like those desert crossings in the old movies. Last year, I decided I’d do it. Crossing the Simpson Desert is an iconic archetypal Aussie feat. To go solo and unassisted is the ultimate challenge.

Whether you’re just out on a simple day walk or on a 20-day expedition, there’s no better feeling than knowing you have everything you need to survive and be comfortable. I wanted to experience the solitude, the challenge of walking on top of a sea of endless sand dunes and to selfishly have the Simpson Desert to myself, or to at least believe that I could have it to myself. Above all, I wanted to be humbled by mother nature.

Salt Lake on the French LineSalt Lake on the French Line

Raising money for cancer research was the obvious choice

I lost both my parents to cancer way too early in their lives. When I decided to use my solo journey across the Simpson to raise money for charity, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation was an easy choice. The ACRF is dedicated to helping to find a cure for cancer by supporting world-class research. Since 1984, they have awarded almost $95 million in grants – a truly worthy cause that played a fundamental role in propelling my legs forward each day through that cotton-soft red dust.

Struggling up a sand duneStruggling up a sand dune
Pumping up a slow puncturePumping up a slow puncture

Forget Everest. Try packing for the Simpson Desert.

I knew I would feel every gram of weight hauling a purpose-built cart more than 400km and over around 1,100 dunes. I had to pack enough water to last for 23 days. With me requiring at least 5 litres a day, that’s 115 kilos. Then there was the food and other essential equipment: EPIRB, sat phone, SPOT tracker, solar charger, GPS, maps, compass, first aid kit, GoPro and accessories, spare batteries, spare axles, spare tube, puncture repair kit, the list goes on.

So my clothing had to be lightweight and hard-wearing. It had to keep me cool and protect me from the harmful rays of the searing sun during the day, while it needed to keep me warm and dry at night when temperatures plummetted in the vast expanse of this Martian landscape. Having the support and expertise of Kathmandu helped me access gear that would see me through.

View from the top of a sand duneView from the top of a sand dune

Red dunes, wildflowers, shooting stars

I really did love every gruelling second of my walk across the Simpson Desert, including the daily mental and physical challenges wherein I was pushed to the very edge of my limits and beyond. When times were toughest, I was in my element. However, you couldn’t beat the relief of calling it a day. When the weakened sun would finally drop, exhausted, behind my left shoulder, I’d find my home for the night, perched atop a sand dune that was turning to a deep mauve in the fading light. Sat overlooking the playful wildflowers, no matter how tired I felt, I relished my nightly routine. Every night I’d start by building a small fire, savouring every spoonful of my meal (with a hot chocolate and a chocolate bar to finish off), while writing my daily journal entry. Finally, with eyelids as heavy as my feet felt during the day, I would slip into my sleeping bag and gaze up at the cosmos on a cold, crystal-clear night. Sleep would take over before I’d spotted my second shooting star.

I feel a lot richer for experiencing the desert first hand. I will always remain in awe of its sheer beauty. For 20 days and nights, it was mine and I was a part of it. It will never leave me. I am humbled not only by the desert but by the people and organisations who believed in me, and who held out their hands to help.

I say to other people dreaming of a big adventure to just get out there and do it. Once you start to plan, prepare and train, momentum builds and before you know it you’re ready to take your first steps.

If Ian's story inspires you to get out there and travel with purpose, take on the challenge and apply for a Summit Club Adventure Sponsorship.

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