Stephen Robert Loken of Norway, 42, known as Robert, recently spent 601 days hiking the entire Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Great Wall, which spans approximately 3,728 miles (6000km). To do so, he had to overcome extreme temperatures, ranging from a scorching 109oF (43oC) to a frigid -9oF (-23oC), face poisonous scorpions, venomous snakes, ferocious dogs and trudge through desert, forest, and tundra.
While many people have walked the Ming Dynasty Great Wall, Robert was the first person in the world to complete the entire route from Jiayuguan, in Gansu Province, to Dandong, in Liaoning Province. Robert says all others have stopped at Shanhaiguan, in Hebei Province, missing the route’s last quarter.
Walking this route had been a dream of his since age 19, after walking Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England. At a youth hostel, he spotted six pictures of the Great Wall of China with the text: “The other wall”. To him, this dream was worth selling his house and belongings, quitting his job as an IT-Consultant, and leaving his hometown for nearly two years.
Robert spent a hefty amount of time preparing for the trip, training and gathering the proper equipment to aid him through the entire walk. During his quest for items, Robert came across our Coolibar Travel Shirt, which he wore every single day throughout his journey. He also utilized a Coolibar sun hat and pants. “What stands out to me is how long [the apparel] lasted. I used the shirt every day of the entire walk, and the only damage it got was from the thorns and bushes when I crept through jungle like terrain close to Beijing and in Hebei province.
Also, they helped me get through the Gobi desert without a heat stroke. At the warmest, it was 43oC (109oF), and that was in the shade. The problem however is that there is no shade in the Gobi desert apart from the one you bring along with you. The clothes were only hand washed for the entire trip, and they dried incredibly quickly.
I ordered more shirts on return. Looking forward to using a new Coolibar shirt after all the battering the last one got.”
Home in Oslo, Robert reflects on his achievement, which he completed to also raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Robert has a small piece of advice for anyone planning an intense walk. “If you have any plans of walking through the Gobi desert, make sure to get BIG enough shoes/boots. My feet swelled up because of the heat, and weight from the rucksack, so I suffered terribly because of blisters in the beginning. This, even though I went to an expert shop and got the ‘right’ size for my feet in Norway Pre-expedition.”
Regarding the journey, Robert says, “The most important thing is not about being the first person in the world [to walk the entire Great Wall], it’s about following my dreams. It was a life’s ambition. I lived up to it.”
Read more about Robert’s journey on his blog The Great Walker.