Q, Who is Ian Finch?
Ian - I am an outdoors-man that’s been adventuring in remote environments for 3 years. I have an incurable passion for visiting and learning about first nation cultures and their way of life. I document these experiences through writing and imagery both still and film. The underlying drive is the urge to see wild remote places and absorb local knowledge from the people that call it home. It just so happens I’m 37, a former Marine and from London.
Q, When did your love for exploring the great outdoors start? Can you recall that moment as a younger Ian Finch that got you hooked on being stood in front of vast natural landscapes opposed to sitting in front of a TV or games console?
Ian - It started I guess as most do, somewhere not far from the childhood home. Most weekends I would walk across cross local fields with a good friend and navigate to a woodland area, construct a makeshift shelter from old tarps, build a fire and spend the weekend there. There was something about being outside with friends and under a tarp covered in branches, feeling adventurous, that felt different. Unknowingly this was a thread that would run through my DNA until this day.
Once I learned to drive we had the ability to go anywhere and stretch our physical and mental capacity, as well as see new and challenging landscapes. We always headed north into Wales and the Lake District. Ever since then, it’s been like a magnet, pulling me back year after year. I cut my teeth and found my confidence on those slate trails with my friend but it was the military that installed the self-reliance and boldness to take on some of the bigger challenges.
Q, You’ve recently been to the Outer Hebrides navigating old trade routes by foot to create a fantastic short film. This though isn’t an easy part of the world to hike due to the challenging terrain and weather. When things get hard mentally and physically what is it that drives you on to push through the pain?
Ian - I think it’s a fine line between enjoyment, challenge and your “why”. I’ve come to accept that most of my journeys will incorporate some real physical challenge, that’s the way I’m built – but what really drives me is the reason I am there. Ultimately the “why” it’s fuel to the engine powering the system.
As an example, I really wanted to learn about the Gaelic speaking crofting people of The Hebrides and the crofting culture; their story and rich human history fascinated me. To really learn I had to see the wilder parts of the islands, where the communities and townships were intact. For me the curiosity and desire to learn always outweighs the fear of the tough times ahead.
Q, Getting outside exploring and filming are two passions of yours that coincide with each other perfectly, and your latest short film “Upon A Ribbon of Wilderness” showcases that in a truly beautiful way. Is there an adventure short film that you’ve watched countless times and what is it about this film that captivates your attention?
Ian - There’s a few; the Vimeo black hole is a dark and beautiful place! I always look for an honesty and an authenticity to a film together with striking imagery. I’m drawn to films where you feel connected to the person in it and the landscape they are in, a film that inspires you to want to be there with them - “Made in Iceland “ is one of those. It’s beautiful, truly beautiful.
Q, Next year we can follow you taking on the Yukon River by canoe, Where did the inspiration come for this journey and how long do you expect it to take?
Ian - I’ve been reading about the Yup’ik people of the Yukon River for some time. For 100’s of years they and other 1st nation people have relied of the Chinook salmon as a way of subsistence and to make a small living. Due to environmental factors and the possibility of over fishing out on the Bering Sea the larger salmon are disappearing and general fish numbers are on the decrease. My motivation to canoe the Yukon’s length was born out a curiosity and a desire to speak to the people, along the entire river, about what the river means to them and how these environmental/social issues are affecting their traditions and way of life. Outside of that I wanted a challenge, over a much longer distance, in an even remoter region, where I could travel in the traditions of the indigenous people and bring their story home. I expect it to take 3 months of continual canoeing.
Q, Is this a solo journey down the Yukon or will you be having company?
Ian - At the time of writing it’s solo, but I’m open to a second member coming on board, male or female that has a same interest towards native cultures, open canoeing, photography and wild remote places.
Q. If you could have anyone paddle with you on the Yukon River for 24 hours who would that be? and what would you cook up for them as a meal on an open campfire?
Ian - As corny as this sounds it would probably be my father. My love and curiosity of 1st nation people, their history and traditions really comes from that source and the books he showed me. I’d take him along, let him meet, ask questions and fish with them. As the sun was setting, I’d catch a few small salmon or two, remove the fillets; feather them onto a sharpened stick from an ash tree and cook over a stack of smoldering embers. I’d serve on a piece of flat driftwood with a splash of lemon juice. Simple adventure grub!
Q, Do you know what make and model of canoe you will be using or do you just hope to turn up and hope for the best there is something spare kicking around?
Ian - It would be a dream to use an original birch bark canoe as they were the traditional craft of the people but unfortunately I don’t have the funds to purchase one nor know somebody that has one out there that would be bonkers enough to let me use one. I have spoken to a local canoe outfitter in the region who will be supplying an ex rental Mad River Canoe at a reduced cost so I’ll be hopping into one of those. When I reach the Bering Sea I’ll give my canoe and any supplies to a local family.
Q, What would be your ultimate adventure destination be and what mode of transportation would you choose to explore?
Ian - Canoe from one side of Canada to the other, Pacific to Atlantic using only the river and lake systems, learning about and following in the footsteps the early pioneers that founded and mapped the country. To be honest I’m not even sure its truly possible without monster portages – I’ve looked into it. If it were I’d do this with a 1st nation person from the region to learn about the land, and surprise – I’d do it in a birch bark canoe (that we made together). One can dream!
Q, What's been the strangest encounter while you’ve been on an adventure?
Ian - Health and safety reps do not read on! In January I was travelling across Tibet with 3 friends to get to the Nepalese border. We stopped at a guesthouse for the evening in a remote town. After being shown to our bunks I had the urge and nipped to the toilet along the hallway. As I approach the toilets, right next to the cubicle, were the sinks to wash your hands. No more than two feet away on a sofa was a frozen dead Yak the size of an adult cow, skinned and cut into 4 huge quarters ready to be cooked and served in the restaurant below. I have photographic evidence of said Yak. We all couldn’t stop smiling.
Q, If you were to send those who read this to a location you’ve had the pleasure of visiting where would that be and why is this destination special to you?
Ian - Without a second thought it would be Tibet. The country is a beautiful spectrum of ancient culture and friendly people fiercely proud of their ancestry. The landscape is so vast, pristine and beautiful it’s hard to put into words. Wherever you go in that country you are thrown back in time and into the shadow of the Himalayas.
Q, What 3 bits of kit are a must have on an a Ian Finch journey?
1 – Peanut M & M’s
2 – Ear plugs and eye mask
3 – Camera (I know that’s four)
Q, For those that are reading through this and are wishing they lived a more adventurous life what parting words would you leave them with to encourage them to get outside and explore more of their dreams?
Ian - Adventure or being adventurous is a relative term. Like all things in life I believe its up to the individual to determine what this really means to them, nobody can decide for you. If breaking from a well-known path in your local woodland feels risky and adventurous, go there, what could be the worst that would happen? If walking in the Cotswold Hills for the first time scares you because it feels a long way from home and unfamiliar, plan a short simple route, fill a flask with hot soup, invite a friend and finish in a cosy warm pub. It will be a day to remember. Adventure is what ever you want it to be at whatever time. Slotted into the wooden frame of a picture at home I have a piece of paper that says, “A dream remains a dream without action” – I always look at it and it always continues to remind me as with anything, doing something new and challenging starts with a simple decision to go, but the only way it becomes real and tangible is to take action. It’s a daily reminder to never let those embers die out.