Desert expert

With Amur and Assad in Oman

More than half of my life I’ve been going to the desert. The desert is my place of longing and after decades and about two hundred journeys, it has also become my second home. I have acquired the handicraft and knowledge of the nomads bit by bit. I speak their language and deep friendship connects me with people from many countries. They meet each other with great respect and would even lay hands on each other. When you travel to the deserts so intensively and over such a long period of time, it is almost logical that at some point you become a real connoisseur, a great desert expert.

Trekking guide

With a Puretreks hiking group in the Rub al Khali, Oman

In 2003 I quit my manager job. With the foundation of the small and highly specialized travel company Puretreks, I was finally able to turn my passion for the desert and traveling into a profession. In almost twenty years, my small team and I have led several thousand adventurous participants to the last untouched regions of our unique planet. I like the job in the office, organizing and planning the trips – but I also enjoy being a desert guide with my hiking groups. Being on the road is a source of strength for me and I try to exchange hiking boots for the laptop for at least a few months a year.


On the way in the sand sea

Extreme and pure – that’s how it all began: With a heavy backpack, I travelled with my brother through unknown desert landscapes. And also today I try to spice up the “normal” everyday travel life with a special expedition project every now and then. During an expedition I then find my way back to the roots, perfect the principle of reduction and feel the original spirit of travelling: Everything is possible (even failure) and the unexpected is a constant companion.

Here you can find an extract of my special adventures:

Expedition Amundsen

   Country: Norway
   Region: Hardangervidda
   Year: 2016
   Type: “The hardest ski race in the world”
   Team: Jerome Blösser + Lukas Rinner

Night stage at the hardest ski race in the world

Roald Amundsen is a national hero in Norway and is revered almost like a saint. As a tribute to his extraordinary achievements, some crazy Norwegians have created the world’s toughest ski race. Expedition Amundsen – EXA for short – is the name of the event, and the route follows the historic route through the Hardangervidda, where Amundsen almost lost his life in the winter of 1896 while attempting to cross the Hardangervidda.
The participants have to cover about one hundred kilometres, alone or in a team, and in the best case they have to cross the finish line non-stop – except for a few obligatory rest breaks. There is no food or support from outside and everyone pulls a so-called pulka sled with equipment and provisions through the Nordic ice desert.

Crossing the Namib Desert

With my wife Stephanie at the Namib crossing

   Country: Namibia
   Region: Skeleton Coast – Sossusvlei
   Year: 2013
   Type: Trekking Expedition
   Team leader: Jerome Blösser

Crossing the Namib once – that was my dream for a long time. I wanted to do the stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to Sossusvlei directly through the dunes on foot. No one had ever tried this before and for many years it was impossible to get a special permit from the government to enter the national park. In 2013 finally the permit was on the table and the adventure could start! The small team, consisting of me, the Namibians Roi and Leander, as well as my wife Stephanie, started directly at the ocean, at the notorious Skeleton Coast and the way always led us inland through the sensational dune Namib. As there is no waterhole on the whole route, we had to carry the complete water supply in our huge backpacks. We had fog, light sandstorm, encounter with a snake and in the end even water shortage. But we safely reached our destination Sossusvlei, where a jeep with wonderfully cool beer awaited us.

Iceland winter crossing

   Country: Iceland
   Region: Highlands
   Year: 2013
   Type: Ski Expedition
   Team leader: Jerome Blösser + Martin Hülle

Desired destination after crossing Iceland: The south coast of the island

After the successful crossing of the Greenlandic inland ice, it was time for a new, special winter project. For years I had also been travelling Iceland as a guide, crossing the Vatnajökull glacier in 2010 and taking the island of fire and ice to my heart. Together with Martin Hülle, my partner in Greenland, we decided to cross the island in winter on skis and pulka. The project would become a commercially guided expedition trip, which I offer with Puretreks.

In March 2013 the time had come. A team of 7 adventurers set off for Iceland with lots of luggage. In the north of the island, near the port city of Akureiry they started their journey. The first days always stormy, bad visibility and lots of snowfall. Then over the Sprengisandur highland desert. In summer there is not much here except black lava and a hike is quite monotonous. Now, with snow and above all finally blue sky, the area was even quite beautiful. At Vonaskars, the Pass of Hope, we climbed the Vatnajökull glacier and continued towards the south coast. From the edge of the glacier we had to carry our heavy sleds and complete equipment 15 kilometers down to the ring road due to lack of snow. We had successfully crossed Iceland from north to south in winter!

Edeyen Murzuq Crossing

   Country: Libya
   Region: Murzuq Sandsea
   Year: 2010
   Type: Expedition Caravan
   Team Leader: Jerome Blösser + Roelant Meijer

Our big caravan in the no man’s land of the Murzuq Sand Sea

In the southwest of Libya lies the untouched sand sea of the Erg (or Edeyen) Murzuq. This sand sea of gigantic dimensions was long considered the hottest place on earth. There is no watering place and hardly any animal ventures into this terra incognita of dunes hundreds of meters high. Even the big trading caravans once avoided the Murzuq. Until 2010 only three expeditions had explored the Murzuq on foot.

Once I stood at the edge of the sandy sea, where dune peaks line up to the horizon, and I had the crazy idea: I have to go through here with a caravan! The project idea was born, the intensive preparation lasted almost a year and in January 2010, the coolest month in the Sahara, we started in the northeast of the Murzuq with 24 camels, 5 local Tuareg and a selected team with desert experience. We had loaded loads onto the camels to be able to travel completely self-sufficient for three weeks. Luggage, food, 1,750 litres of water and even four camels carried their own food as there was not enough animal feed to be reckoned with in the Murzuq.

The deeper we went into the Murzuq, the lonelier it became. We often felt as if we were on a distant planet of sand. And yet there were sudden signs of life in the centre, witnesses of an epoch that had long since disappeared: We found countless stone tools and artefacts that had been used by people here 90,000 years ago up to the Neolithic Age. Back then, the landscape looked different, because the Sahara is only a few thousand years as dry as it is today.
Although we sometimes barely managed 10 kilometers in 8 hours over mountains of sand, we reached the southwestern end of the sand sea after only two weeks. A feast was waiting for us, of course a well-deserved shower and the camels were also eager for fresh, rich green food before they would start another few hundred kilometres home to Algeria.

Badain Jaran Shamo North-South Traverse

   Country: Inner Mongolia (China)
   Region: Badain Jaran Shamo
   Year: 2009
   Type: Backpack expedition
   Team leader: Jerome Blösser

The monastery Badain Jilin from 1755 at the desert lake of the same name

The Badain Jaran Shamo is a desert of superlatives: more than 80 lakes are hidden here between so-called megadunes. Mongols live with their camel herds at these lonely water areas and there is even an old Lamaist monastery, which has been standing on the shore of the holy lake of Badain Jilin since 1755. I already had a caravan trip in the Badain Jaran in my travel program but a crossing of the whole desert self-sufficient and only with backpack appealed to me very much. In 2009 I could finally start a small expedition with a friend from Munich. The aim was to cross the dunes of the Badain Jaran from north to south on foot. According to my calculations this would even be possible without camels. Of course we would have to carry everything in our backpacks ourselves, but we would have water at least every three days at the Mongolian camps.

Starting point of the expedition was Shugui, a small ghost village at the northern edge of the dunes. The desert above the 40th latitude was military territory so a Mongol with his camel had to accompany us to this border. From here we went on alone in pairs. The sand peaks became higher and higher and then we reached the first mega dunes, which measure up to 600 meters. Almost surreal are the desert lakes in between and accompanied us almost along the whole route to the southern end of this probably most beautiful desert in the world.

Greenland inland ice crossing

   Country: Greenland
   Region: Inland Ice Cap
   Year: 2008
  Type: Ski Expedition
   Team: Jerome Blösser + Martin Hülle

More than 100 kilos: We pull the complete equipment for 30 days in the pulka sled behind us

120 years after the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen had crossed the inland ice of Greenland, Martin Hülle and I set off on a journey to the far north in 2008 to try the same thing. The two of us – like Nansen – wanted to cross the immeasurable expanse of the inland ice completely self-sufficiently with skis and pulka sleds, using only our own strength. Our expedition was a modern adventure based on the strategies of successful expeditions, but of course it would be technically and equipment-wise up-to-date. Almost a year before the actual expedition, work on the project began, because there was a lot of planning to do, luggage transport and permits had to be organized, financing had to be secured and the extensive equipment for such a demanding expedition trip had to be assembled.

In April 2008 we flew via Iceland to the east coast of Greenland to Kulusuk and on to Tasiilaq. From there we went by helicopter to the starting point, a small fishing village on the still frozen coast. The ascent to the inland ice was hard, because we had to pull more than 100 kilos of equipment but two things pushed us to get up as fast as possible: One was polar bears, which are only near the coast, and the other was the dreaded Piterak, which can fall down from the cold inland ice like a gigantic catabatic down wind to the coast at speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.

On the inland ice, we made only slow progress in the first few days due to extremely rutted ground caused by snowstorms. Only in the centre of the ice cap did things improve and our daily stages grew. Just under two hundred kilometers from the western edge of the ice, we visited an abandoned radar station from the Cold War, which is located in the middle of the vast emptiness, and then had a 22-hour marathon stage on the descent before we had “solid” ground under our feet again for the first time in 30 days.

Mauritania desert trekking

   Country: Mauritania
   Region: Adrar
   Year: 1996 – 2008
   Type: Backpack expedition / Caravan
   Team Leader: Jerome Blösser

Navigation with bearing compass in the Mauritanian Sahara

In his book “Far away from the rest of the world”, the esteemed German writer Andreas Altmann describes Mauritania not as a foreign world, but rather as a distant galaxy. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why my brother and I came to this country after the civil war in Algeria. We flew with Air France via Paris to the “picturesque” capital Nouakchott. Where forty years earlier there were only two tents, by the 1990s a real city had already grown up with markets, fish shops, shabby hotels and even a single traffic light. If you wanted to go inland, there was no way around Nouakchott. From here we organized our further trips into the desert by bush taxi. At this time there was no tourist infrastructure.

The expeditions were physically hard but we had the feeling of freedom and adventure. We often wandered through deserted landscapes like on a foreign planet and became true masters in the principle of reduction. If you carry your own luggage, you should only have the most necessary things in your backpack.

At some point I went on my first solo tours into the desert and at the same time started my travel company Puretreks, with which I organize caravan tours and also backpacking expeditions for very sporty desert hikers.

Early days

   Country: Algeria
   Region: Grand Erg Oriental
   Year: 1993 – 1995
   Type: Backpack expedition / Bike trip
   Team: Jerome Blösser + Buba Blösser

Like on a foreign planet – on the way in the Grand Erg Oriental, approx. 1994

Desert was already my childhood dream and in my early twenties I finally made my first desert journey. With the motorcycle I went via Tunisia to Algeria and into the central Sahara. But soon I found out that walking is the only adequate way of travelling through the desert. Therefore, already the second tour should be on foot. Again I went to Algeria, a beautiful desert country but at that time already in the beginning of a terrible civil war.

The first hiking tours I did all together with my brother. He was the forerunner and I was lucky to grow personally and gain knowledge and self-confidence with every tour.

With 40 years old maps we walked through the Great Eastern Erg (sand sea) and searched for the water places which were marked on the paper. These were formative journeys and I was already incurably infected with the desert bacillus.