Interview with Aldo Kane

Former Royal Marine Commando turned safety expert for some of the largest film and television productions in the world, Aldo Kane has got your back.

This whisky-loving Scot is no stranger to danger–whether it’s rappelling into the Congo’s 11,380-foot Nyiragongo volcano when it was erupting or rowing continent to continent (Portugal to Venezuela) across the Atlantic Ocean in a record breaking time of 50 days, 10 hours, and 36 min. But more importantly, he knows how to manage risks.

Kane’s love of the outdoors came from growing up in the rugged highlands of Scotland and to this day, he is most at home in extreme outdoor environments. Whether you want to call him an adventurer or record-setting explorer, one thing’s for certain–he’s an outdoor badass.

We caught up with Kane in London just as he was about to head to South America on another crazy adventure:

Did growing up in Scotland influence your love for the outdoors? Or was this something you developed while a member of the Royal Marines?

I grew up in Scotland, only 20 minutes away from where we made the film so I know the area really well. I was dragged outside by my parents with no television. That’s actually probably what made me join the Royal Marines in the end.

Where is your favorite spot in Scotland for hiking and outdoor exploration?

I’ve traveled to well over 100 countries around the world and still my favorite spot in the entire place is where I took Mamrie to, which is the Hidden Valley up in Glencoe which is just near Fort William.

You’ve traveled to a lot of remote and dangerous places around the world, but what dangers are present in somewhere as seemingly calm as Scotland?

Probably going out on a Saturday night in Glasgow with an English accent–that’s pretty dangerous. Scotland is very small in comparison to the U.S. but it’s very, very rugged, especially up the West Coast. Everything you get in the mountainous areas around the world like avalanches and really bad weather, harsh winters, you get the same thing in Scotland.  If you are not prepared and you don’t have the right kit it can be pretty dangerous.

And also the Loch Ness monster is pretty dangerous.

What are the essential tips for someone tackling the West Highland Way for the first time?

You don’t have to be super fit to do it because there are companies that carry your bags up for you and you just carry a light day sack. This means you can cover more miles in the day and actually enjoy your walk. You can lift your head up and  see the mountains, the lochs, and the deer. So it’s really quite easy. You fly to Glasgow and you can go under your own steam. It’s a 20 minute train journey out to the start and then you are on your way on the West Highland Way for 7 to 8 days.

Bring midge repellent. We call the biting flies over here midges. They can be really bad for tourists. It makes a lot of people go insane.

Is there a time of year when they are particularly bad?

Any time from May until May usually. No, they are bad in the summer. They are bad from May to September. But it’s no reason to not come to Scotland — it’s just part of the fun.

Bring midge repellent. We call the biting flies over here midges. They can be really bad for tourists. It makes a lot of people go insane.

Your adventure with Mamrie ended at the Ben Nevis Distillery. Do you have a favorite Scotch whiskey?

Yes! My favorite single malt Scotch whisky comes from Islay, which is an island off the west coast of Scotland. The whisky is called Laphroaig. It’s one of the stronger, peatier whiskies and smokier. It’s not for beginners.

What are a few key survival hacks or safety tips for any newbie hiker or outdoor adventurer?

I’ve spent my life in the outdoors in some of the most remote and hostile places on the planet. The biggest thing you can do before you go anywhere is to prepare and understand the environment you are going into. First of all, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. That’s everything from what the weather’s doing to what clothing you need to what environmental conditions you need to take into account like altitude or if you are going to be in a cave, double batteries for your lights. So first of all I would always say be prepared and do as much research about the area you are going to as you can.

The biggest thing you can do before you go anywhere is to prepare and understand the environment you are going into.

Second of all is just to enjoy it. Somehow it is hard these days to take your head out of your phone or your laptop and computer and just be present. Be actually where you are supposed to be and not on Instagram and not on social media.

You recently rowed across the Atlantic from Europe to South America, what’s next for you?

I am part of a big expedition series that’s being made for BBC Two in the UK and we are traveling to 10 countries and doing 10 big expeditions. Each one of those expeditions is a world first so it will be the first time that adventurous activity has been completed.

We’ve already been in Greenland doing first crossing of fjords and first ascents of mountains. We were in Mexico doing cave diving, exploring passages with mine treasure in them. Now we are off to Oman, Colombia, another five or six countries left to go this year.

Last year I was in South America quite a lot. But that was for another film which we made called Meet the Drug Lords: Inside the Real Narcos where I was embedded with the Sinaloa cartel and the Cali cartel for about three months in Mexico and Colombia. So what I am doing right now is much safer than what I was doing last year.

Check out Aldo’s latest trek through Scotland, The Highland Way: