Find Your Outerknown
We talk about this concept a lot. To us, Find Your Outerknown means pushing boundaries beyond what you thought possible. As a brand, it means elevating our products to new levels of design and sustainability. As adventurers, it means exploring far and learning about the world beyond our own. We love getting to hear about your pursuits! But when we heard about Australian adventurer Daniel Bull’s latest feat, we couldn’t believe it.
Not only was he the youngest person to climb the highest peaks and volcanoes on all seven continents, he’s also summited Everest and has held three Guinness World Records. His most recent was achieved by swimming across the highest altitude lake on the planet at 20,898 ft up in the South American Andes… in only his APEX Trunks. What?! Needless to say, we had a lot of questions…
What inspired this glacial swim?? Did it ever cross your mind that this is insane?!
Standing alone on top of the highest volcano in the world, Ojos del Salado, in South America, having just achieved my first world record, I spotted a small frozen lake just beneath the summit. That sparked the idea. I later researched and confirmed this to be the highest known body of water on the planet. Given my love of both heights and water, it felt like the perfect combination, and so I formed the plan of one day returning to navigate to the lake and swim across it. And don’t worry, plenty of people let me know that they thought it was insane. There were moments I had to agree with them, especially standing on the edge of that lake, after 3 weeks on the mountain, an electrical snowstorm brewing, in nothing but my trunks — more on that later! An added motivation was using the opportunity to raise awareness for clean water through Water.org.
How do you prep (mentally and physically) for a 28°F swim?
I’d decided not to wear a wetsuit. I knew it would increase the danger and risk, but I really wanted to discover the absolute limits, without shortcuts, by meeting nature on its own terms. Like most things I tackle, it took a lot of preparation and even more optimism. I knew hypothermia was inevitable, so it was vital that I get accustomed to the discomfort of the extreme cold. I committed to having a cold shower every morning for a year. And also had ice baths to try to adapt… but realistically, nothing could prepare me for those icy waters.
Mentally, I think it helps to know that the pain is often temporary, but the benefits of achieving something that’s not easily achieved, last forever. And the pain was definitely agonising. Swimming through shards of ice, it felt like 1,000 knives stabbing at my body with each stroke. And btw, due to the remoteness, there’s no hot tub nearby... so I had to rely on body warmth alone to recover.
Why the hell APEX Trunks??? I mean, we’re glad you chose them of course, but WHY?
Simply put, I share your commitment to reaching for new heights in sustainability. With this latest endeavour, I aimed to push the limits of exploration and endurance while leaving nothing behind but footprints. Wearing the APEX Trunks was important to me because they are made from recycled fibers. They are also super lightweight and compact — on a big expedition like this, every ounce counts. And they also felt streamlined, to the point of almost feeling like I was wearing nothing. Cool in warmer waters, but in the highest lake on the planet, it was a bit worrying. I feel like I should also be acknowledged for the highest skinny-dip world record.
Tell us about your other adventures. What inspired you to climb the highest mountains and volcanoes on all seven continents? Is anything possible after that?
Whilst I definitely have my own fears, I realised from a young age, a fear of heights wasn’t one of them. I love the thrill of the climb and getting a different perspective on things from the top. A good part of my childhood was spent climbing trees. So when I would eventually reach the Khumbu Icefall above Base Camp on Mount Everest, crossing crevasses (aka bottomless pits of icy doom), which are constantly opening and closing due to the ever-shifting glacier to which they belong, I wasn’t afraid as many climbers are. Instead I relished the experience.
Here’s a vivid memory from my childhood: I remember sitting in the lounge room as a kid, watching some old B&W footage of Everest on TV — that had an immediate impact on me and led me to chase my initial dream to climb it. When I finally achieved that, it made me realise that if a kid who grew up at sea level can reach the top of the world, then anything really is possible. So I followed my passion for heights, and after a decade of blood, sweat, and frozen tears, achieved my first world record: the youngest person to climb the highest mountains and volcanoes on each of the seven continents.
What motivated you on your first summit, and what motivates you on your pursuits today?
That first climb up Ama Dablam was very much a stepping stone to Everest. It was my introduction to the Himalayas and my first big mountain. It was once labelled "unclimbable" by Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to summit Mt Everest (along with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa), so in hindsight was maybe a bit optimistic. It was also my first near-death experience. On the descent, typically the most hazardous part of any climb, I leant back to rappel down a vertical ice cliff, not realising the rope had frozen over. I went into immediate free-fall, managing to slow down just before the end of the rope. I was just hanging there half upside down, my back bent backwards, relieved. I was fully aware that I’d just escaped death. And I felt more alive than ever!
I still enjoy pushing myself and aiming high in general. Overcoming those challenges, feeling a sense of accomplishment, and learning what you’re capable of is extremely rewarding. When I was younger I think I focused on the summit at all costs; the destination. I’ve since realised there’s many different routes to the top and many different approaches to take in pursuing our dreams. For me it’s now as important how I go about achieving something, as it is about what I’m doing. With all my pursuits, I try to adopt the Native American Chief Seattle’s sentiment, “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.”
What advice would you give someone getting ready to push their own boundaries, be it an epic climb or something closer to home? And what’s next for you?
To be honest, most of what I've achieved was initially overwhelming and seemed insurmountable at first. But it's about dreaming big, in spite of fears or self-doubt. Then breaking the challenges down into small, manageable steps. And then taking that first step. The courage to act on your dreams and say let’s do this will possibly lead you on the journey of a lifetime. And having the courage to reach out for a hand when you need it, is possibly the most important lesson I’ve learnt. Although I’ve often stood alone on top of a summit, we all need support along the way.
In between planning my upcoming projects, I focus on keynote speaking and sharing the valuable lessons I’ve learnt from surviving and thriving in extreme and ever-changing environments, focusing on tales of resilience, motivation, teamwork, overcoming fear and adversity, and achieving high performance, sustainably.
Follow Daniel's journey on @danbullofficial and his site.