Nick Gleeson: Spirit of Adventure 2019

By Australian Geographic 1 November 2019
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Nick Gleeson has taken out the Australian Geographic Spirit of Adventure Award for 2019.

Nick Gleeson has achieved more in life than most people could ever dream of. Blind since an accident at the age of seven, Nick is an extraordinary Australian. His passion for sport and adventure is inspiring and his record of achievement in these fields would be truly extraordinary even for a fully sighted person.

Melbourne-born Nick excelled at sport at his special boarding school for the blind and later at university. He became a marathon runner and has competed in the New York marathon three times. He has represented Australia in athletics in the UK and Hong Kong and at the Paralympics in the USA in 1984, and has represented Victoria in blind cricket. He describes himself as being happiest when running by himself. He describes it as “a wonderful sum of trust plus belief plus danger plus courage.”

In 2002, Nick received the AG Society’s Spirit of Adventure for his climb of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with his four-person expedition team Blind Ambition. After that achievement, he was adventuring in New Zealand when he had the chance to meet his inspiration and hero Sir Edmund Hillary at Hillary’s own home.

Nick has climbed to 6000 metres on Everest and has crossed the Simpson Desert on foot. In May 2019 he made a solo traverse of Island Lagoon, a dry salt lake bed in South Australia, which he undertook without the assistance of his constant companion, Unity, his dedicated Seeing Eye dog. Nick received encouragement and instructions from his support team via a UHF radio but, apart from that and a sat-phone, he was completely alone for two nights and three days and he carried and set up all his own camping gear. At one stage Nick sank up to his knees in wet sand as unexpected rains softened the otherwise dry lake bed.

Nick’s not just a sportsman and adventurer, he’s also a passionate advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, an in-demand motivational speaker and a gifted writer.


This award is sponsored by