Meet us, the team

MEET THE TEAM

Meet Secret Compass’s UK-based staff and the industry-leading expedition professionals who lead our adventurous projects in the world’s wildest places. For questions about working with us, read the Journal posts below and read the information on how to work with Secret Compass.

MTB mountain biking Tom Bodkin (c) Dan Milner

Tom Bodkin

Director and Co-founder

Tom co-founded Secret Compass and is its Managing Director. Tom has extensive experience in providing innovative and creative risk and location management solutions to TV and Film in remote and hostile environments for the BBC, Ch4, Discovery and Nat Geo. He has worked in locations as diverse as Afghanistan, Norway and Nicaragua. He spent six years as an Officer in the Parachute Regiment, working in Africa and the humid rain forests of Brunei. He is a qualified Jungle Warfare Instructor and commanded on operations in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2010, where he worked alongside Afghan security forces.

A highlight for him in the early days of Secret Compass was pioneering tourism into South Sudan, where he led a team into the Imatong Mountains. Tom was central to our ground-breaking expeditions into Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, leading the first ever mountain bike expedition through the high mountains. He has explored southern DRC and pioneered a route though Upemba National Park. He has also led jungle trekking trips in the Darien Gap and Madagascar, mountain biking projects in Ethiopia and ski touring expeditions in Lebanon.

Tom’s qualifications include Security Risk Management (Level V), Mountain Leader, MTB Leader, Swift Water Rescue, Medicine in Remote Areas and Wilderness First Responder. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and is passionate about ski-touring, snowboarding, kite-surfing and mountain biking as well as travelling through the world’s wildest places.

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Kerry ONeill SecretCompass Communications Director

Kerry O'Neill

Comms Director

Kerry O’Neill is Communications Director at Secret Compass. Kerry began travelling at the age of 16 and has since lived in Alice Springs, Algonquin Park, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Coimbra and Amman. With a strong interest in how literature and classic travel writing can affect travel motivation, her MSc thesis was on how Louis de Bernieres’ work has affected the Greek island of Kefalonia.

Kerry edited the Ireland edition of Sawdays Special Places to Stay travel guide, and has co-written upwards of ten travel books in the Chic series including a volume on the World’s Best Hotels. Kerry has been a communications officer for a national cycling charity and within Higher Education, and has worked in marketing and copywriting for a super-yacht publications company and a major wine brand. Kerry is very good at editing her CV because she’s had over 100 jobs…

In 2011 Kerry cycled the route of the Victorian Grand Tour on a 3000km solo bike ride across Europe, relocating to Dingle on Ireland’s west coast on her return. Now back in the UK she’s chipping away at a book project and runs a website called How To Be An Adventurer, and speaks on cycling, travel literature and women in adventure at events. Kerry has been on Secret Compass expeditions to Malawi, Finnish Lapland and Armenia. 

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Tom McShane, Secret Compass operations director

Tom McShane

Operations Director

Tom is responsible for the operations, logistics and execution of Secret Compass expeditions and projects. A fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, he has been leading expeditions in remote, challenging and hostile environments for over 15 years and has travelled to over 85 countries. Tom has served in the British Army where was was responsible for leading Combat Camera Teams to areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan and for getting stories of the Armed Forces into the international news.

Tom is a professional, widely-published and award-winning photographer, film producer and drone operator. He expedition and location-managed Levison Wood’s Walking the Nile and Walking the Himalayas TV series, and has worked on many other TV and film productions around the world for channels including Discovery and National Geographic. Tom directed the world-record holding Jägermeister Ice Cold Gig series (the world’s first ever gig on an Iceberg in Greenland). His most recent expedition role involved leading a pioneering trip to North Korea in late 2016.

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Bryony Balen

Operations Manager

Bryony has managed to tame her itchy feet long enough to join the Secret Compass operations team. Since joining Scouts as a teenager got her hooked on life outdoors, her mission ‘not to have a boring life’ has taken her all over the world with expedition highlights including becoming the youngest British woman to ski from the Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and cycling the length of New Zealand.

Her expeditions with Secret Compass include exploring DRC’s Virunga National Park as well as crossing Madagascar and traversing the Sinai desert. Always looking for another challenge, if she can’t be out on an expedition the next best thing is planning them for other people.

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Expedition teammate Ross Hemingway with his MTB mountain bike, Ras Deshan, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Ross Hemingway

Medical Director

In 1998 Ross joined the Royal Navy and deployed extensively on Operations and Exercises around the globe with the Royal Marines providing medical support in a wide variety of extreme and hostile environments.

In 2014, Ross left HM Forces and is now employed at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines. He has particular interests in exercise-associated collapse, and is currently involved in research studies on the role of vitamin D supplementation to prevent stress fractures and skin infections in military recruits.

He examines and teaches on medicine, trauma and prolonged field care courses for the UK military. He is an experienced pre-hospital practitioner, has completed the LAA HEMS course and is a BASICS responder in the South West.

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Dave Lucas image in DRC

Dave Lucas

Expedition leader

Dave has spent over 65 months on expeditions in 85 countries from Europe and Asia to Africa and Latin America. He thrives on exploring for unclimbed areas of the world and has climbed new routes in dozens of countries. To Dave, the climbing is the ‘icing on the cake’ and the real ‘fruit and nut mix’ is made from the people you meet, the animals you encounter, the sights you see and the wonderful food you eat.

Dave’s adventures have been on the National Geographic Channel and on Sky TV; in four books; and in seven magazines. He has been recognised by the Royal Geographic Society and has been a fellow since his mid twenties. Dave inspires others by speaking about his adventures at numerous public speaking events. Just one of his many adventures was climbing new routes to explore a ruined inaccessible Ethiopian palace for gold, treasure and legends. Dave lives for adventure and this combined with his professional manner and experience has resulted in his being a very sought after expedition guide.

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Expedition leader Rick Morales Panama Darien

Rick Morales

Expedition leader

Skilled naturalist Rick Morales has done what very few trekkers would even dare to attempt. He’s mapped out a new hiking trail across the length of his home country: Panama. As an expert naturalist and expedition guide, Rick has explored some of Panama’s most remote areas and other neighbouring regions including the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama. He is highly recognised for his skills and knowledge of Panama’s abundant and diverse wildlife and has had personal encounters with indigenous species including viper, jaguar, monkey, quetzal, puma, ocelot and tapir.

Rick is the founder of the TransPanama Project which aims to develop map sections of trail connecting regions and people throughout Panama. In 2011 Rick became the first person to walk the Panama Trail, a through-hike from the Colombian border to Costa Rica.

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Rebecca Coles

Expedition Leader

Rebecca has been leading expeditions for 15 years. She works as a full-time climbing instructor and leader in the UK and overseas and holds the Winter Mountain Leader, Mountaineering Instructor Award and International Mountain Leader qualifications. Her work and personal expeditions have taken her to all seven continents and most of the Greater Ranges. When not leading expeditions or instructing she is planning her own climbing trips. She has climbed 7000m peaks, first ascents in South Georgia, Antarctica, a major ascent in the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan and been exploratory mountaineering in Tajikistan. In 2011, she returned from Nepal overland and has cycled the length of Lake Malawi solo. Last Autumn Rebecca made a first ascent of a 6000m peak in the Far West of Nepal.

Rebecca has a PhD in Glaciology, is a Wilderness First Responder, sits on the Mount Everest Foundation expedition committee, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Member of the Alpine Club and is a brand ambassador for Lowe Alpine.

Read about Becky’s First Ascent of Lasarmula (6250m), Nepal in Sidetracked Magazine.

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Expedition leader Luca Alfatti prepares for his day of trekking

Luca Alfatti

Expedition Leader

Luca is the overall winner of Wanderlust Magazine’s World Guide Award 2012. He has travelled extensively, has his Mountain Leader qualification and is a linguistic sponge and walking Wikipedia according to the many happy walkers, trekkers and adventurers with whom he has travelled.

His favourite journeys to date include London to Beijing overland, Istanbul to Cape Town and Quito to Ushuaia. We look forward to working with Luca more on future expeditions.
Read about Luca in Wanderlust

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Expedition leader Lachlan Bucknall preparing dinner

Lachlan Bucknall

Expedition Leader

Lachlan is a former Army Officer, qualified Mountain Leader, UK climbing instructor and ski instructor (alongside facilitating leadership and management training), who has enjoyed mountaineering internationally for over 15 years in Europe, the Americas, SE Asia, Norway and more. Lachlan now works as an expedition leader and his career highlights include leading Secret Compass’s first Burma expedition in 2015, skiing from summits to the sea in the Arctic circle, climbing Illampu (6,400m) in Bolivia, skiing Chamonix’s Haute Route and surviving a two-night bivouac on the North Face of L’Aiguille du Midi. Lachlan enjoys Enduro mountain bike racing, sea kayaking, sky diving and anything else that involves some kind of adventure! Lachlan is a member of the Institute for Leadership and Management.

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Expedition leader Dave Luke Kurdistan

Dave Luke

Expedition Leader

Dave fled the Emerald Isle as a teenager and a travelling obsession ensued. He has led expeditions and supported TV productions in the Himalayas, Andes, Rockies and South African and European Alps; to the deserts of the Middle East; and to the jungles of Central America and Madagascar. He is Mountain Leader, Wilderness First Aid and Vector Borne Disease Control qualified and is a member of the Alpine Club. Career highlights include climbing L’Esfinge (a 22 multi-pitch, 5.10d Alpine rock route in Peru at 5,300m) and guiding Cholo Peak (6,091m) plus volcanoes in the Pacific NW of the USA and European 4,000m peaks from the Matterhorn to Mt Blanc. Dave joined Secret Compass in 2013 and has led our expeditions and TV crews successfully across deserts, through jungles and summiting unclimbed peaks. This followed 14 years in the military as a Royal Engineer with whom he worked in Iraq and Afghanistan, and qualified as an Army Diver and Airborne Sapper.

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Expedition leader Paul Taylor Nepal

Paul Taylor

Expedition Leader

Paul is a former soldier with 26 years of service around the world. He is a jungle warfare instructor and has trained soldiers in Borneo, Belize and in Sierra Leone where he spent a year running a battle school near the Liberian border. He is now a mountain and expedition leader who, when not travelling, enjoys fell running and ultra marathons. He has completed the Marathon des Sables and the Brecon Beacons Traverse (31 peaks over 2,000 ft in 24 hours) and came joint first in the inaugural ‘Hadrian’s Hurdle’ race along Hadrian’s wall. Paul also works with Team Rubicon UK and been deployed on operations to Nepal, Haiti, South Carolina (USA) and Keswick, Tadcaster, UK.

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Expedition leader Phil De Beger smiles contently all geared up for his trek in Kurdistan

Phil De Beger

expedition leader

Phil has first ascents of extreme grade rock routes on five continents. In 2009 he was part of the first team ever to ski between the two most northerly Inuit settlements in the Canadian Arctic. He has led successfully on 8,000m peaks but is now going back to his routes as a first ascentist and leading on virgin Himalayan peaks. Supported by RAB, Phil aims to start working towards IFMGA certification this year. Phil’s also qualified as a Remote Medical Practitioner, is a member of the International Society of Remote Medical Practitioners and is a Fellowship Candidate for the Academy of Wilderness Medicine.

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Expedition leader Emma Linford

Emma Linford

Expedition Leader

Polar specialist Em has operated in extreme environments the world over; from the sea ice of the high Arctic and high altitude mountains, to the African bush and desert tundra. During a month-long exploration of the Northwest Passage, Em led a team of Polar adventurers to report first-hand on the condition of the sea-ice, raising awareness of the Arctic region as a climate change indicator. In her free time, Em has explored her own limits and resilience through multi-day adventure racing and biking championships. Her continuing passion is free running in the mountains. Em led a bespoke Secret Compass expedition to stay with the Nenets reindeer herders on SIberia’s Yamal peninsula in 2015.

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Expedition leader Pete Meredith

Pete Meredith

Expedition river leader

Pete’s love affair with rivers and white-water rafting started in 1990 on the Tugela River in South Africa. He moved to the Zambezi in 1994 and is now based full-time in Jinja, Uganda. Pete is perfectly situated in the heart of his ideal stamping ground (and indeed in the heart of Africa) where the rivers are warm and run all year round and with the Nile as the perfect training ground and backdrop for many a bespoke and group adventure.

As a world-renowned paddler on Africa’s biggest rivers, Pete was the obvious choice to lead Secret Compass’s ambitious river expeditions and we are thrilled that he has been able to work with us on various bespoke and group adventures including to Uganda’s Murchison Falls.

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Expedition leader Greg Hill gives expedition briefing in Malawi

Greg Hill

Expedition Leader

Greg is a former British Army officer who has led expeditions around the globe, from deep jungle treks to climbing volcanoes, and from navigating deserts and traversing the Pyrenees to first-descent white water rafting. He is a keen adventurer, ultra distance runner, outdoorsman and an experienced Remote Team Medic. In 2012 he led the Secret Compass Madagascar Mountains and Rivers expedition with great success and is always searching for the next challenge. Greg’s next Secret Compass expedition will be his second visit with us to Malawi, leading a fundraising trek that will spend time visiting AMECA clinics – a charity very close to Secret Compass’s heart and a chosen charity for Lev’s Walking the Nile project.

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Expedition leader Ade Summers

Ade Summers

Expedition Leader

Ade is an experienced Expedition Leader, Mountain Guide, Trekking Guide, Sea Kayaking Guide, MTB Guide and a keen photographer. Originally from Wales, he’s now based in Sydney, Australia. Ade spends his life criss-crossing the globe leading teams in the most remote and far-flung regions of the world. Ade has climbed, trekked and travelled on all seven continents. His highlights include leading the first trek into Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, developing new routes in Mongolia and leading a trek up the frozen Zanskar river. When not working Ade enjoys everything Australia has to offer, including canyoning, sea kayaking and the Sydney lifestyle.

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Expedition medic Kate Page Madagascar

Dr Kate Page

Expedition Medic

Kate joined us in 2012, when she became the only woman to finish the first expedition to walk across Madagascar (including the final day’s epic 55 mile march). A veteran of Iraq, Kate cut her teeth in expedition and remote medicine, planning and logistics during nearly 10 years in the British Army, where she supported operations and exercises around the world. She has accompanied National Geographic into South Sudan, the BBC into the Empty Quarter of Oman, and braved crocs and hippos to accompany our pioneering Murchison Falls rafting trip.

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The Journal

Terms and Conditions
  1. One entry per person.
  2. Closing date for entries is 12:00 AUG 3.
  3. Entrants must be at least 18 years old.
  4. The prize includes: two weekend tickets to attend The Adventure Travel Film Festival in North London The prize does not include: meals, paying workshops, camping equipment or travel expenses.
  5. Getting to the venue in London is the responsibility of the winner.
  6. The prize is only available from 11th – 13th August 2017.
  7. The prize cannot be exchanged for a cash alternative.
  8. The prize cannot be sold or used by anyone other than the winner.
  9. The prize winner can choose who they will give the second ticket to and all of the terms and conditions here apply to that person.
  10. The promoter reserves the right to provide an alternative prize of similar value should the specified prize become unavailable for any reason.
  11. Neither the Promoter nor any other person or party associated with this promotion shall be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever suffered (including, but not limited to, indirect or consequential loss or damage) or personal injury or death suffered or sustained in connection with either participation in this promotion or with any prizes offered.
  12. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the terms of this prize and without notice in the unlikely event of a major catastrophe, war, earthquake or any anticipated or alleged breach of any applicable law or regulation or any similar event or if circumstances arise outside of its control.
  13. The winner will be selected randomly by Secret Compass on 04 AUG 2017.
  14. Attempts will be made to notify the winner using the email address provided at the time of entry. If the promoter, having used reasonable efforts, is unable to contact the winner, then the prize is forfeited and further draw(s) may be conducted.
  15. The winner may be required to take part in reasonable publicity as specified by the Promoter.
  16. The Promoter cannot be held liable for IT system failures or delays or loss of entries.
  17. The organiser reserves the right to cancel this competition, or to change any condition of this competition, without notice.
  18. Acceptance of these terms and conditions is a condition of entry.
  19. No purchase necessary.