fbpx
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 current job vacancies, visit our jobs page.

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 and Wilderness EMT. 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.

Read more

Ben Major

Director

Ben is an adventurer, explorer and survival expert who has led over 40 expeditions and projects throughout the world in all environments.

Ben presented the multi-BAFTA winning Serious Series for the BBC, leading groups of teenagers on expeditions to remote and far-flung corners of the globe to achieve world firsts. He has consulted on series such as Mutiny, Planet Earth 1&2, Gold Rush, Human Planet, Oceans, Tribe, Frozen Planet, Last Man Standing, Around the World in 80 Days, Extreme Dreams, Adrenaline Junkie and various Sport Relief Challenges.

Serving in the British Army for 9 years, he spent time in the Middle East, Northern Ireland and Bosnia. An accomplished mountaineer and polar adventurer, Ben has led expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctic, Himalayas, Rockies and Andes including ascents of two 8000m peaks and a running high level traverse of the Pyrenees in 14 days.

Ben has led security operations to protect wildlife against professional poachers in Central and East Africa developing his love for camels; built eco-lodges and safari camps in Africa and led remote jungle conservation projects where he honed his survival skills amongst the native peoples of Asia, Central and South America. He is also an experienced yachtsman with over 50000 sea miles completing several Fastnet races, trans-Atlantics and building a traditional Arabian Dhow with a friend.

Read more

Sally Fitton

Director TV & Film Projects

Sally joined Secret Compass from the BBC.  She was the BBC High Risk Advisor for Current Affairs and the World Service and deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and the West Bank.  She has supported the Natural History Unit’s BAFTA-award winning ‘Blue Planet Live’ in Baja Mexico and designed and delivered the BBC’s ‘Managing High Risk Deployments’ course for senior editorial staff.  Sally is a keen advocate of media safety and risk management, she sat on the Board of Directors for ACOS Alliance and lectures internationally on journalist safety.  She has a deep background in crisis and disaster management as an Army Officer, media advisor and Chartered Security Professional along with experience of multiple military operational tours providing emergency medical ground response.

Co-founder of Oxford Alpine Club Publishing, Sally is a Winston Churchill Fellow who has led expeditions in Borneo, Argentina, Kyrgyzstan, Iceland, Nepal and Morocco and received a Mount Everest Foundation funding award.  She enjoys climbing, ski touring and practicing yoga.

Read more

Louise Watson

Operations Director

Having tried her hand at a number of different sports, from skeleton to skydiving, ultra running to open water swimming, Louise is happiest when she’s spending time outside!

Always curious, Louise has found herself involved in a wide range of different projects; some of the highlights of which range from having been part of the implementation team for the inaugural Invictus Games, being the British member of the International Federation of Skeleton; Bobsleigh – working to get adaptive ice sports included into the Winter Paralympic Games, developing a trek for a local guiding company in the Indian Himalaya, learning Arabic and working in some remote and hostile locations around the globe.

Having relocated back to the mighty West Country from her beloved Highland’s of Scotland, Louise is itching to get out adventuring. A lover of Winter, she’s keen to dust off her collection of ski’s, sharpen her axes and head out into the mountains!

Read more

Chris Hunt

Content Manager

Chris joined Secret Compass in 2017 off the back of a year long trip in South America having worked for several years as a journalist in the surf industry. He joined us as Community Manager and while he has since become Online Editor at BASE Magazine he still manages our content. Nowadays you’re more likely to find Chris bikepacking in South Wales, or perhaps in his van on the M5 heading south.

Read more

Claire Harrison

Marketing Manager

Growing up in the Welsh countryside, Claire is in her element when out adventuring and discovering new trail running routes. Claire joined Secret Compass in 2019, after returning from an expedition to Nepal where she helped support local partners and communities to develop safe and reliable water and sanitation infrastructure.

When she’s not leading with strategy and new creative approaches, Claire has a ‘master of none’ attitude to adventure and enjoys climbing, surfing, skiing, hiking and open water swimming. Having said that, her love is trail running, and you’ll usually find her hitting the hills, training for the next race.

Read more

Amy Bibby

Project Manager

As a member of the Secret Compass operations team, Amy ensures our team expeditions and projects run smoothly. With a background in environmental science and volcanology, she’s always had a passion for wild landscapes and mountains.  Her favourite place in the world is “probably anywhere in a tent!”.

Though her first love is hiking, she’s willing to use most methods of transport to get herself to a beautiful camping spot, be that hiking, paddling or cycling, and has recently taken up riding lessons to add to her repertoire. Her travels have taken sea kayaking amongst icebergs in Alaska, up active volcanoes in Mexico and to the mountains and valleys of Nepal.

Read more

Anya Keatley

Project Manager

Anya has discovered that the skills gained in academic research are also applicable to the fast paced world of expedition planning. Having swapped scientific experiments for organising expeditions, she has settled into the Secret Compass Operations team.

A geologist at heart, Anya is likely to be found underground, regularly caving in the local Mendip Hills. This interest in karst has taken her all over the world including exploring and surveying cave systems in the Philippines, India and the USA. When not caving Anya is an ocean enthusiast who loves spending time scuba diving off the south coast and spotting the local sea life. Always looking for ways to spend more time in the water, she has recently taken up open water swimming which she hopes will be a year-round activity.

Read more

Charlie Newman

Project Manager

Charlie joined Secret Compass in 2020 and her passion for epic panoramas and locations as remote as possible means that she is well suited to the Secret Compass team.

Charlie joins us with an abundance of experience in adventure tourism which is complemented with her degree in Outdoor Adventure Leadership & Management. She loves learning about the physiological effects of extreme environments so you can be reassured that you are in safe hands. In her own time she is a sucker for any opportunity to surf, swim, hike or ski either on home soil or further afield with a cat-skiing trip in Kyrgyzstan being a true highlight so far.

Read more

Catherine Vincent

Adventure Consultant

After several years spent at sea, living aboard sailing yachts, Catherine has traded in her sea legs to join the Secret Compass team. Whilst she is most familiar with locations that have a coastline she was initially drawn to expeditions through a love of cold places, ski-touring in Scandinavia with nights in snow holes and skiing on the sea ice through the North West Passage.

Recognising the best days usually involve a roll mat and camping stove, if she can’t be out on an expedition herself the next best thing is to chat to you about yours.

Read more

Eliza Brown

Concept Development & Operations

Eliza has always immersed herself in the great outdoors, testing her instincts and survival skills whilst exploring challenging environments. As the youngest member of
the team, she has travelled for the last six years sailing over 50,000nm, whilst perfecting her skills and qualifications as a Wilderness Guide, Mountain Leader and
Wilderness First Responder. She can usually be found cooking up her catch over an open fire, testing her brush craft and survival techniques, fresh water swimming or
happily swinging in her hammock amongst the trees.

Eliza’s adventures have included supporting ski expeditions in the remote aspects of the Arctic, traversing the Panamanian Chagres Jungle, travelling coast to coast wild
camping in North America, and sailing across the world’s oceans. Eliza joined the Secret Compass Team to contribute to developing projects for extreme escapes to remote locations.

Read more

Trevor Smith

Expedition Leader

Trevor has a passion for adventure which has been with him throughout his life. Having served in the Royal Marines during the early part of his career, he has spent the last eight years looking after civilian teams in wild and remote locations around the world. He is a highly experienced and qualified Risk Management Consultant and a UK registered Paramedic.

Trevor has experience managing the delivery of large-scale military projects and now works primarily with the media. He relishes passing on his experience and knowledge to teams, and inspiring others to fulfil their own adventures. Based in London, ‘Trev’ likes to keep fit for adventure by running, water sports and snowboarding.

Read more

James Ross

Expedition Leader

James has extensive experience providing risk management solutions on a wide range of projects, including exploratory mining, anti-poaching operations and TV / film productions. He has a military background and has since become a registered UK Paramedic specialising in expedition and remote medicine, as well as a safety adviser and instructor.

James loves his job for the adventure it brings him, as well as the chance to work with incredible teams on amazing projects. The opportunity to provide support to projects in wild, remote and beautiful areas is not something he takes for granted. He lives in Cornwall and enjoys surfing, spearfishing and is currently training to join the French Mountain Rescue.

Read more

Cat Cameron

Expedition Leader

Cat has been leading expeditions since 2009, from the mountains and savannas of East Africa to the jungles of Borneo and Costa Rica, and the high mountains of the Andes and the Himalayas.

She first worked for Secret Compass in 2015 and likes to turn her hand to any environment and challenge, although it’s high snowy places that really get her buzzing. Cat lives for expeditions and experiencing new places and local cuisines.

Personal endeavours include a pioneering self-supported 21-day trek through the jungle in India from Irpu Falls in Coorg to Mangalore along the Kerala-Karnataka border, the first ascent of Karbu Ri (6010m) on the Upper Rolwaling glacier on the Nepal/Tibet border, and a self-supported solo through-hike across the Alps from Chamonix to Zermatt over 7 days.

Cat’s qualifications include the Winter Mountain Leader, Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, Rock Climbing Instructor, Level 3 Canoe and Kayak Coach, White-water Rescue Technician, and specialist high altitude medicine training with ENSA in Chamonix.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more

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, is a Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and 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.

Read more

Rich Gentry

Expedition Leader

Like many, Rich was introduced to the outdoors at a young age through Scouts, although it was when he discovered rock climbing a few years later that things got interesting. Rock climbing and a need to explore led him to quit his job and teach English amongst the limestone towers in South Eastern China. Later he spent a year and a half travelling along the Andes, from Argentina to Columbia, stopping to climb and trek along the way.  Rich is now settled in Snowdonia, North Wales where he works as full time as Mountaineering Instructor and Expedition Leader.  Alongside his extensive expedition experience, he holds a Wilderness First Responder medical qualification as well as MIA and WML certifications.

Read more
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

Read more
Expedition leader Lachlan Bucknall preparing dinner

Lachlan Bucknall

Expedition Leader

Lachlan is an expedition leader, TV safety advisor and a qualified mountaineering, climbing, and skiing instructor. He is a former Army Officer and served 11 years in the British Army with operational tours of Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has over 20 years’ experience mountaineering, climbing and ski-touring internationally and through his professional career and personal trips is well used to leading and looking after people in remote and hostile environments. Lachlan is medically qualified as a FREC3 First Responder and Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician. His expedition career highlights include leading Secret Compass’s first Burma expedition in 2015 and ski touring from sea to summits in Arctic Norway.

Read more

TOM MCLAY

EXPEDITION LEADER

As a teenager living in North Wales Tom McLay learnt to push his kayaking abilities to become a river guide and hone his mountain biking and hill skills. Now, from battling through Bolivian jungle to hiking high passes in Tibet, Tom thrives on culturally diverse and exploratory river expeditions. Working as a Paramedic, he affords plenty of time to both personal and professional expeditions and highlights some of his favourite journeys as the Humla Karnali; Western Nepal, Grand Canyon of the Stikine, British Columbia and the Yangtze river, Western Sichuan. Awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2016 he also plays an active role in river conservation.

Read more
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.

Read more

Alex Bigwood

Wilderness Instructor

Alex has 15 years of military expertise, partly in Special Forces. He has been leading expeditions and instructing wilderness related courses for almost a decade on multiple continents including, Antarctica, the Middle East and the Americas, specialising in medical support and private services in high risk areas.

His qualifications include Red Cross Advanced Wilderness and Remote First Aid Instructor, Certified Wilderness Instructor for the Professional Association of Wilderness Guides and Instructors (PAWGI) and multiple Military qualifications in medicine and advanced warfare. He is passionate about wilderness survival and wilderness medicine, and currently serves in the Army Reserves as an Infantry Instructor.

Read more

Paul Spackman

Expedition Leader

Paul is a highly professional and experienced mountain leader, alpinist, ultra-runner and former British Army Officer who is happiest when climbing, running and leading on mountains. He’s been to the top of a number of Alpine classics such as the Matterhorn, the Eiger, Mont Blanc and the Dent Du Geant to mention a few. Further afield he has climbed and guided in Wadi Rum in Jordan, on Kilimanjaro, summited Island Peak and thoroughly explored the Himalayan Khumbu Valley. Between summits he turns his attention to long distance running and has completed the iconic UTMB (106 miles with 10,000m of elevation) race, was one of only 40% of starters to finish the inaugural OMAN by UTMB (137km across the heights of Jebel Akhdar) and finished in the top ten of the Jurassic Coast ultra. Paul is passionate about the mountains and truly believes in their power to inspire people’s positive outlook on life .

Read more
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.

Read more

Jan Bakker

Expedition Leader

Jan hikes, climbs, bikes and surfs whenever he can. His love for expeditions has taken him to remote mountain ranges on six continents. Highlights include an ascent up the 7105m high Pik Korzhenevskaya in the Tajik Pamirs, an expedition in the off- limits border zone of the Caucasus between Azerbaijan and Russian Dagestan and two long-distance treks in the Afghan Wakhan Corridor. Jan is co-author of the very first printed guidebook Trekking in Tajikistan, published by Cicerone Press. He’s also co-founder of the Zaghouan Mountain Film Festival, Tunisia’s first event of its kind. In 2019 he co-produced an adventure film in Lebanon, descending the highest mountain in the country to the Mediterranean on snowboard, mountain bike and surfboard. Currently he resides in Kampala, Uganda with his family from where he’s guiding expeditions and working on a new trekking guide dedicated to the mountains of Uganda.

Read more
Expedition leader Phil De Beger, 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.

Read more

Pat Barrow

Expedition Leader

Pat Barrow has been involved with Secret Compass since 2015 when he pioneered an exploratory Single Track MTB expedition in Kyrgyzstan’s Talas Range. Pat has travelled to around 60 countries and lived and guided in Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Central Asia for over a decade; he speaks fluent Russian and specialises in exploratory adventures in the Russian speaking world. His first official job in Kyrgyzstan was ‘Hutman,’ and helped manage a mountaineers hut at 3000m. Adventure Highlights have been a 6000km solo MTB escapade across West China and Tibet, including Everest Base Camp and the Aksai Chin; riding 200km above 5000m. Pat has guided in Ecuador, Vietnam, Indian Himalaya and Nepal and currently guides Secret Compass Nenets Expeditions to the Yamal Pennisular in the Russia Artic. He led the first commercial crossing of the frozen Gulf of Ob back in 2016. Pat graduated Anthropology at university in Australia, has a background in outdoor education and a keen interest in traditional cultures and immersion.

Read more

Robert Molnar

Expedition Leader

Growing up in Soviet era Hungary, Robert developed a love for outdoor sports from young age. His main sport became orienteering and where he competed at an international level, representing Hungary at 6 world championships including both normal and ski orienteering events. Specialising in central Asian and Arctic environments, Robert has worked as an outdoor instructor and educator for more than 20 years and has led more than 30 expeditions around the world. With a degree in sports science, a masters in altitude physiology and a wilderness EMT qualification, he also has a keen interest in expedition medicine. Now based in Norway, Robert has spent the last 14 years working winter seasons as a head instructor and guide for a mountain hotel where he manages all the winter activities including skiing and snowshoeing. For the rest of the year Robert splits his time between teaching outdoor education and sports to the younger generation and leading expeditions around the world.
Read more

Chris Shirley

Expedition Leader

Chris’ love affair with high, cold and remote places started as a Royal Marines Commando officer working in some very challenging environments: From the unrelenting cold of the Scottish Highlands, the flash floods in the unforgiving Mojave Desert, surviving a massive rockfall on Mont Blanc and the snake-ridden jungles of West Africa. Alongside his years spent advising the media and humanitarian sectors, he has spent many months of his life leading and working in the mountains – notably Oman, Scotland, the French alps, Nepal and Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush. He has finished the infamous Marathon des Sables, rowed across the Atlantic ocean in a team of 5 (setting a world first record in the process), led teams to complete the gruelling Devizes to Westminster canoe race and UK Ironman triathlon. As well as a passion for getting to places that others cannot, he brings his skills as an accredited remote area medic (EMT-B), mental health first aider, disaster response volunteer and photojournalist to Secret Compass expeditions. Outside of adventure, he is a keen supporter and advocate of sports teams in conflict zones, regularly visiting Afghanistan to work with millennial athletes across the country.

Read more

Rob Kenning

Expedition Leader

Rob has worked in expeditions since 2008. He loves connecting with people, nature and getting out in the world, and these interests have taken him from a film shoot on the top of Kilimanjaro, across deserts of Kazakhstan on an 8000 mile journey in Fiat Panda, and down to the jungles of Costa Rica for 10 months of remote conservation work, without electricity or running water. As a Mountain Leader and active Mountain Rescue member near his home of Sheffield UK, he is most happy in boots and a backpack, but brings substantial experience from all angles of expeditions from desk-based planning & logistics, to leader training & development and emergency support. He has worked with Secret Compass since 2015 and when not overseas, he works as a Personal & Business Coach and National Park Ranger. He likes to call himself an “Ironman” but his wife says these things have an expiry date after 3 years so he has to do another to keep the title.
Read more

The Journal