Willem (°1987) is co-founder and manager of Into the Arctic. Over the years, he has developed a deep passion, and unrivaled level of expertise for planning summer expeditions in uncharted wilderness areas of Greenland and Lapland. He also knows the Pyrenees and the French Alps like the back of his hand.
Even since his earliest adventures, Willem has always steered clear from the more "classic" treks. After visiting Svalbard at the age of 18 and crossing the length of the Pyrenees at 19, he was hooked. To his friends and family, it is no surprise that at the age of 30, Willem quit his career as a geophysicist to start Into the Arctic out of sheer passion for the outdoors.
In 2011 Willem discovered the packraft (an inflatable boat that rolls down into your backpack) and became one of the first people in Europe to undertake long exploratory packraft adventures, allowing him to cross liquid boundaries like big rivers and lakes, and access backcountry areas where no one else had ever set foot. Each of his trips begins with a long pre-planning phase, where he pours over maps and satellite imagery for months, allowing new trip ideas and trajectories to slowly crystallise. "It is the best way to gain a deeper understanding of a new region prior to the trip, and ultimately create unique routes that come straight from the heart."
Willem's outdoor logbook includes an entirely self-propelled, 3000km crossing of Scandinavia in 4 months (south-to-north), a 2-month solo traverse of New Zealand's South Island (north-to-south), and several multi-week autonomous solo expeditions in Greenland. Many of these trips are world firsts. Willem has:
Willem manages the day-to-day operations of Into the Arctic and guides a handful of expeditions every year. It's hard to pick a favorite trip, but the Eternity Fjord expedition in Greenland and the Padjelanta Highland Trek in wintry Lapland might be near the top of his list.
Willem lives with his New Zealand partner in Ghent, Belgium. On nice evenings though, you are likely to find him in the Flemish Ardennes, where he seeks peace and quiet on his road bike or trail running.