Q&A: Jenny Tough’s SOLO adventure

In celebration of the release of the film SOLO, we catch up with Jenny Tough to learn more about the challenge that inspired this film. Keep reading to discover why she decided to run 6 mountain ranges across the globe, by herself, with no backup support.

In 2016, #TeamMontane athlete Jenny Tough headed out to Kyrgyzstan on a solo mission to run across Tien Shan mountain range. This intrepid expedition would be the first of 6 epic solo runs across mountain ranges around the world.

Over the course of 5 years, Jenny pushed her limits as she navigated some of the most remote landscapes on the planet. SOLO is her inspiring story brought to the big screen. Your chance to see this incredible achievement unfold.

What initially inspired you to take on a solo expedition of this scale?

Going solo adds so many layers of challenges to an expedition that I think brings an integrity to the pursuit. When I started doing solo adventures I was in my early 20s and found that solving the various challenges of an adventure on my own was such an empowering and inspiring experience. You find out what you’re made of and just how tough you are when you go solo.

Jenny Tough SOLO Film

How do you go about planning a solo trip like this?

It’s obviously a big project to cross an entire mountain range unsupported, especially as many of the routes I made had never been attempted before. I spent long hours on maps and satellite images designing the routes, while also training my body to be out for these multi-week runs. I also had to learn about logistics, resupplies, cultural differences, weather, etc. Each of the six crossings were big undertakings to plan!

What were the biggest challenges you encountered and had to overcome as a solo traveller?

It changes from place to place and trip to trip. Sometimes the biggest challenge is being alone with yourself. Sometimes it’s being a solo woman in a culture where that is a difficult thing. Sometimes it’s the challenges of the terrain or environment. Every time I go out on a big expedition, I seem to face a new lesson!

What did a typical day on the trail look like?

It’s pretty simple on a typical day: pack up my campsite, move in the right direction for as many hours as my legs will take, and find enough water/calories along the way. Don’t get lost, don’t get hurt and, hopefully, meet some nice people/animals and take some photos of the amazing things I’m seeing. A normal day on the trail is really a simple and amazing thing.

Did you ever feel lonely? How did you combat this?

Of course. Being lonely was one of the biggest challenges. Part of combating this is prevention - I know that when I go out for that long on my own, it’s going to be hard, so I use mental tactics before the expedition even starts to prepare myself for this. On the trail, I always have headphones on hand so, if I need a distraction, I can always plug in some tunes or a podcast.

The truth of all hard things is that it won’t last, and sometimes you just have to remember that you will come into phone signal in a few days and then you can call home for a pick-me-up chat!

What sort of skills do you think are important for solo adventures?

Obviously, the technical skills have to be decent, otherwise, it’s a pretty unsafe thing to go into the wilderness alone! But beyond that, to go solo you need to be resilient and able to trust yourself. You and you alone are responsible for your safety and enjoyment, so you need to be the type of person who’s prepared to do that for you.

Jenny Tough Montane Athlete


Why do you think solo travel is still something not many women do?

We are actively discouraged from going anywhere alone all of our lives, and so it’s incredibly hard to overcome that cultural barrier. We all have internalised the messaging we started receiving from a young age about how the world is unsafe for women. However, I so strongly and passionately believe that women should go on solo challenges now and then.

Going solo, you learn how tough you are, and come home feeling so empowered. How great would it be if women all started feeling more empowered? My advice for anyone planning a solo adventure is that you’re tougher than you think - you are far more capable and strong than you realise and, when you go out there, you’ll find that toughness within you.

Feeling inspired?

Watch Jenny's epic adventure unfold in her official SOLO film on YouTube. For more thoughts from Jenny, take a look at the lessons she learned undertaking her Run the World’s Mountains. For a deeper dive, you can also read her book SOLO to discover even more inspiring insights and tales from the trails.