John Bathgate – AMAZON: Summit to Sea Expedition 2023

In 1968, David Bathgate (John’s father) was on a climbing expedition in the Peruvian Andes. On this expedition, he had the idea to travel the length of the Amazon from its highest source. He didn't get the chance to undertake this challenge but in his 80th year, he passed the idea on to his son. John’s goal is to navigate the Amazon River with his team, from its highest source, a volcano in Ecuador called Chimborazo (20,548t). They will climb to the glacier top of Chimborazo (the highest point on earth from its centre) and from there, find the source of the Rio Chimborazo and follow the subsequent tributaries into The Amazon and to the Atlantic Ocean. This journey of 5,128km will begin on foot for around 200km through the Andes and the remainder of the journey will be completed in canoes and eventually a raft as they pass through the vast Amazon Basin. The Amazon expels more fresh water into the oceans than the next 7 largest rivers combined. So, the highest place on the planet is also the source of the greatest river in the world. The Summit to Sea route has never been attempted before.


The team’s aim is to report on land uses in the target area, concentrating on the reasons for deforestation (agriculture/mining/timber). Whilst passing through the changing environments they will be conducting ecology surveys and taking water samples in order to understand biodiversity and pollution levels in areas that have or have not been affected by industry. They hope to prove, through scientific research, that rising pollution levels and habitat decline due to industrial processes are linked to the biodiversity decline in wildlife. They also expect to document the social upheaval and cultural decline in native populations as a result of land conflict.


John Bathgate and teammate Ian on a practice expedition

(Photo: John Bathgate and teammate Ian on their practise expedition)


Furthermore, they aim to make connections with native populations and become familiar with the surrounding habitats so that they can understand how to cope in these challenging environments. They will also investigate mental health within the team as they grow from shared hardship, firmly believing that a life outdoors, appreciating nature, taking risks, and overcoming challenges help to enact positive mental change. They plan to document this and show it to a wider audience in the hope to inspire others to make positive changes in their lives.


John is the Expedition Leader and in 2013 joined the Royal Marines. During his career, he learned skills leading sections in many training environments including maritime, urban, cold weather, and jungle environments. He specialised as a Landing Craft Coxswain (amphibious role) deploying globally, where he was tasked with leading small boat groups on patrols, boarding operations, and landings. During this time, for 3 years he studied Ecology with SRUC online. Throughout his career, John has been climbing and paddling in Scotland, and around the world. He’s aware that successfully leading a team down the Amazon will be his biggest challenge to date.


AMAZON: Summit to Sea Route Map


EXPEDITION DATES: 1 May 2023 to 17 October 2023

EXPEDITION LOCATION: Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Brazil



John is looking for team members...


MEDIC - A qualified medic with paddling experience and good personal administration skills. They will also be expected to conduct scientific work during the trip (within their professional field).


CAMERA PERSON - Must be on stages 1 & 2, and be an experienced paddler and photographer.


If you are interested in joining this expedition, please contact John at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



If you are interested in sponsoring this expedition, please contact John at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


You can find out more about this expedition by visiting


SES members and all other participants in SES endorsed expeditions take part at their own risk, and will not hold SES, its trustees, employees, volunteers, partners or agents liable (whether in contract or in tort or in negligence or for breach of statutory duty or otherwise) for any loss, criminal or reputational damage, personal injury, delay or expense suffered or incurred on any such expedition. SES endorses the aims and objectives of these expeditions only.