Travel

4 Absurdly Badass Survival Stories That Put Your Camping Trip to Shame

You think you’re cool because you can pitch a tent?
IMAGE Wikimedia Commons
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Traditional (if outdated) masculinity metrics put a premium on the ability to conquer nature: a "real man" can brave the outdoors and survive the elements. That’s why citybound folks like us get a rush from temporary bouts of adventure—a vague sense of accomplishment from just pitching a tent, from starting a campfire, or from not completely freaking out about the higad that just landed on your shirt. Once you can manage those, suddenly you're out buying lumberjack flannel shirts and changing your Facebook cover photo to a scenic mountaintop selfie—because you're such an outdoorsman.

But before you go on a shopping spree at the North Face branch of your nearest air-conditioned lifestyle mall, consider that maybe you’re not the wilderness-conquering badass you think you are. Here are a few stories of real badasses that would put your most recent Pulag trip to shame:

C. Dale Petersen bit a grizzly in the jugular.
There’s a commemorative plaque next to a taxidermied grizzly bear in a lodge in Wyoming that tells the story of C. Dale Petersen, a hunting guide who fought and killed an aggressive grizzly bear with his bare hands. The legend goes that the bear had been pissed off by a bunch of backpackers, before it wandered off and decided to take its anger out on Petersen, who defeated his furry adversary by biting into its jugular vein. Let the plaque tell his story of mandibular manliness and see if you believe it:

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John Fairfax rowed across oceans; once attempted suicicde-by-jaguar.
He’s best-known for being the first man to cross an ocean via rowboat (the Atlantic first, then eventually, the Pacific). But John Fairfax’s badassery began long before that. At age nine, he was expelled from the Italian Boy Scouts for opening fire with a revolver to settle a dispute with other scouts. At age 13, Fairfax left home to live in the wilderness of Argentina, “like Tarzan,” where he would survive by hunting and bartering leopard and ocelot skins with local peasants. He went on to study philosophy at a university in Buenos Aires, before a failed love affair would cause him to attempt suicide-by-jaguar. His attempt failed, because he came to his senses and shot the jaguar with a revolver that he kept just in case. Later, he would become a pirate’s apprentice, which involved smuggling guns and liquor for three years of his life. He would then settle down with a peaceful job as a mink farmer before deciding to row from Gran Canaria to Hollywood Beach, Florida.

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Daniel M’Mburugu ripped out a leopard's tongue. 
This 73-year-old Kenyan potato farmer was just tending to his crops and minding his own business when a wandering leopard pounced at him out from the long grass. M’Mburugu had a machete with him, which would have made things much easier if he didn’t suddenly hear “a voice, which must have come from God,” that told him to “drop the panga (machete) and thrust my hand in its wide open mouth.” The humble potato farmer followed, and jammed his hand into the leopard’s throat, ripping out its tongue and killing it. He was thereafter hailed a village hero, and the most badass potato farmer in the universe.

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Hugh Glass survived a bear mauling; won Leo DiCaprio an overdue Oscar.
You may know Hugh Glass as the role for which Leonardo diCaprio finally won Best Actor, but his story of bear-mauling and retribution has long been a classic, absurdly badass survival story. As depicted in The Revenant, Glass was attacked during a fur expedition by a grizzly bear, which he managed to kill with a knife. But because he sustained mortal wounds, his fellow expeditioners left him for dead. They didn’t expect him to get back up and trek over 300 kilometers for six weeks to the nearest settlement, while eating rattlesnakes and preventing gangrene by allowing maggots to feast on his flesh. The story is thought to have been embellished over the years, but it still makes for a pretty badass legend.

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About The Author
Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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