Meet The Team


Portait image of Challenge The Wild Director, Dan Searson

Dan Searson
Founder and CEO

Challenge The Wild is run by Dan Searson.  During his thirty year military career, as an Army Officer, he was deployed to the Balkans, East Africa and the Middle East; and as a Mountain Leader led expeditions to the Pyrenees, Alps, the Sierra Nevada, Dolomites, the Grand Canyon, Peru and Mount Kenya. He was awarded several British Army Commendations during his service.

Dan has extensive experience in event management and has personally run challenges for many high-profile organisations.  He holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Humanitarian Response; and has been awarded certificates in Health and Safety for Managers and Medical Planning.  Dan thrives on ensuring our clients achieve their goals through a rigorous approach to planning and delivery.

Portait of Joe Harrop, one of Challenge The Wilds' technical climbing instructors
Portrait of Paddy Cave, Challenge The Wilds' lead technical instructor
Portait of Paul Johnson, Challenge The Wilds' Support Team Leader.

Joe Harrop
Head of Operations

Joe Harrop is Challenge The Wild’s Head Of Operations. He has worked in the outdoor industry for over thirty years, is an experienced rock climbing instructor, and has led groups in the technical canyons of the UK. Joe has travelled extensively, has a keen interest in the environment, and truly understands the benefits the outdoors can bring. Joe is responsible for all operational management of Challenge The Wild events including event logistics, client management and quality control. He also attends many events, putting into practice his passion to lead others.

Paddy Cave
Lead Instructor & Technical Advisor

Paddy Cave is Challenge The Wild’s Lead Instructor and Technical Advisor. He holds the Mountaineering Instructor’s Certificate, the highest UK certificate available. Paddy has completed 14 first ascents of peaks in the northern Himalayas and has taken clients out trekking and climbing all over the world. His experience and knowledge are second to none, and he is widely respected in the outdoor community.
Paddy leads on all Challenge The Wild events, and is supported by a team of highly experienced instructors that are some of the best in the business.

Paul Johnson
Head of Well-being

Paul Johnson is Challenge The Wild’s Head of Well-being. He served in the Merchant Navy for 39 years, spending 22 years as Chief Petty Officer. During his extensive travels all over the world, Paul has studied many techniques on helping people overcome their fears and anxieties to achieve their goals.
Paul has years of experience in mental well-being and volunteers weekly at a mental health charity. He has undertaken numerous courses, studied counselling and is mental health first aid qualified to level 3; and the architect of our well-being workshops.


Portait of Mark Smaje, one of our Adventure Event instructors

Mark Smaje

Mark is one of our Walk Leaders who works predominately on our Adventure Retreats in the Lakes. He has trekked all over the UK and taken part in several high-profile expeditions. He has a background in project management but is never happier than when leading others outdoors.

Portait of Ben McComb, a mountain leader with Challenge The Wild.

Ben McComb

Ben McComb is one of our Mountain Leaders and Paddle Sport Instructors and served as an Army Officer in the Royal Artillery, a role which has seen him travel extensively. He is first aid qualified and has significant knowledge in event management. Ben thrives on helping others to achieve their goals.

Portait of Sam Camp, an instructor with Challenge The Wild.

Sam Camp

Sam is a serving British Army Officer, holds a degree in Outdoor & Physical Education and is completing a Masters in Leadership. He has a deep interest in enhancing the self-efficacy of those he works with and hopes to give back to all the groups we support.

Portait of Connor Holah, marketing and tech support for Challenge The Wild.

Connor Holah

As well as an instructor, Connor handles the website and IT infrastructure. He first met Dan on the East Cheshire Hospice Grand Canyon Trek in 2018. He’s since been on many expeditions including to the Himalayas and Atlas Mountains. He also serves in the Army Reserves with the Mercian regiment.

Portait of John Kilner, physical health advisor for Challenge The Wild.

John Kilner

John consults for Challenge The Wild and works closely with the support team, advising on physical health. He is a GP in the Lake District and has interests in sports and expedition medicine. He is a fell runner, keen traveller and serves as a Medical Officer in the Army Reserve.

Portait of Danielle McDermott

Danielle McDermott

Danielle is the newest recruit to CTW. After a life changing experience with Breast Cancer, Danielle has reinvigorated herself and is now a qualified Mental Health Coach and Personal Trainer. She is an avid hiker whose background saw her work for 19 years in the NHS.


Ant Middleton

Ant Middleton is a British adventurer, former UK Special Forces soldier, Royal Marines Commando, and Royal Engineer in the British Army. Ant is our Military Ambassador, bringing world class experience and support to our events.

Julia Bradbury

Julia is a well-loved television presenter, author, nature advocate, charity campaigner and cancer survivor. She is best known for turning her lifelong passion for walking into prime-time TV.  Julia provides advice and support on our well-being focused events.

Portrait of Luke Hepworth

Luke Hepworth

Luke Hepworth is an Adventure Philanthropist. For every challenge Luke completes, he raises money and awareness for his chosen charity. He supports Challenge The Wild by providing advice and guidance on our charity focused events and corporate social responsibility.

Portait of Emma Kenny, psychologist, TV presenter, writer and expert media commentator

Emma Kenny

Emma Kenny is a psychologist, TV presenter, writer and expert media commentator, and is now recognised as one of the UK’s leading TV psychological experts. She works closely with the support team by providing advice and guidance on Mental Well-being.