Imperial College London

Racing the planet

Atacama Desert

Alumnus Poh Joo Toh (Mechanical Engineering 2000) will be one of 80 individuals crossing the driest place on Earth

The Atacama Desert is noted as the driest place on earth, with some places where no human has ever recorded a single drop of rain and dry river beds that have not seen water in 120,000 years. Made up of salt lakes, lava flows and sand, it stretches 600 miles between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Yet every year approximately 80 individuals brave its extreme climate in the Atacama Crossing, a six-day, 250-kilometre footrace. This year, Poh Joo Toh (Mechanical Engineering 2000) is among the competitors who will attempt to make a horizontal crossing of the desert through Chile, one mile above sea level.

The competition is one of four events through the driest, hottest, coldest and windiest places on Earth – the 4 Deserts series. Whilst the Atacama Crossing is PJ’s first 4 Deserts event, he is no stranger outdoor challenges as Director of MXP Adventure, which specialises in trips to Outer Mongolia. He is also a lecturer in Singapore, teaching Mechanical Engineering and Business Enterprise.

Reaching the end of the seven-day challenge will be no mean feat, which temperatures expected to reach 32 Celsius and each individual carrying their own backpack weighing about 9 kilograms. But sponsored the Imperial College Alumni Association of Singapore, PJ has the support and encouragement of the Association’s members, as well as the wider alumni association.

As one of the competitions four official bloggers, you can follow PJ’s progress through the Atacama at, alternatively you can send your encouraging thoughts to PJ at

We all wish PJ the best of luck.

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