” Since first reading about the incredible exploits of Captain Scott as a small boy, I knew that one day I had to follow his footsteps to the South Pole. After an expedition apprenticeship that progressed from the relatively benign setting of Snowdonia to some of the highest mountains on Earth, I felt I was ready to turn that lifelong dream into a reality. Our Commonwealth Antarctic Centenary Expedition commemorated Scott’s first attempt to reach the South Pole in 1902, alongside his team mates Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson. Training involved 3 weeks in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, kite buggying on the Sussex coast and endless loops dragging old car tyres round Hyde Park.
For day after day, week after week, our fresh-faced team hauled our sledges ever southwards, encountering blizzards, crevasses and endless fields of rock-hard sastrugi – wind-blown snow that resembles a badly-ploughed field. And on the rare occasions when the wind shifted from straight into our faces towards our backs, we made use of Mother Nature to propel us towards the Pole with our state-of-the-art parakites.
At times, Antarctica was an unforgiving place to be; windy, bleak and with temperatures barely creeping above minus twenty. The cold was brutal and unrelenting. But The Great White South also revealed a gentler side – an awe-inspiring icescape of colour and light, unchanged since the dawn of time. Barely 150 people had reached the bottom of our planet on foot in the century since Amundsen so famously pipped Scott to the Pole, and to have the entire continent pretty much to ourselves was the most incredible privilege that none of us will ever forget.
Nearly twenty years after my obsession with the South Pole began, my dream was finally realised on 28th December 2002 when I walked the final few paces to the red and white polar marker side by side with my three team mates Andrew Gerber, Pat Woodhead and Paul Landry.Forty five cold, breath-taking, tough and downright exhausting days after setting off from the coast at Hercules Inlet, we had become a very efficient, close and successful unit. At the time, our southern journey was the toughest challenge of my life, but it was also one of the most enjoyable – an adventure in the truest sense.”