Former Scouts and polar explorers Dr Gareth Andrews and Dr Richard Stephenson have completed their Norwegian training expedition in preparation for their unsupported full coast to coast ski crossing of Antarctica.
After two years of endless zoom calls, strategy meetings and derailed plans, The Last Great First explorers, Doctors Gareth and Richard, have completed their first training expedition in Svalbard, Norway. Their 350km, 20 day expedition across the archipelago tested the limits of their physical endurance and equipment in preparation for their Antarctic crossing in late 2022.
Battling frigid temperatures, gale force winds and low visibility, the explorers were back in their elements. A diary entry from their expedition details the challenges of the remote adventure. “A sleepless night as a strong northwesterly wind came up and battered our tent high on the Filchnerfonna ice cap. Strong gusts almost flattened our tent, thankfully we were dug in well and set up for the storm. Our Hilleberg Keron 4 GT has been truly outstanding and has filled us with confidence for the epic Antarctic winds we are yet to face. We’ve spent the day in our tent as the winds rattled on, not wanting to risk a move in these conditions. It’s getting towards evening now and the wind is settling slightly. We’re looking forward to getting back out on our skis tomorrow. The temperatures have dropped significantly this afternoon as the sun dipped below the horizon, it feels like at least -20. We’re in good spirits and going well.”
When Gareth & Richard embark on the 2,600km coast to coast crossing Antarctica in October 2022, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for 110 days. The Antarctic temperatures will average from -10°C to -40°C with wind chill. Storms are frequent and dangerous with wind speeds that can exceed 150km/hr, lasting for days. The sled they drag behind is their life raft – packed full of all the gear and food needed to survive the three month expedition. It weighs over 200kg. To make it, Gareth & Richard will average a distance of 24km per day. No one in history has ever skied further or for longer, unsupported in such a harsh environment and with such heavy loads.
The Last Great First is Gareth and Richard’s culmination of a lifetime dedicated to adventure, first discovered thanks to Scouts Australia. The pair of polar explorers hope to inspire the next generation of Scouts and young adventurers to reach for their goals and achieve their own remarkable aspirations, just as Shackleton has inspired them, and to ensure the vital research data is collected in the process, to both best understand our changing climate, as well as the physiological insights needed so that future explorers can continue to push the boundaries of human endurance.
Svalbard 2022 Expedition, Norway
Expedition Training, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
Snowy Mountains Training Expedition, Kosciuszko National Park, Australia
The Last Great First Expedition, Antarctica