EXPLORER David Hempleman-Adams is back in Wiltshire after crossing Antarctica on a charity trek to the South Pole.
The Swindon-born adventurer led a team which included three injured servicemen – Cpt Adam Crook-shank, of Devizes, and Cpl Robbie Harmer and L/Cpl Nick Webb, of the Royal Dragoon Guards.
They dragged sleds filled with food and equipment 140 miles across the ice in temperatures as low as –55C, just as Captain Scott and his team did 100 years ago. The three soldiers are from the same regiment as Cpt Lawrence Oates, who famously left the tent on the ill-fated polar trek.
This expedition aimed to raise more than £1m, to be split between Alzheimer’s Research UK and Walking With The Wounded. Also on the team was Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent and Malcolm Walker, the chief executive of Iceland supermarkets, who had to drop out due to illness.
Mr Hempleman-Adams said the team got to the pole in 17 days, gradually building up the distance travelled as they became acclimatised.
By the end of the trip, he had lost a stone in weight, due to the physical exertion.
He said the soldiers were fit and charged ahead, but they were also in a lot of pain due to the effect of the conditions on their shrapnel wounds.
He said: “If you are doing a solo trip, you know how to look after yourself. But this was slightly different, in that there was the additional responsibility of looking after these wounded boys. They did amazingly well.
“They had injuries, they had all been blown up in Afghanistan, but they did amazingly well. They feel they’re the lucky ones. On their last tour of Afghanistan, they had 30 per cent casualties. They’re still serving.
“That’s what the whole thing was about, raising money for the walking wounded and giving that inspiration. It was humbling and inspiring.”
When the team reached the pole, it was photographed with a special Adver front page bearing the headline: “We did it.” Mr Hempleman-Adams, a father-of-three, said a poignant moment was when the three soldiers held a one-minute silence for Cpt Oates.
“We were the first group in this year of skiers or anybody to visit the pole, so it was nice. We had it all to ourselves,” he said.
Mr Hempleman-Adams, who has been to the Earth’s poles 17 times and now lives in Box, near Corsham, said he had ruled out another such trip, but feared he might be convinced to go again, by friends.
He said: “I always say ‘never again’ every time. “Then they get me down the pub and my will-power is appalling and, after one glass of wine, I say ‘never’ and by the second glass I say ‘maybe’ and by the third I say ‘alright’.”
Ominously, he said his next trip would be down to the pub.
To sponsor the polar trek, visit footstepsoflegends.org.uk