TORONTO April 10 —
It wasn't the Arctic cold, or lugging 150 pounds of gear up steep
rocks, or even the broken ankle from tumbling down a waterfall.
David Hempleman-Adams already knew his latest record-setting solo
trek would be his last.
The 46-year-old British adventurer is hobbled and tired, but
ultimately content, after recently becoming the first person to make
a solo, unsupported trip to the magnetic North Pole.
After 20 years of adventures that have included similar treks to
the magnetic North Pole and South Pole, Hempleman-Adams heads home
to England on Thursday to mend the injured ankle and look for new
kinds of challenges.
"It's the one that hadn't ever been done solo by anybody, and I
wanted to, after 20 years, just go out with a bang," he said of the
300-mile, 21-day trek that involved cross-country skiing while
hauling a sled loaded with gear and climbing glaciers and
The geomagnetic North Pole, which marks the northern end of the
magnetic field that surrounds the Earth, differs from the geographic
North Pole at the top of the world. Hempleman-Adams reached it April
4 on the east coast of Ellesmere Island in northern Nunavut, the
Inuit territory of Canada opposite Greenland.
Speaking by telephone from Resolute, Nunavut, before flying home
Thursday, Hempleman-Adams described a grueling journey across the
frozen Arctic tundra.
Wearing Arctic gear "amalgamated over the years," he set out
March 17 for what he knew would be his final solo run.
"You just dig in and start pulling," he said of hauling the
150-pound sled over the ice and up the inclines, some so steep that
it took four trips to get everything.
On the way he saw wolves, Arctic foxes, musk oxen and other
wildlife, including some polar bear tracks. The weather was
"gorgeous, absolutely fantastic," with no storms and moderate Arctic
temperatures of around minus 30 Fahrenheit.
"It was my last one, so somebody was looking out for me," he said
of the conditions.
There was the usual touch of frostbite on his nose but no other
problems until the waterfall, where he injured his ankle badly
enough to spend the night on the spot. He started off again the next
day, popping pills for the pain.
"I was on pretty good painkillers and the English are notorious
for being stupid," he said. "They can't correlate pain with the fact
they might be doing permanent damage."
He covered the final 60 miles that way, only learning after he
was picked up and taken to Resolute that the ankle was broken.
"It wasn't too bad," he said. "It was very, very slow and you
sort of just tolerated it."
The winner of two Royal Humane Society bronze medals for bravery,
both involving rescues on expeditions, Hempleman-Adams said he
dedicated his final solo Arctic trek to journalist Terry Lloyd, the
correspondent for Britain's Independent Television News who was
killed in the war in Iraq.
Lloyd had covered some of Hempleman-Adams prior exploits.
Hempleman-Adams previously climbed many of the world's tallest
mountains, including Everest. In 1984, he completed the first solo
expedition to the Magnetic North Pole without the support of dogs,
snowmobiles or air supplies.
On Jan. 5, 1996, he became the first Briton to walk solo and
unsupported to the South Pole, then sailed to the magnetic South
Pole a month later to become the first person to do both in the same
Now it is home to his wife and three daughters in Box, near Bath
in England. His solo trekking days may be over, but Hempleman-Adams
is already thinking of other adventures perhaps even a balloon trip
across the Atlantic Ocean.
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