In 2011 Edward Bonnar took on the enormous challenge of trekking to the North Pole. Aside from the fierce journey itself, he had to overcome a variety of obstacles including polar bears, competing against temperature ranges of -15 to -40 degrees, 24 hours of day-light and the constant threat of falling into freezing water. Fantastically, Edward, who’s now 22-years-old, managed to raise £7,000 for Help for Heroes and Macmillan cancer relief. Adventure Travel guest blogger Rachel from chillisauce.co.uk chats with Edward about his gruelling adventure and finds out what’s next for the Arctic explorer.
What gets you out of bed in a morning?
At the moment it’s looking forward to my day’s work; I have just launched my own business (www.beaufortandblake.co.uk) selling men’s dress shirts.
What’s the one thing in the World you couldn’t live without?
Why did you decide to walk to the North Pole?
I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and ever since studying geography at school I’ve wanted to stand on top of the world! It gave me an opportunity to raise £7k for Help for Heroes and Macmillan cancer relief too. I’ve also got a bit of a thing for the cold – slightly weird I know, but it’s easy to keep warm or warm up by putting an extra layer on. In the hot, it’s much harder to cool down. Especially with thick British skin.
How old were you when you completed the challenge?
The ripe age of 20, still as nutty and naive as the day I was born.
Did you do complete the challenge with any friends?
The expedition was a team of five. One father & son, one Everest challenger, one ex SAS commander and one crazy Scottish Polar guide.
Edward and the group hauling their sleds across the Arctic ice.
How long did it take?
We managed 60 nautical miles in 5 days. Sadly this was half the distance we were due to complete because bad ice conditions delayed our start (the Russian ice camp runway cracked in half – literally)!
What surprised you most about walking to the North Pole?
24 hour daylight was quite disorientating but most strange was the ice. It was exactly how I had imagined the surface of the moon, with mounds and craters everywhere, and white for as far as you can see.
Was there a point where you wanted to turn around?
We were all pretty beaten when one of the team caught frostbite. We had to stop in our tracks, set up camp and bathe his fingers in lukewarm water. His condition didn’t improve so we had to use our satellite phone to call a helicopter evacuation. But even then the only goal was to finish.
What didn’t you know before completing the trek?
The polar ice pack moves 24 hours a day. There is no land, just 4 metres of ice and then 4000 metres of ocean. All of the lines of Longitude come very close together near the pole, so we might set up camp at a spot on the line of longitude of Moscow…and then wake up above Tokyo. This was mind boggling.
White ice stretches as far as the eye can see.
What essentials did you pack?
Tents, roll mats, polar sleeping bags, a rifle to warn off any Polar Bears, a diary, 30kgs of dry rations and bottle of champagne to open at the Pole! All equipment was carried in a sled which we each pulled.
How many calories did you consume per day?
About 6000 calories of solids and 4 litres of liquids. Too much to be pleasant!
Have you any advice for someone thinking of walking to the North Pole?
Don’t underestimate training – nine months of pulling tyres with a waist harness is tiring but essential. Core strength is your greatest asset.
Nine months of pulling tyres with a waist hardness all pays off.
What were the conditions like to sleep in/eat in/walk in?
Walking was strange. At minus 28 degrees, I never expected to overheat. The energy expenditure of hauling our 70kg sleds over rough ice is massive so believe it or not, body temperature regulation was tricky.
Eating 6000 calories a day was tough. We would stop walking every hour to force down food and drink. Our day rations were Beef jerky, cheese, Kendal Mint Cake, raisins, nuts, boiled sweets, reindeer salami and Mars Bars all chopped up into little bits in one bag. As it was all frozen it was rock solid and had no taste either. My Dad even chipped his tooth on a piece of cheese!
Sleeping was essential. We needed lots of rest. Permanent daylight meant time was measured in lots of 24 hours; 10 hours of sleep, 4 hours of setting up/taking down camp and 10 hours walking. During sleep, perspiration from our body would freeze in the layers of the sleeping bags, so waking up was frosty, literally. Getting out of our bags into minus 28 was pretty chilly too.
“At minus 28 degrees I never expected to overheat.”
Would you do it again?
Once is all you need for a Pole, so it’s the South one next.
What three things did you miss most from home?
Hot food, a loo and the Daily Mail sidebar.
What’s next for Edward Bonnar?
Next summer I’m planning to cycle from Aberystwyth to Aldeburgh. Non-stop in 24 hours.
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