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OS Meets: Polar Explorer Ben Saunders

$cmp,342

Ben Saunders

How do you walk your own path

For me one of the biggest lessons in the 10 or 11 years of what I’ve been doing is that self stone island jumper red belief is the most important ingredient for success in any field. You’ll never find any shortage of people telling you why something can’t be done or why it’s impossible. Self belief’s like a muscle; the more risks you take and the more things you do that challenge you and stretch you the stronger it gets and the reverse is true; if you’re not taking risks your sense of self belief weakens and shrivels up.

Your career’s very different to the majority of people – does that scare you at times

(Nervous laughter) It’s been a pretty peculiar journey. I sometimes forget there’s this parallel universe of people with sensible jobs, coming home and going to the pub, living very normal lives. I sometimes feel like I’m on the very outer fringes of that. But I don’t have any regrets. It’s been a fantastic journey.

If you weren’t a polar explorer whose shoes would you like to walk in

When I was younger I dreamt of being a cyclist in the Tour de France so I envy and look up to people in that world. When I’m out training on my bike I fantasise about being in the peloton going through the Alps. It’s an extraordinarily tough thing to do so I think if I wasn’t a polar explorer I’d probably be out on two wheels.

What makes your toes curl

(After some thought) A few different things wind me up. People dropping litter drives me crazy. I instantly turn into a grumpy old man – I’ll pick things up and run after people! People complaining about their lot in life and not getting off their backsides to do something about it, that aggravates me too. There are 650,000 hours in the average lifetime – that’s not much and people who sit there moaning and whinging about things frustrate me. We all have enormous potential, seeing that wasted – wasted time, potential and energy frustrates me.

How are you preparing for your expedition later this year – Scott 2012

I always say it’s a bit like training for the Olympics and trying to build my own stadium at the same time. We’ve still got to raise an awful lot of money – it’s a seven figure budget which is bigger than anything I’ve ever done. Logistically it’s a very complex journey. At the moment the challenge is juggling everything from chartering an airbus to figuring out the best type of thermal underwear to take!

And fitness wise how are you preparing

Well I live in Clapham and there aren’t any glaciers nearby so if I’m in London then my training is fairly conventional. I do a lot of cycling and running, two or three sessions a week in the gym weight training and I try and escape to somewhere like Brecon or Devon when I can.

How does Scott 2012 compare to expeditions you’ve done before

It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done before in every respect. We’re covering 1800 miles that’s 70 marathons back to back in the coldest place on earth so it’s a tough challenge. We’re a team of three setting out to make a return journey to the South Pole – from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back to the coast following Captain Scott’s route. It will take about 4 months.

What’s the significance of this expedition

This year’s the centenary of Scott’s last expedition. Scott and his team died on their way back and no one has finished that journey – there’s this sort of misconception that it’s all been done nowadays so it’s our plan to complete it.

Can you describe what it’s going to be like

We’re travelling on foot wearing skis, essentially walking, and we’re wearing harnesses dragging sleds with all our supplies for 4 months. The sledges will weigh about 200kgs each: all our food, fuel for our stoves and tent. We’re pretty obsessed by saving weight; the lighter the sledge the higher our chance of success. We’ll probably just have one outer shell clothing and then a couple of sets of base layers, thermal underwear and mid layer fleeces so we can change our clothing for the different conditions. It will be between freezing point at the warmest and minus 45 at the coldest but with wind chill it could get down to minus 60 or 70. That’s a really bad day!

What do you wear on your feet

We wear custom made double layer boots. There’s an inner boot and then a big clumpy outer but they’re pretty lightweight. The sole clips directly on to the ski binding. We’re lucky in that the three of us all have similar sized feet so we will probably a spare pair of boots between us. Blisters aren’t a huge problem and we’ll have a couple of pair of socks on inside the boot.

What’s it like not wearing a normal shoe for 4 months

Because I don’t have to wear a suit to work I actually quite enjoy dressing up for speaking engagements particularly if I’ve just come back from a long trip looking dishevelled, bearded, sunburned and stinking. I think if I had to do it every day the novelty would wear off but yes you definitely appreciate the niceties and fineries after a few months.

You say you miss dressing up while you’re
away – what do you miss most about England

On previous solo expeditions I’ve ended up conjuring up this caricature of England; almost like I was dreaming about getting home and finding stone island jumper red a little village somewhere, sitting with a pint of bitter, watching a cricket match in the summer and driving an MG with the roof down. stone island jumper red I hate cricket! I don’t really drink bitter! I don’t know where all these things come from you end up missing this sort of idealised version of the green and pleasant land. I miss having a hot bath, having a curry with my mates and having a pint in the pub. I guess you miss the safety and security of home too. It’s a tough environment and you’re on edge the whole time you’re out there so you definitely appreciate home.

The high-tec element of this expedition must make it quite profound

In some ways it’s as low tech as it gets; we’re travelling on foot, using muscle power and dragging heavy sledges, but in other ways it’s got more in common with space flight. We’re using solar panels to power our satellite phone to send video images back to the website every night, we’re navigating using GPS satellites and we’re eating freeze dried food so there’s a surprising amount of innovation and technology involved.

Is there a certain freeze dried food that
you’re going to be looking forward to !

Fusion Food custom makes our food but we haven’t actually chosen the final menus yet. They make freeze dried Christmas lunch at Christmas time which is quite fun. They do a good curry as well!

What’s your favourite Oliver Sweeney
shoe

I can’t decide between the Saunders and the Edwards. The Edwards are nice and light. They’ve got that Lawrence of Arabia desert boot explorer vibe to them! I think the Saunders are great shoes. I’ve always liked brogues. I had a job in my gap year and I had a pair of brogues then. I was old before my time! I love the workmanship and the leather soles of the Saunders. It’s a traditional shoe but they’re cool at the same time.

Ben and his teammates Alastair Humphreys and Martin Hartley set out on the Scott 2012 Expedition in late October this year.

Follow them here….