A Brentwood School parent, himself an Old Brentwood, skied over 60 miles to the South Pole and endured -50c temperatures with no previous experience or training.
Mr Chris Philpot joined a team of 15 people on a 10-day private expedition to the South Pole, 100 years after Sir Ernest Shackleton failed the same epic journey.
Speaking to an audience of staff, parents, pupils and Old Brentwoods in the School’s Wessex Auditorium, Chris explained: “I was extremely lucky to be given the opportunity. You only live once and I wasn’t going to give up this once in a lifetime experience,”
Very few people visit the South Pole every year. Last year, fewer than 25 made the journey, a number far less than the amount of people who tried to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
After receiving the phone call and accepting the offer, Chris had just seven days to prepare for his adventure. Fortunately, he was able to borrow most of the equipment he needed from friends who had been to Antarctica before.
“My friends were able to supply me with several thick jackets, gloves, goggles and boots, all of which served me very well against the raging winds and bitter cold.”
With help from his wife and daughters, Mr Philpot packed up his things, booked his flights and made his way to Chile where he and 15 others would catch their flight to Antarctica.
“I made the journey with such a diverse group of people including business owners, managers, an ex-navy seal, the famous author Andy McNabb, and the record-breaking adventurer David Hempleman-Adams.”
Chris and his team were held in Chile for almost a week due to poor weather conditions in Antarctica but eventually the weather improved and the group were able to fly to the Union Glacier for training.
Over the next 10 days, the group would eat, sleep and walk together across the harsh and unforgiving ice of Antarctica. It was summer in Antarctica which meant the sun shone for 24 hours a day with temperatures consistently between -28c and -40c.
Every morning, Chris would wake up and prepare his equipment and breakfast with the four others he shared a tent with. Once everyone was ready, they would pack everything away and start the next section of their expedition.
“We would walk up to 10 hours every day, burning 9000 calories in the process. We were each pulling a 45kg sledge that carried all our supplies and nothing could be left behind.”
Antarctica is considered a natural reserve, a place devoted to peace and science. In 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was created to ensure that Antarctica would always be a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of any waste; that it would promote international scientific cooperation and set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty. Since it came into force in 1961, 46 countries have since acceded to it.
“This treaty meant that we had to leave everything as we found it, all materials, equipment and waste had to be brought with us back to Chile”.
Walking across glaciers of up to 3000m meant altitude sickness was a very real threat and one member of Chris’ team was unfortunate enough to have to leave the expedition early because of it.
“It was a really sobering sight, unlike at home, you call 999 and the ambulance can be with you in minutes, in Antarctica, the emergency services might be five hours away.”
Eventually, after several cases of mild hypothermia and signs of frost bite, frost nip and blisters, the group reached the South Pole.
“It was an incredible feeling, we all had experienced moments of adversity but by working together we helped each other through it. For me personally for example, on day three, the temperature dropped significantly and for some reason, my body was just not producing the heat it needed to. The rest of the team found out, crowded round me and helped me put on more layers. Within five minutes, I was back to normal again.”
Chris’ expedition helped raise £8,920 for The Essex Air Ambulance and Breast Cancer Now and this amount is still increasing. When asked if he would do it again, he replied “No, I wouldn’t go back but it’s an experience that’s taught me a lot and I will never forget it.”
If you would like to donate to these charities through Chris’ expedition, go to his JustGiving Page: https://www.justgiving.com/Chris-Philpot1