This feature was first published on Explorers Web in April 2018.
British army Captain Lou Rudd has announced plans to attempt an unsupported solo crossing of Antarctica, by the same route on which fellow Briton and friend Henry Worsley lost his life in 2016. The journey of approximately 1,770 km runs from Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf via the South Pole. He’s called it the ‘Beyond Endurance’ Expedition.
Last year, Rudd led a five-man British Army team across Antarctica from Hercules Inlet to the Ross Ice Shelf, with a resupply at the Pole.
On his website, Rudd said:
A solo, unsupported crossing of Antarctica, using muscle power alone with no resupply – although attempted – has never yet been completed. It is the purest and most challenging form of polar travel. A dear friend of mine, Lt Col Henry Worsley, MBE, Polar Medal, tragically lost his life attempting this journey in 2016. My first ever polar journey was with Henry and he taught me all of the skills required as well as inspiring me further. As a fitting tribute to the legacy of Henry I am hoping to go to Antarctica to complete his journey.
I am under no illusions as to the enormity of the task. Just raising the necessary funds to get to the start line will be a huge challenge, let alone the journey itself. However, I genuinely feel having served for many years with Henry and shared a tent with him for 3 months in 2011/12 while skiing to the South Pole, that I am the right person for this task. I’m sure he will be looking out for me throughout. His wife Joanna has very graciously given me her blessing and will be supporting the build up and preparation as well as watching the journey unfold.
I caught up with Lou for some questions, just as he is about to leave for Greenland [editors note, Lou is now safely back after leading a Greenland icecap crossing last month].
Can you give us some background about yourself?
I’m Louis (known as Lou) Rudd and I live in Hereford with my wife Lucy and family. I have been serving in the Marines and then Army for 33 years so far, and still going strong! My son Luke has followed in the old man’s footsteps and joined the Marines, my eldest daughter Amy is joining the RAF, and Sophie is training to be a barrister. To be honest, they inspire me!
What is your adventure/polar experience?
I’ve managed to pack in quite a lot over the years and been really lucky with the support and understanding I’ve had from family, friends and the Army. Without which none of the big trips would have been possible. My first adventure came about when I was only 14 years old. After reading a Ranulph Fiennes book, I decided on the spur of the moment to cycle over 800 kilometres to my father’s house in Scotland. I set off with just a lightweight sleeping bag, puncture repair kit and £10 cash. I camped each night by the side of the road, and it took me five days but I got there in the end, much to the surprise of my father, who I hadn’t told I was coming!
In my early military career, I spent a lot of time in Norway which forged my love of cold environments. I’ve also spent a lot of time in desert and jungle environments, often trekking vast distances carrying heavy weights. These were quite demanding expeditions. My first big polar journey didn’t come until 2011 when I was part of the Scott/Amundsen Centenary Race which was organized by Henry Worsley. Henry and I were on Amundsen’s route, starting at the Bay of Whales on the Ross Ice Shelf, we then climbed the Axel Heiberg Glacier and across the plateau to the South Pole, 1,290 kilometres in total, with no resupply. We raced against three friends doing Scott’s route. They had slightly further to go and came in nine days after us. Spending that time with Henry and experiencing his passion for the journeys of the early polar pioneers had a profound effect on me.
In 2016/17 I had the privilege of leading a six-man team on a 1,770 mile traverse of Antarctica. The SPEAR17 expedition became a tribute to Henry after his tragic death in early 2016. We made it to his final campsite and did a small memorial service and then descended the Shackleton Glacier to complete the journey on his behalf.
When will you be in Antarctica, and what are the key goals of your expedition?
November 2018 to January 2019. I’m aiming to complete the first solo unsupported (i.e. no kites, sails etc.) traverse of Antarctica, in tribute to Henry Worsley. The expedition has lots of aims including a comprehensive medical research program that could see the first use of implanted sensors to accurately monitor my biometrics, which will hopefully yield benefits to medical science.
Why go back to Antarctica again?
I genuinely love the place, its raw beauty and remoteness still blows me away. It’s so vast and desolate, you really feel like you are out there alone pitching yourself against the challenging conditions. There’s nowhere else like it on the planet. To have the opportunity to go back and truly experience what Henry went through will mean a lot, and I’m sure he will be watching over me.
What about training?
In January I spent 2 weeks in Finse, Norway with Hannah McKeand helping out on her polar expedition training course and picked up a few tips from the old Jedi master. This May, I’m leading a six-person team on a 560 km west-to east-traverse of Greenland which will be ideal preparation. You can follow our progress on Facebook at Traverse of Greenland 18.
Every time I go on the ice I learn something new, every day’s a school day as they say. In addition, I’m tire hauling, doing a lot of strength and conditioning work in the gym, and spending some time on my mountain bike and KTM dirtbike.
What did you learn from Henry that will help you on your expedition?
Everything! My first big polar journey was with Henry and he pretty much taught me everything from scratch. I’ve since built on that experience to get myself to a point where I feel I can take on the solo unsupported crossing. He also taught me the value of patience, just keep chipping away at it day by day, one ski in front of the other and don’t get frustrated. Be creative to deal with setbacks. Finally, he had a true appreciation for polar history and the early pioneers. I owe everything to Henry, a true inspiration.
What will be on your music player/reading list for days when you need a motivational kick?
Rogue Warriors audio book by Ben Macintyre, The Worst Journey in the World and Scott’s diaries. Inspiring stuff that’s good for a reality check when you think you’re having a hard day. Helps keep things in perspective.
How can we find out more about your plans and follow your journey?
You can find out more about my preparation and plans at www.lourudd.com