Army captain becomes first Briton to cross Antarctica solo

An army officer has become the first Briton to trek unaided across Antarctica.

Captain Lou Rudd, 49, finished his gruelling 925-mile journey at 19.21pm GMT on Friday after 56 days.

The Englishman becomes only the second person in history to complete the expedition without any assistance after American endurance athlete Colin O’Brady finished the route on Thursday.

Capt Rudd, a motor transport officer based at the Infantry Battle School in Brecon, Mid Wales, said he was “delighted” to have finished the expedition, which he undertook in memory of close friend and explorer Henry Worsley, who died attempting the unassisted solo trip, collapsing from exhaustion towards the end of the trek.

He said: “​My number one priority and objective was to come out here and ski solo, unsupported and unassisted right across the continent and I’ve done that. That was always the primary objective.

Picture supplied by Shackleton of Captain Lou Rudd
Picture supplied by Shackleton of Captain Lou Rudd

“I want to say a huge congratulations to Colin – what an achievement. To be honest it’s a minor miracle that both of us have completed a journey that’s been attempted before, but nobody’s ever managed it and then, lo and behold, in one season two of us attempting it. The fact that both of us have finished is absolutely fantastic.

“What matters most to me is that I’ve completed my expedition – and honoured Henry’s memory by carrying his family crest across Antarctica. I know he would have appreciated that. That’s what is really important to me.

“And we’ve both done it really fast. Incredibly fast. I’ve finished it within a couple of days of a professional athlete, and I’m delighted with that.”

The trek saw Capt Rudd hauling a 140kg sled without a single rest day, ascending over 6,000 feet over sastrugi – wave-like ridges created by wind – gales of up to 60mph and temperatures down to minus 30 degrees.

The feat was equal to pulling two adult males from London to Naples via the summit of Mont Blanc.

The father of three, from Hereford, documented his Spirit of Endurance expedition in blog posts since he began on November 3, which saw him describing his coping methods during the brutal journey which included a recent family holiday to Florida, a Winston Churchill audiobook, and an 80s music playlist.

Helping him survive was his “grazing bag” which included chocolate, nuts, and 200g of cheese and salami.

“I will never allow myself to think it’s time to give up, that I can call the plane and get picked up… The only way I’m going to survive and come out of this alive is by skiing to the end point, that’s it.”

– Lou Rudd (Spirit of Endurance Expedition)

— SHACKLETON (@ShackletonLdn) December 27, 2018

Capt Rudd has also now set the record for the most expedition miles covered in Antarctica, after previously winning the Scott-Amundsen centenary race in 2013 and leading the Spear17 team of Army Reservists across the continent in 2017.

He has now completed 3,000 miles of human-powered travel in Antarctica, surpassing the greatest names of polar exploration, including Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The latest expedition was sponsored by British performance clothing brand Shackleton, named after the famous explorer.

The Hon Alexandra Shackleton, granddaughter of Sir Ernest, said: “Mighty congratulations to Captain Rudd. This has stood as the last great polar challenge, to reach the finish line is a truly landmark achievement, especially in such rapid time.”

Shackleton co-founder, Ian Holdcroft, said: “Lou’s achievement is remarkable. Every step of the way he epitomised Sir Ernest Shackleton’s powerful values; optimism, patience, physical endurance, idealism and courage. We’re hugely proud to see him ski into Polar history.

“It’s a remarkable feat that this journey has been achieved by two people in 2018, where previously no one had made it. It’s a fantastic time to be at the centre of the future of Polar exploration and we couldn’t be prouder to have been by Lou’s side.”