Northumberland explorer Conrad Dickinson has spoken to The Journal from the Antarctic where he is leading Prince Harry and a team of former soldiers on an expedition to the South Pole.
The Hexham adventurer was picked to lead the Royal’s British team for the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge trek for the military charity Walking With The Wounded.
Originally, three teams were to race to the pole separately but, due to safety concerns, they have joined to become one group.
Conrad said the British team, Team Glenfiddich, were in the lead and could have emerged as the victors.
However, speaking from his tent at a station around 45 kilometres from their target destination where the temperature was -27C, Conrad said everyone is in good spirits, despite some mild frostbite.
He also revealed he has taken with him a Northumberland Wildlife Trust flag in his rucksack, which he will plant at the pole.
“We are all doing really well actually,” he said. “The British team were well ahead and we had won the first stage. We were looking to win it, and that was pretty amazing because we were the underdogs.”
He expected the team to reach the pole today.
“Physically, we have had a few knocks from the environment,” he said. “By and large people are cheerful and we should get to the South Pole at around 2pm on Friday, UK time. Prince Harry, who is patron of Walking With The Wounded, has been fantastic.
“He is very fit and strong and is keeping up the spirits of other people – that is a real bonus.”
The teams include injured servicemen and women, some of whom have lost limbs and Conrad said they have held up as well as any able-bodied person could have in the face of freezing temperatures and harsh winds.
He said: “I have been to the South Pole before but this is the first time with people with such injuries.
“It is a privilege. Everybody is looking forward to taking their pictures at the South Pole.”
After reaching the pole, the teams will be transported to Novo in the Antarctica before they take a cargo plane and then a connecting flight.
Conrad is expected to get back into Newcastle International Airport on Sunday, December 22, and says he is very much looking forward to spending Christmas at home with his wife Hilary.
The cash raised from the expedition will all go to the Walking With The Wounded charity, which helps injured soldiers to re-enter the workforce. The total is not yet known but it is expected the teams will have riased hundreds of thousands of pounds for the charity.