Man to complete first ever return journey to the South Pole on foot reveals the hardships he faced


(WorldKings) 'I changed my underwear THREE times in 108 days'

Underwear is the last thing on your mind when tackling one of the world's most epic journeys, so it appears.

Intrepid adventurer Ben Saunders has revealed how he only changed his underwear three times in 108 days when he was making his history-making mission to the South Pole on foot.

During the 1,795 mile traverse across the minus 50 degree Celsius tundra, the Brit said he and his teammate could only take the bare essentials, so pants were put to one side.

Speaking at an event at the Royal Geographical Society in London recently in support of the charity Walking With The Wounded, Saunders, 39, recalled some of the more harrowing moments during his polar voyage.

Chaffing, hypothermia, extreme hunger and fatigue were just a handful of the things he battled along the way.

He spent ten years preparing for his South Pole expedition - taking the same return loop that defeated Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team more than 100 years ago.

Over the years, others have also perished on the vast expanse of ice.

And Saunders confirmed that it was one of the toughest things he's ever faced.  

Brutal high winds, extreme cold and dwindling food supplies quickly took their toll.

Saunders embarked on his South Pole 'Scott Expedition' in 2013 with fellow explorer and former Wasps rugby player Tarka L’Herpiniere.

He said the two of them agreed on a 'no moaning policy' in a bid to keep up-beat as they went.

Saunders says that being in the South Pole is like nowhere else on the planet and for three months he and Tarka didn't see a single thing.

Recalling the desolate landscape they encountered, he said: 'You're in a tent in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing, no animals, nothing. Just white.

'We stayed on the same compass bearing for 31 days and didn't see anything. 

'I didn't have a mirror to check what state I was in. It was bleak.'

The Devon native said one of the toughest times hit towards the end of their journey when they almost ran out of food.


Throughout their gruelling adventure they hauled 440lb sledges behind them, and en route they deposited food depots, which they would re-visit on their return.

Saunders said they looked like 'two fat men dragging bath tubs' and they had to train for months to be strong enough to pull the heavy loads.

However, on their way back from the Pole, they realised that they had deposited the first depot too far away from the second.

They had completely run out of food but still had two days of trekking to get to their buried supplies.

'We were in big trouble and had to call for help,' Saunders revealed.

The duo luckily had access to a satellite phone and they were able to get rations dropped off by plane

Showing a photo of Tarka topless in the tent one day it's clear what a physical toll the trip had on both men. The Frenchman appeared emaciated, with sinewy arms and visible ribs.

Saunders said he bulked up before the trip and put on 22lbs. But on returning to Britain after his endeavour he found he'd lost 49lbs.

Remembering how he felt when he finally finished his mammoth trek - the equivalent to 69 back-to-back marathons - Saunders said he was surprised how little emotion he felt.

He said: 'I didn't feel anything. I'd spent ten years planning for it and there had been so much build up.

'But by the end Tarka and I were like two grumpy, knackered men complaining about chaffing. I thought it would be the happiest day of my life. 

'I think that's the mistake I made in most of my twenties, thinking this one thing would make me happy.'

After completing his life-long dream, Saunders said he decided to embrace another challenge - launching a print magazine in the age of digital.

His luxury adventure magazine, Auvant, now covers some of the world's most cutting-edge exploration feats.

Offering a final pearl of wisdom, Saunders concluded: 'With enough grit and determination, anything is possible. It really is.' 



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