From Serious Surgeries to Hercules Inlet: Luke Robertson solo ski to South Pole

Every effort has to be made to ensure the correct systems, routines and equipment are in place for a safe expedition.

(Correne Coetzer) In early 2014 Luke Roberson was urgently admitted to hospital after a scan diagnosed a large brain tumour. During the subsequent brain operation to remove the mass, he was revealed instead to have an extremely large and rare enterogenous cyst. “I count myself, therefore, as extremely lucky,” says the Scotsman.

“The experience of three weeks spent in the neurology ward of the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, sharing time with brain cancer patients, was the most enduring and humbling period of my life. I discovered a lot about myself and others during this period.”

“The strength of human character; its desire and ability to endure hardship and to recover stronger than ever before should never be underestimated.”

Learning lessons in his hospital bed, he decided to follow in the footsteps of the polar explorers he read about in books. Pythom caught up with Luke about his 1130km solo, unassisted unsupported, ski starting next month.

PYTHOM: Tell us where your idea to ski to the South Pole come from please.

LUKE: I grew up in the countryside in the northeast of Scotland, so was always exploring the outdoors and was a member of various sporting teams and outdoor groups. I was also an avid reader of the books of the explorers of the early 20th Century polar explorers and promised myself that one day I would undertake a trip myself.

More recently, I underwent heart surgery and last year, brain surgery, and this altered my outlook on life in that you never know what is around the corner. The humbling experience of being in hospital and the people I met whilst there alongside the experience of losing my uncle to cancer is behind my drive to raise charitable funds for Marie Curie.

The expedition is also being undertaken to demonstrate the possibilities of achieving goals after overcoming difficulties in life. Hopefully this trip can inspire others to overcome their own hurdles in life, and become stronger through adversary. More information can be found at

PYTHOM: You say Newall Hunter has been of great assistance with your preparations. Tell us a bit about preparing for a solo South Pole, what happens behind the scenes?

LUKE: Every effort has to be made to ensure the correct systems, routines and equipment are in place for a safe expedition.

On top of this, as my aims are to raise charitable funds and help to inspire others, I have given talks to businesses and charities alike to promote Expedition ‘Due South 2015’ in an effort to spread the word and have been lucky enough to have articles printed in the National Press and on the BBC website.

My partner, Hazel, has been an incredible help and has been inspiring throughout all the preparation. Her dedication to the cause has been instrumental on getting me (almost) to the start line and I can’t thank her enough.

To top it all off, recently I have started the most enjoyable part of the whole preparation schedule, eating my way through enough food to put on nearly 3 stone by the start of the expedition.

PYTHOM: Newall’s three Top Tips for skiing to the South Pole?

LUKE: Newall Hunter and Craig Mathieson have both been very helpful in giving advice for this trip. Their main points of advice have been:

1. Don’t worry

2. Enjoy the whole experience

3. If the wind is coming from behind you on your way to the Pole, then you should be worried!


Skis: Asnes Amundsen Expedition

Skins, half/full? 2 x Half, 1 x full and 1 x quarter

Sled: Snowsled Icecap 200 Fibreglass pulk

Clothes: A combination of clothes

Boots: Alfa Mordre Extreme

PYTHOM: How did your training program look like?

LUKE: Training, planning and preparation has taken place over many years. I have been on multi-week expeditions to Greenland, Norway, Scotland and Slovenia (summer) and have raced in marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and quadrathlons, alongside multi day cycling and climbing events.

I have also been on a strict weights, and tyre-pulling regime, whilst undergoing psychological training and cold weather acclimatisation at the University of Glasgow’s cold chamber.

PYTHOM: How does your menu look like? Any special treats (always difficult to add extras when you are without assistance/resupplies). How much food do you take with? Estimated weight of your sled?

LUKE: Food is being supplied by Bewell Expedition Food so I am actually looking forward to it, given how tasty their food is! I will be taking home made flap jacks and a small bottle of whisky as a treat. I am taking 45 days worth of food and estimated weight of my pulk is 90kg.

PYTHOM: Items still on you to-do list?

LUKE: Put on one more stone of weight!

PYTHOM: Anything else?

LUKE: Yes! Please find out more about the trip here:

PYTHOM: Personals please?

Residence: Edinburgh, Scotland (originally from Stonehaven, Scotland)

Family: Mother: Veronica Robertson. Father: John Robertson. Partner: Hazel Clyne

Favorite book: Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane

Favorite movie: Valley Uprising

Follow Luke’s blog in the Dispatch Stream.

#southpole #skisouthpole #solosouthpole #antarctic #southpole2015-16

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