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ExWeb interview with Newall Hunter, South Pole skier: "pretty hectic last preparations"

Posted: Oct 27, 2014 03:38 pm EDT


(By Correne Coetzer, update 07:56 am EDT Oct. 31, 2014 to reflect solo status) A quiet South Pole ski season lies ahead, in terms of number of ski teams. Most teams will start from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf to attempt the Messner route. Scottish born adventurer, Newall Hunter, will attempt this route.   


As every South Pole skier knows, the last few weeks before the expedition are hectic. For Newall, even more so because he is still without a most essential item, ski boots. At the last minute his supplier said they don’t have his size. Fortunately a friend has found a pair in Norway and Newall will soon be flying Oslo to collect them "as I don't what them to get stuck in UK customs when they arrive in the UK," he told ExplorersWeb.


In his hectic schedule, Newall has made time to talk to ExWeb about his adventure background, training gear, mentors, future plans and what he does when he is not outdoors. 


ExplorersWeb: Where did the idea come from to ski to the SP?


Newall: There are at least a couple of reasons for the South Pole this year.


The first reason is that I am working on the "explorers grand slam", of climbing the Seven Summits and skiing to the geographic North and South Poles. This is the reason for attempting both the ski to the South Pole and climbing Mount Vinson.


As to why I decided to go solo - that really is just a personal thing of wanting to push myself and experience the isolation and self reliance of 45 days on my own on the polar ice cap.  


The second reason is a training and equipment testing run for our Team attempt next year to complete Sir Ernest Shackleton's planned 1915 crossing of Antarctica. Shackleton and his crew are famous for their amazing survival after their ship got stuck in the Antarctic ice. What our team want to do for the Shackleton Centenary in 2015 is ski and kite-ski the complete coast to coast route that Shackleton had planned to be the first crossing of the Antarctic continent. We believe that this route has still not been completed.


Our team website - www.shackleton2015.com - provides much more information on this project.


ExplorersWeb: What is your adventure background?


Newall: I grew up in the mountains of Scotland so climbing and mountaineering was just something you did. I never really thought about it or trained, I just went out in the hills.


By my mid twenties I had completed climbing most of the Scottish mountains and discovered that winter mountaineering was my thing. I think that some of the classic winter routes in Scotland are as good as any in the world - but I'm biased. 


I then discovered the European Alps, and had many seasons in Europe with ascents of many of the 4000ers, including the Matterhorn, Monta-Rosa, and multiple ascents of Mont Blanc.


For my 40th birthday I decided to do something a bit higher. So after climbing Aconcagua in South America a couple of days after my birthday I definitely got the bug for the high mountains and the Seven Summits. The highlights of the Seven Summits for me so far have been summiting Everest in 2011 and a winter attempt on Denali, which ended just below the summit getting storm-bound in the tent for 6 days - but like Shackleton in 1915 we got the whole team back safely even if we didn't achieve the summit on that occasion.


In 2013 I got the opportunity to help train and guide some London city bankers in their attempt to ski just over two degrees of latitude to the North Pole. They were raising money for injured service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. 


ExplorersWeb: How did your training program look like?


Newall: My training has been the traditional "dragging tyres" around and getting lots of strange looks and questions from people who see me.


I mixed the tyre pulling with mountain biking (less chance of muscle injury than running) and a few weeks ago mountain biked from Lhasa in Tibet to Kathmandu in Nepal going via Everest North side base camp. Cycling at over 17,000 feet was a serious workout.


ExplorersWeb: What do you still have on your to-do list?


Newall: For this expedition - find a pair of boots! I had to return my boots and my supplier told me at the last minute that they could not get me another pair in my size. Not the news I needed with only 4 weeks to go until I fly south. But a friend in Norway has tracked me down a set and I will fly out to Oslo to collect them.


For my Grand Slam - If I am successful with the South Pole and Vinson this season, I still have Elbrus and Carstensz Pyramid.


The future - Helping and mentoring young explorers in operating in extreme environments and providing technical advice on remote communications and power systems. I have started this by volunteering with the SES  (Scientific Exploration Society).  The SES are a registered charity in the UK with the vision to support and encourage the next generation of scientific explorers to tackle the important issues of today.  www.ses-explore.org


ExplorersWeb: Gear?


Skis:  Asnes Nansen with 3 pin telemark bindings

Boots: Baffin 3 pin Expedition (hopefully!)

Sled:  2x Snowsled Blue Ice 

Clothes:  RAB (as I am testing the equipment for next years Shackleton expedition and RAB are one of the team sponsors)

Comms:  Iridium Extreme, Iridium GO with a Samsung Note 3, Inreach SE Tracker, 25w Solar Panel, 264Wh Lithium storage pack, backup kenetic power.


ExplorersWeb: Did you have a polar mentor or mentors? If yes, who?


Newall: No one specifically, I have just called and emailed people I thought could help me :-)

They were all people "who had been there and had the t shirt”.


Everyone I have asked has been really helpful.

A few names are:


Steve Jones at ANI/ALE - Lots of advice on the whole logistics of getting the expedition off the ground and to Antarctica.


Svante Strand in Norway  - who has been a great help and source of my Skis, Bindings and Boots.


Antony Jinman in the UK - who solo'd the Hercules Inlet route last year and has been a mine of information.


Stephanie Solomonidas - who did the Messner route in 2009 with an all women's team, has provide great advice on my route.


Tom Sjogren - Technical help with the InReach tracker and getting the mapping sorted for Antarctica using his CONTACT software.


ExplorersWeb: What do you do when you are not skiing to the Pole? 


Newall: I freelance as a network design engineer and build expeditionary communications equipment and off grid power systems for secure remote operations.


ExplorersWeb: Where do you live?


Newall: I am originally from Scotland, but now live in the Cotswolds in England. 


Newall’s planned schedule (weather depending on Antarctica):

Arrive Punta Arenas, Chile, on November 15th.

Fly in to Union Glacier, Antarctica, on the 21st.

"As a rough guide” he expects to be picked up from the Geographic South Pole on the January 7th and start the Vinson climb on the 9th.


Ed note: update 07:56 am EDT Oct. 31, 2014. Previously Newall was classified with a "solo" status, implicating no resupplies. But he told ExplorersWeb that he probably will take a resupply during his expedition.


According to the Rules of Adventure, to claim a “solo" achievement, requires an unassisted status - therefore no supplies carried by pilots or car drivers, or anything (food, fuel, etc) received from any person along the way. Note that the Polar rules were compiled by early Norwegian and British Polar explorers (not exclusively ExplorersWeb) and are maintained today by the current community of veteran polar skiers.





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ExWeb interview with Antony Jinman, flying a drone at the South Pole


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Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI and TAC)



Gateway port Cape Town, South Africa: 

To ALCI /TAC base camp Novolazarevskaya / Novo 

70° 46’37”S, 011° 49’26”E 


Gateway port Punta Arenas, Chile, South America: 

To ALE/ANI base camp, Union Glacier 

79° 45'S, 083° 14'W


Hercules Inlet is located at 80°S near Union Glacier, 1130 km from the Geographic South Pole.

The Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner) start is 890 km in a straight line from the Pole.

The bottom of the Leverett Glacier, at the Ross Ice Shelf, is located at about 85ºS, a distance of 550 km from the Geographic South Pole.

Axel Heiberg Glacier start is also located at the Ross Ice Shelf and 535 km in a straight line from the South Pole.


1 nautical mile (nm) = 1.852 km

1 nm = 1.151 miles

1 knot = 1.852 km/h

1 degree of Latitude is 110 km / 60 nm / 70 miles

Sastrugi are hard snow bumps and can be as high as 10 feet

A nunatak is a top of a mountain visible above the snow surface.


South Pole of Inaccessibility 2011-12 position: 

S82°06.696, E055°01.951

Geographic South Pole: 90 degrees South


A "solo" ski requires an unassisted status (therefore no supplies carried by pilots or car drivers, or anything received from any person).











Newall Hunter yesterday with his South Pole skiing gear, minus his ski boots, and Vinson climbing gear. (click images to enlarge)
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
"I mixed the tyre pulling with mountain biking and a few weeks ago mountain biked from Lhasa in Tibet to Kathmandu in Nepal going via North side base camp."
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
Guiding some London city bankers in their attempt to ski just over two degrees of latitude to the North Pole.
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
"I have called and emailed people I thought could help me. Everyone I have asked has been really helpful."Image: Newall Climbing Everest.
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
Everest summit in his Seven Summit quest.
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
"The second reason is a training and equipment testing run for our Team attempt next year to complete Sir Ernest Shackleton's planned 1915 crossing of Antarctica."
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
Messner Route starting from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf.
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE
Union Glacier and Mt. Vinson locations.
courtesy Newall Hunter, SOURCE