Join Patrick at one of his public presentations to hear about his experience of Antarctica.

5th March 2015 at Canon (UK) Ltd, Reigate, 6.30pm
This event is organised by Royal Society of Arts, Surrey. Click here to register.

14th April 2015
at the Lloyd Hall, Outwood, Surrey, 7pm
Join Patrick for drinks and nibbles. For a free ticket please email or phone 07551 255544.

4 March 2015

He's at it again!

Since returning from Antarctica, everybody has been asking me "what’s next?"

I can’t very well top the South Pole (I must be the world record holder for the first and only man ever to have walked 222km to the South Pole after recovering from three types of cancer!), but I wanted to do something to keep spreading my message that eating the right foods and taking exercise is the key to surviving cancer, along with early diagnosis.

So the obvious answer (!?!) is that my granddaughter, Gemma, and I will take on the Engadin Skimarathon on 8th March 2015. It's a 26 mile cross-country ski course and, like the South Pole expedition, we'll do it for Bowel Cancer UK, Prostate Cancer UK and the Voice of the Listener & Viewer.

Very fetching rollerski kit
Rollerskiing is the closest form of exercise to cross-country skiing if you don't have any snow, but the tarmac is a darn sight less forgiving than snow when you fall over! We started our training with lessons at Rollerski in Hyde Park and Dorney Lake, and have now moved on to practising at home (although I think we could have done with a few more lessons to improve our technique!).

It's an enormous event - last year 11,000 people took part, and it's held in the beautiful Engadine valley in Switzerland.

We can only hope that there will be some more silly people there relying on fitness rather than technique to get them through four or so hours on the snow.

Wish us luck! I'll be back next week with some photos of the race.

11 February 2015

Like an astronaut back from Mars

So I left you all when I was waiting in Union Glacier for the last opportunity to fly back to Chile in order to catch our scheduled flights on the afternoon of 21st January. didn't happen. The conditions at Union Glacier remained incorrect for plane landing, in order to pick us up and take us back. This was frustrating for us, but there was such a bottleneck there that some people had been waiting for 8 days, so we should count ourselves lucky. Union Glacier itself was a glorious sight after 13 days of flat, white landscape in every direction. There was clear skies, no wind, and a beautiful amazing mountain range.

Union Glacier houses the most astonishing selection of people; I immensely enjoyed several fascinating conversations with amazing people. They included a bacteriologist and a world leader on climate change who - would you believe it - was once a student at St Bede's school just a few miles away from my home! I learned how we can manage cancer by food, which entirely depends on the individual, and am looking forward to telling people about this in my presentation series.

The coincidences don't end there, as the headmaster of local Caterham school, Julian Thomas, had only a few days previously completed his trek to the South Pole all the way from the coast of Antarctica and in Punta Arenas (which seems to primarily be a holding ground for people travelling to/from Antarctica) I met people from Norwood hill who know some family friends!

We ended up flying into Punta Arenas on one of the last flights out of Antarctica of the season, arriving on the evening of 21st January (just five hours later than we should have flown home!) and staying there for the day before flying home on the morning of 23rd January.
The arrivals hall
The collection party at arrivals

Happy to be back on British soil

What a welcome!

As much as both Conrad and I were desperate to get home after what ended up being 18 days on the ice (and 11 days trekking), Punta Arenas felt positively luxurious. The reality is that even in the days preceding the walk I was camping in the snow at high altitude and very low temperature, with no access to washing water or flushing loos. We also spent a day and a half training at Union Glacier before going forward to 88°S, which in itself was no mean feat.

So now I'm home, and I feel like an astronaut back from Mars! All the ends of my fingers and thumbs are numb, as are the toes on my left foot. My long sight has gone haywire after having almost no horizon to look at for so long, and I've forgotten some of the simplest words in my vocabulary. This is because my body had started switching into survival mode, where it discards the less important functions in order to keep you alive. I've been assured, though, that all will come back.

I feel very proud of my achievement, and am told that I've now entered an exclusive club of Antarctic expeditioners. Approximately 24 people have achieved what Conrad and I achieved, which was to walk the last 2 degrees or 222 km to the South Pole. Exponentially it is 3-4 times more difficult to walk this distance than to walk 1 degree and in some respects, is very nearly as difficult as walking from the outside for the following reason: one degree tends to be very fully supported, tends to be in a relatively easy time frame and tends to be within reasonable access of safety and rescue. Two degrees, you start without any support, far too far away from any rescue opportunity. You arrive at the South Pole plateau at 4,000m and therefore altitude is a huge problem whereas when you walk up from the coast, you slowly adapt to altitude and therefore there is not nearly so much of a problem. The next issue is that as you get onto the plateau, the snow gets colder and therefore becomes far more difficult to drag ones’ sledge thus the movement over the ice at lower levels is much quicker because the ice is warmer and the sledges slide more quickly and the closer you get to the Pole, the more difficult the effort becomes thus at two degrees, there is a much greater effort, the extremes of temperature and environment are much higher and the shock to the body is far greater. 

I'm now embarking on a pro-bono presentation tour to continue the awareness campaign, and I hope many of you will come along to one of these...details at the top of this site.

Redstone FM

BBC Surrey Breakfast

BBC South East today

20 January 2015

So what happens at the South Pole?

we made it!
We were hoping to hitch a lift out of the Pole on Sunday evening, a day after arriving there. We got our South Pole photos out of the way, then set about packing up our skis and sledges ready to be on our way. That's when we got the notification that the weather wasn't right and we wouldn't be flying.

I'm sure you can imagine that killing time at the South Pole is not too easy, but we had a quick tour around the Amundsen-Scott Station on Sunday and then on Monday we found some bicycles - I cycled "around the world" in 80 seconds!

We were in good condition after a couple of days rest and recovery, I even had 11 hours of sleep on Sunday night, despite still sleeping in a tent and still not having had a shower.

Life at the South Pole is a bit tricky. It takes 10 minutes to prepare to go anywhere, because to get from the relative comfort of one tent and another is -30 degree weather, requiring several layers!

Anyway, we eventually got a flight out of the South Pole - the last one of the season, so we're pretty lucky, to Union Glacier.

There was a huge storm roaring through Union Glacier so at the end of the five hour journey was an extremely hairy landing, but we're all OK. We landed at around 2am (Chilean time) and were hoping for another flight back to Punta Arenas just six hours later, but it was cancelled due to the storm.

I'm currently waiting to hear whether we'll be able to hop on a flight tonight, our last opportunity to get to Punta Arenas in time for our flights back to the UK.

Wish us luck!

19 January 2015

Get me out of here!

After plenty of photos at the Pole, we were hoping to fly back to Union Glacier at 21:00 GMT yesterday, but flights are unpredictable here and it was cancelled.

More info soon I hope!

18 January 2015

Q&A from the South Pole

Did you ever doubt getting there? If so when?

The second morning, I woke up and Conrad shot off like a rabbit out of a trap. He was doing an average of over 3km per hour, and I was only able to do 2.5km per hour. I was physically exhausted from the first day and my body really hadn't adapted to the conditions, the temperature and everything else.

So that was a bit of a shock, but Conrad gave me a severe talking-to and by the middle of the day I was moving more freely.

I think apart from that, there was no other point in which I didn't think I would make it. Because Conrad has such discipline and organisation, and is such a good guide, he can monitor my mental and physical performance against the task ahead. 

That is to some extent why we got here in 11 days rather than the 15 days that we had planned for...because he knew exactly how to balance my physical and mental state in such a way that we moved through the Antarctic plateau reasonably well.

What was the biggest surprise?

Seeing a sun-dog was the most amazing... I've taken a photograph of it, I hope that comes out.

The biggest surprise was the fact that I've had no skeletal or internal problems, I think the diet we were on was absolutely excellent. I'm amazed that I arrived here in such good mental and physical state and by the fact that all the equipment worked, and that we got here in 11 days rather than the 15 that we planned for. It's all an extraordinary surprise.

And also the fact that the body eventually adapts to being able to live, camp, eat, sleep, walk etc at these extreme temperatures and in these brutal, absolutely brutal, environmental conditions.

Did you see any animals?

None whatsoever - I can assure you, the only thing here is ice, and sky, and wind. It is completely and utterly dead for a thousand kilometres in every direction - totally sterile!

What thoughts of Captain Scott?

We were just discussing this this morning, and in fact I reported it to BBC Surrey just now. The enormity of the way in which those chaps got here a hundred years ago, and managed to work out where the South Pole actually was. Because as you get closer to the South Pole, the magnetic variation sends your compass out of the window.

So, yesterday we were some 41° West of the South Pole, and as we sit here in our tent this morning we are 25° East of the Pole...and yet we can see the South Pole from the end of our tent. So how on earth these guys could work it out, and be accurate, would have taken them forever. Yesterday when we went out to do a whole load of photography at the Pole, I got frostbite on my nose, my hands felt like they fell off, but these guys 100 years ago didn't have anything like the sort of equipment and clothing and all the other bits and pieces that we had today to keep them warm.

They would have been absolutely exhausted from having to walk all the way here as well, so to actually get here and then work out that they had actually found the South Pole is, I think, beyond imagination. You just have to take your hat off to these people! The determination to get it right with poor equipment is fantastic.

What have you missed?

Oh...a shower. I just long, long to stand under a shower!

[I bet the people around you also long for you to stand under a shower] - well Conrad and I smell just as bad as each other, so we think we're wonderful!

What are you happy to be away from?

Well, I'm very happy this morning that I haven't got to put my boots on, put my kit on and think about dragging my sledge for another seven hours across a frozen wasteland.

What were you happy to be away from whilst walking?

It's a bit like being in a Quaker meeting for days on end. I was very happy to have the opportunity to really drill into my own self and to have hours and hours and hours - because you can't talk while you're walking, you can't hear anything because there's too much wind - so it's a bit like being in a trance. The trance allows you to pre-think wonderfully, so you can think through all sorts of problems and you have the time to think about all sorts of things, that when you are at home you just never have time for. There's always a phonecall coming in, an email, somebody needing something, something needing to be done. 

Once you're forced into this regimented environment, it's a real cleansing experience mentally.

"Guess where we are?"

Position: 90° 00 00S, 000° 00 00W

We arrived at the South Pole, after 11 days and 222km at 7pm GMT (4pm our time), to a wonderful reception. We've already had a cup of tea and I feel a million dollars.

How was your last day?

It's been very cold today, with a cold wind. The weather has perked up since yesterday, it's been much clearer and sunny.

We started an hour early today, we were up at 5am and on the move at 8am so were walking for eight hours.

What did you most want to eat or drink when you reached the Pole?

I would most like to drink green tea, and to eat a bowl of fresh fruit.

What was your best and worst moment of the whole expedition?

The high of the journey was the fact that I reckon I am the world record holder, at age 58, to have walked 222km at 4000m above sea level, at an average temperature of -30°C, completely unsupported and to have got here over 11 days in pretty good time AND to have absolutely no malfunctions in my body whatsoever. Every bit of my body; my bowels, my prostate, my legs, my arms. I have no frostbite, apart from a few nips on my fingers.

So that must be the most remarkable highlight that anybody could achieve! I can't believe that anybody in the world has managed to achieve what I have, so I feel absolutely elated about that.

There weren't actually any low points, in the sense that it was just an extraordinary experience.

We had some really bad weather days and we had some bad times like the stove didn't work one day...but really there were no low points! We had a really enjoyable time. We were in a rhythm, apparently Conrad will award me the scouts badge for tent erection but I failed on my knot tying badge!

But otherwise, everything has worked absolutely perfectly and I think we've worked brilliantly as a team together.

How long have you been able to see the Pole?

Aah now there's a question!

Last night, I got out of the tent after we'd set everything up (in order to do what one has to do!) and I said to Conrad "good Lord, there's something coming towards me" and he said "oh it looks like some kite surfers".

It was way, way off in the distance and I thought 'he's telling me a bunch  of porkies' because there was a great big black thing at the end of it which wasn't moving. But anyway, I let him go along with it.

Basically, we have actually been able to see the Pole station since 20 km away which is basically where we camped last night, and then we've been able to see it on and off today as the cloud has come in and gone out, all the way through the day. But it's taken us all day to walk from last night's camp to the Pole...that's the enormity of the place we're at!

How do you feel?

As we walked into [South Pole] camp I said to Conrad: this is extraordinary, to have spent 11 days at -30°C, completing a marathon a day and dragging a sledge, and then to arrive here mentally and physically absolutely in peak of condition, is incredible.

I mean I don't feel tired, I don't feel mentally exhausted. its just amazing and I think its a combination of Conrad's perfect planning, perfect guiding, perfect organisation of the food...and just general discipline and management of routine every day which has worked extremely well.

So, here I am... I don't feel as if I've done anything for the last 11 days and yet I know I've been through the most unbelievable ordeal.

Conrad reckons only about 24 people have actually walked the last two degrees, and about a further 200 people have walked from the coast to the Pole, so I'm in a very small group of humanity anyway.

I have to say an enormous thank you to everyone who has supported the trip, it has been a seriously amazing experience and your messages have kept me going.