In November 2011 I set off from Hercules Inlet on the West coast of Antarctica in an attempt to be the first person in history to ski solo – unsupported and unaided to both the South Geographic and the North Geographic Poles consecutively.
Classed by the patron Sir Ranulph Fiennes (see below) as "the toughest journey on the planet, " I knew that the first steps would be on the coast of Antarctica but the final steps would be on the other side of the world - at the North pole.
One of the main problems was losing my IPod on the second day and having no books or mental stimulation over the fifty day journey to the pole. Covering eight hours of walking through a white void from day to day I trained myself to almost meditate on route to keep sane. Reaching the South pole was only half way, and within just a few weeks I was training in the Canadian high arctic where the second part of the journey would begin. Leaving from the ocean's coast line at Cape Discovery my intention was to cross broken sea ice and arrive at the North pole within sixty five days. However, life has a way of turning plans upside down within an instant. I had good backing from my sponsors Skype and Grant Thornton to go through with the expedition. Due to the ice being so unstable and my chances reduced - the airline company who would deal with my pick up or rescue required an added cost "up front" before heading out on ice. The cost was too great and time was limited. I did everything I could to raise the funds but in the end I needed to re-think the journey itself so I could continue with the educational and environmental programmes.
Students and companies were following my journey and contacting me on ice so it was essential to show them the Arctic ocean. I headed through Borneo Ice airport on the Arctic ocean and was dropped off by helicopter sixty miles from the pole on the Russian side. I then covered the ground and crossed the pole to complete just over two degrees (193km). The total journey, including the training transitional period, was three months of Antarctica ice and Arctic sea ice. Throughout I filmed every breath, step and emotion which will be used as part of a documentary.
For me this was more than just a long walk on ice. There were three main reasons for the expedition;
On ice I connected with schools from around the globe, at times calling directly into classrooms to talk to students from the extremes of the planet. Take a look at the programme "My Life In A Freezer"
To coincide with my return from the North pole I met with Dr Stephan Harrison http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/staff/index.php?web_id=Stephan_Harrison and over a ten day period we made a film and structured a programme on climate awareness. The film will be part of a documentary to be released in 2014 and will also be part of future educational programmes.
A personal journey
To date I have led over twenty five major expeditions in the extremes of our planet – I see my role as an explorer as someone who can communicate my experiences to both students and companies to stimulate interest about their own planet. I understand the enormity of the North South Solo expedition - many solo expeditions fail within the first two weeks but I felt I had the experience and understanding of what I was getting into. Preparation played an incredible part in the success of a venture along with good mental and physical strength – but a lot of the success was down to luck and what mother nature had install for me.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes O.B.E. - Patron - North South Solo Expedition
"The North South Solo expedition is the toughest journey on the planet covering two of the most hostile and unforgiving regions on earth. I wish Mark every success in his endeavour and I encourage others to follow his journey."
Jose Naranjo - Spanish Polar explorer
"I met Mark for the first time in the Canadian High Arctic when he was in a Geomagnetic North Pole expedition. From the first moment I could see his iron will, his strong determination and his great enthusiasm. With these three qualities he has already covered half of the route to North and South Poles."
Geoff Thompson - Author / Film Maker / Martial artist
"The magnitude of his feats make you reassess everything (in a good way), it encourages you to vastly expand your own thinking, widen your beliefs and even change your whole reality. Pioneers like Mark Wood create an ‘allowing’ for everyone else. What is possible for one man is possible for all men."
Tony McNally Managing Director Climate Change Solutions LTD
"Climate Change Solutions Ltd is very pleased to support the North and South expedition. This dramatic sponsored undertaking will highlight the challenge of climate change and present the compelling evidence of accelerating melting of the great mass of snow and ice.
Marlon Devonish - Olympic Gold Medal Winner (Athens 2004) MBE
"Being an Olympic champion I know what dedication and determination is necessary to achieve your goals. What Mark is trying to achieve with the North South Solo expedition is something beyond my Olympic gold medal. It’s a real life or death situation. I wish him the best of luck in achieving his goal."
Christopher Mike - British explorer / Magnetic North Pole 2007 - first solo crossing of Iceland 2009
"In the world of so-called professional adventurers, Mark stands out as being different. Unlike egocentric attention seekers desperate to tell us about their particular brilliance, Mark uses his expeditions to make the world a better place for young people. He does this through education and communication programmes and by generally ‘putting something back on the table’. He is a decent man driven by strong principles."
Jon Geldart - Global Director " Marketing communications. Grant Thornton - polar guide - Geomagnetic North Pole 2006 / Island Peak expedition 2010
"Mark is one of the most single minded and dedicated explorers I have ever met. That’s why we are proud to be involved in his challenge. Commitment and collaboration are in his DNA."
Douglas C. Stoup - US explorer. Polar guide. Cinematographer. Mountaineer. Environmentalist.
"I’m proud to be Patron of Mark Wood’s Expedition to the South Pole. This extraordinary expedition will raise awareness of his Global Schools project. Mark has dedicated his life to adventurer to remote places on the planet. Mark’s North and South Pole Expedition promises to be remarkable. I salute Mark walking to the South Pole in November 2011 and I urge everyone to support him."
David Moorcroft - MBE / OBE / former world record holder for the 5,000metres.
"The North South Solo attempt that Mark is making is an amazing physical, mental and emotional challenge. Mark is a wonderful example of a person whose levels of ambition and commitment are quite breathtaking and when he succeeds he will truly be a ‘world record’ explorer."
Bryan Adams - Musician
"Good luck to Mark on his forth coming world first polar attempt to the North and South poles."
Borge Ousland - Norwegian explorer " photographer " writer
"We had a motto that we used on our first North Pole expedition, that came from a Canadian explorer, Ralph Plaisted. It goes like this:
Think ahead, travel light, and leave your fears behind.
Best of luck with your expeditions. Sounds great!"
"We are totally reliant on the balance of nature, of the relationship between people, animal and the earth."
"I wish you the very best of luck for the attempt " best wishes."
HRH The Prince of Wales
"I would like to pass on to Mark my best wishes for the success of the expedition."
"The Himalayan mountains are sacred " I have seen with my own eyes the glacier ice melting each year and I am worried for the future of my family."