I visited the newly-opened Shackleton store a couple of weeks ago at 18 Russell St in London, which isn't far from Sir Ernest Shackleton's original polar expedition headquarters at 4 Burlington Street. The first thing that caught my eye was a massive display of what looked like skiing gear glued to the wall. The exhibit included all your polar explorer essentials, such as a rather sizeable winter coat, boots and hats. However, one item seemed out of place: a toothbrush cut in half.
Upon questioning why someone thought it was a good idea to include this toothbrush in the arrangement, I was told this kit belonged to renowned polar adventurer Louis Rudd, who also happens to be the Director of Expeditions at Shackleton and the person guiding fellow adventurers to the extremes through Shackleton Challenges, a new series of expedition experiences.
Mr Rudd believes that the devil is in the details when tackling subzero temperatures, and if he can save a few grams by sawing his toothbrush in half, he will do just that. Being the only person to have traversed Antarctica twice using human power alone, Mr Rudd knows a thing or two about getting to the South Pole and back in one piece, hence why the team at Shackleton asked him to head up the latest addition to Shackleton Challenges portfolio: the South Pole Last Degree Challenge.
A first for Shackleton, the South Pole Last Degree Challenge will see an intimate group of five people ski the last 60 nautical miles to reach the most southerly point on Earth. "[This challenge] is tough physically, absolutely", says Ian Holdcroft, Shackleton co-founder and endurance athlete, "But it's the mental component that many people aren't ready for. Overcoming psychological barriers generated by isolation, cold weather, and the perceived lack of comfort is what enables people to experience something one of a kind through Shackleton Challenges."
And there will be plenty of those during the expedition to the South Pole, which takes 12 days and makes participants haul a 30kg pulk across the high polar plateau while "experiencing all the beauty and brutality [of the Arctic]", the website explains. You don't have to go to any of the Shackleton Challenges unprepared, though, especially the most difficult one.
"We usually recommend people to book at least three months in advance of the Challenge to ensure they are ready", says Max Thorpe, adventurer and Head of Development at Shackleton, "We support every participant throughout the journey, which starts with the booking and ends way after the Challenge has concluded." This support includes online and offline courses taught by the team at Shackleton that can ready even completely inexperienced people to complete the Challenges.
Needless to say, the privilege to be able to undertake the trip to the South Pole led by one of the most esteemed polar adventurers isn't cheap, although, considering the logistics and the uniqueness of the trip, nearly £60,000 isn't that much. The price includes flights from Chile to the South Pole (and back), an exclusive Shackleton Challenges Mission Pulk Jacket (RRP £1,295), safety, medical, communication and navigation equipment, sleeping equipment, and expedition gear (boots, skis, poles, pulk, pulk harness) – quite the package.
Shackleton Challenges range from Level 1 to Level 5, with the South Pole Last Degree Challenge being 'only' a Level 4 challenge. Currently, there is no Level 5 challenge, but when asked, Ian Holdcroft suggested that the ultimate Level 5 challenge would be to take people to the Shackleton crater on the actual moon. "Now, that would be quite the experience", he said with a chuckle, "but we have plenty of other ideas that will take Shackleton Challenges participants to the extreme."
For more info about the challenges, visit Shackleton today.