Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Coleraine man's gruelling 350-mile trek to the North Pole

He's already scaled the seven highest peaks in the world.

Now Coleraine man Gavin Bate is skiing to the North Pole – dragging up to 80kg of food and equipment on a sled as he tackles hills of ice rubble, open water cracks in the sea ice and 'Polar Bear Alley'.

The former Coleraine scout leader set off from Resolute Bay in northern Canada on April 6 and is hoping to reach the magnetic North Pole by May 4. Yesterday he had reached McDougall Sound and was trekking across the sea ice between Cornwallis Island and Bathurst Island.

Gavin (below) is trying to ski nearly 350 miles to the North Pole while raising £22,000 for Moving Mountains Trust, an international development charity he founded more than 10 years ago.

Every pound donated is worth 25 metres of Gavin's trek, and as he gets ever closer to the finish line the Donation Team will race to achieve their target.

Gavin will be pulling his sled, sometimes over 20ft high ice rubble, but the greatest challenge is likely to be the mental and emotional trauma, known as 'polar shock', when the cold and the remoteness can cause depression and an inability to act coherently.

"It is not always just the big things that are important. It can be the sum of a hundred small things that add up to a problem," he said. "Self-discipline and mental attitude are as important as physical strength on a journey such as this."

Gavin is used to extreme conditions and demanding expeditions after climbing Mt Everest six times. But this trip comes with new threats, including trekking through 'Polar Bear Alley', open water cracks in the ice known as 'leads' and a wind-chill that can push temperatures as low as minus 45C.

"To some, skiing to a pole or climbing a mountain can be viewed as essentially a selfish and pointless exercise in the grander scheme," Gavin admitted.

"These personal expeditions do, however, gain public interest and if I can use my personal endeavours to also raise awareness of, and funds for, the fantastic work of the Moving Mountains Trust, then it also greatly enhances the motivation and satisfaction behind the trip.

"I am very excited about this expedition despite all the potential dangers and hardships. This is the type of experience that makes me feel truly alive. It reduces one's daily life to the barest of essentials of survival – something that I find aesthetically very calming."

Completing this expedition will also see Gavin closer to achieving the 'Explorers Grand Slam', a challenge that includes reaching the North and South Poles along with all of the Seven Summits. If he successfully reaches the North Pole, he will have just the South Pole left to visit.

To join the donation team in the Race to the Pole, text 'POLE13 £1' to 70070. You can substitute the £1 with £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10. To learn about other ways to donate, visit the campaign website at www.racemetothepole.com.

You can also follow the trek at Facebook.com/racemetothepole or on Twitter at @MMTrust #racemetothepole.

Background

Yesterday, Gavin had got as far as an area of the Atlantic Ocean called McDougall Sound. This was named in honour of George F McDougall who explored the sound in 1851 while wintering with Captain Horatio Austin's team who were looking for the missing expedition of Sir John Franklin.

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