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Britons beat ice cap journey record

Published 17/05/2015

Tom Avery, flanked by Andrew Gerber and George Wells, have broken the record for traversing Greenland's ice cap
Tom Avery, flanked by Andrew Gerber and George Wells, have broken the record for traversing Greenland's ice cap

A British adventurer and his team of polar explorers have smashed the record for the fastest crossing of Greenland's ice cap.

A "worn out but absolutely ecstatic" Tom Avery, along with team mates Patrick Woodhead and George Wells plus South African-born Andrew Gerber, clinched the coast-to-coast record today at 8.30am in a time of 9 days, 19 hours and 40 minutes.

This expedition swiped more than eight days off the previous record of 17 days, 21 hours and 30 minutes to complete the 350-mile trip. These figures were set by Brit Matt Spenceley and his Luxembourg team mate Patrick Peters in 2008.

Mr Avery described his well-prepared team, who also hold the record for the fastest surface journey across the North Pole, as "very experienced, just brilliant and not afraid to get their hands dirty".

Speaking from Greenland, where the team barely slept over the last nine days to break the record, Mr Avery said: "We are black and blue, dehydrated, weather-beaten, frost-nipped - and it was all worth it.

"To cross the world's largest island in under 10 days - we still can not believe it.

"We are delighted but we are shattered and exhausted more than we have ever been in our lives."

The east to west crossing was made famous by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen whose expedition in 1888 sparked the heroic age of polar exploration but took 49 days to complete.

Mr Avery and his long-time friends, who are all aged 39, began the trek with a steep climb up a glacier. They also powered across energy-sapping ridges of rock solid snow which not only eat up time but also put enormous pressure on the knees and thighs.

On the eighth day of the trip the team took advantage of strong tailwinds after a ferocious storm and snow kited for a total of 17 hours, covering 281km of snowy terrain - almost half the width of the ice cap.

This was a hard skill to learn but a "real adrenaline rush" to execute in the icy landscape, according to Mr Avery who said "they were pushing things but parts of the expedition were enjoyable".

The expedition saw the team kiting in -25C temperatures, braving 2ft ridges of rock hard snow and the loss of four days' worth of precious fuel and kitchen supplies.

Mr Avery said: "The dangers are the cold, -25C (-13F) with the wind chill. We were putting in massive days and there was a 20 hour hike to the finish. It is really, really tough, cold, hard work and permanently windy."

Between them, the men had left 12 children at home to go on their record-breaking adventure.

Mr Avery, of Gloucestershire, Mr Woodhead of Kensington, London, Mr Wells of Bury St Edmunds and Edinburgh-based Mr Gerber are planning a celebration get-together with all their families who had backed them.

Mr Avery, a father-of-three including twins Maud and Olive, five, is now heading back to Britain and his wife Mary. He should home in time for his daughter Nell's third birthday on May 26.

Of his wife and family, Mr Avery said: "She is amazingly understanding - perhaps in the next year or so we can get the children out camping and eventually involved in the next adventure."

He predicted that "it probably would not be long" before he and his team are planning the next challenge.

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