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Harry 'strong member' of Pole trek

Prince Harry was a "really strong member" of the team of adventurers who have successfully reached the South Pole, the expedition's organiser has said.

The Walking With The Wounded charity trek completed its mission to the bottom of the world just before 1pm yesterday after more than three weeks pulling sledges across the frozen wastes of Antarctica.

The group include 12 servicemen and women from the UK and other nations who have suffered terrible injuries, including the loss of limbs.

Their trek took them more than 200 miles across the bleak continent to the geographic South Pole where the group experienced freezing temperatures of as low as -45C.

Ed Parker, the expedition's director and co-founder of the Walking With The Wounded charity that organised the challenge, said of the moment the team arrived at their goal: "It was very emotional, we took off our skis and hooked off our sledges and stood together before walking up to the Pole as one.

"For a lot of people who'd been wounded it was a very significant role in their road to recovery. There were a few tears."

Prince Harry joined part of the Walking With The Wounded trek to the North Pole in 2011 but was determined to play a full part in this expedition and was named its patron earlier in the year.

Speaking of the royal, Mr Parker said: "He's a very, very important part of what we did. He did brilliantly and I would never have thought anything else.

"He was a really strong member of the UK team and he fitted in very naturally, as we all knew after spending the past few weeks training with him.

"He said he really, really enjoyed it. It's a very, very special place to get the chance to go to and it's a great privilege."

Speaking from where the group has set up camp around 13 miles away from the South Pole, Mr Parker said there was a "relaxed" mood today as everyone let the magnitude of what they had achieved sink in.

"We're all pretty emotionally drained," he added. " I think everyone's really, really excited about getting back to their families."

Originally the challenge was a race between three teams - a UK group featuring Harry; Hollywood actor Alexander Skarsgard, star of the hit HBO series True Blood, headed the US team; and English actor Dominic West, from the popular series The Wire, was a member of a Commonwealth group.

But the expedition encountered difficult terrain which forced organisers to suspend the competition last weekend and make the expedition a group effort over safety fears, as some competitors were becoming very tired.

Harry, who has grown a ginger beard during his weeks on the ice, welcomed the decision when he recorded a voice blog earlier this week and said morale was high among the men and women taking part in the challenge.

Mr Parker said storms in the area had made the terrain form into "hard waves" which meant the teams had to pull their sledges over every "lump and bump", taking up far more energy than expected.

He said the group also had to contend with temperatures of down to -45C.

"You have to be very, very alert to the danger and make sure that none of your skin is exposed," he said. "Luckily we had three very, very proficient guys with us who understood full well the dangers, as we all did.

"We always knew that this wasn't going to be easy, but that is what makes the challenge so exciting.

"Our aim was to show that, despite injury, young men and women from our armed forces can still achieve great things.

"We came down here, determined to get 12 men and women, all injured in conflict, to the South Pole, and this is what we have done."


From Belfast Telegraph