Harpenden explorer prepares for mission to both the North and South Poles

Trekking to the South Pole

Trekking to the South Pole


A man whose life was badly affected by cancer will be making history with a mammoth fundraising adventure to the North and South Pole.

Rob Smith Rob Smith

Three years ago Rob Smith, 42, of Harpenden, lost his best friend to cancer, and soon after his mother, before being diagnosed himself.

He recovered but was re-diagnosed in 2014 and underwent chemotherapy.

Following his experience he decided to raise £50,000 for Cancer Research UK (CRUK) by participating in a ground-breaking expedition to the South Pole, making him the first Briton in 100 years to complete a new route.

Rob said: “There was a period when a good friend of mine, I’ve known him since I was born, he literally got cancer, was told, and then died about two weeks later.

“It was really quick, and in that two week period he had his first baby as well, so it was horrendous, absolutely horrendous. He managed to hold his baby and that was it.

“Then a month after that, my mother died of cancer; she had cancer for 25 years or so. Then a month after that I got it, which was just, somebody up there is not liking me.”

Following his experience Rob, who currently works in technology, decided he wanted to do take on a big challenge.

He continued: “In order to make big money you’ve got to do something quite special, and I want to be able to say, ‘anyone can do this if they really work hard at it,’ so I picked these two expeditions.

“The North Pole is really cold weather training; the South Pole one in November where we fly off to Chile is a brand-new route. It’s never been done before and I’ll be the first Briton since Shackleton 100 years ago to actually do a brand-new route.”

Rob will jet off to Norway on March 31 where he will go to Barneo camp and then fly by helicopter to his destination.

The trek will be about 20 days long, in 24 hour sunlight and icy conditions that could reach minus 50 degrees Celsius. Rob will pull a 55kg sled and ski in eight hour bursts.

He continued: “The cold weather is your biggest obstacle. It’s very easy to lose things [wiggles fingers].

“It takes about two hours to cook any food because you have to melt the ice, then put it into the food that you’ve got that’s dehydrated to rehydrate it.

“Then you’ve got to make sure your kit’s OK, you’re OK, oh and you’ve got to look out for polar bears so somebody needs to be outside watching.”

Rob will then fly out to Chile for the South Pole expedition in November. He added: “Then when you get to the South Pole, it sort of triples, because firstly no one’s ever been there. Nobody can say ‘mind this’ or ‘mind that bit’, ‘this ravine’, and ‘this crevice’ because the route we’re taking is brand new.”

He will be joined by two other adventurers, one of whom, Eric Phillips, accompanied Prince Harry on his expedition to the South Pole.

Rob has been training every day by spending time on the cross trainer and weight training.

He said: “You can’t be skinny to go, because when you’re there you eat about 4,000 calories a day, and you expel about ten to 12 thousand.

“So if you go skinny you end up getting ill. You’ve got to be a bit bigger, so I’ve been eating anything!”

Rob and his wife Rebecca have an 11-year-old daughter, Ella but he said they were both supportive of him. He added: “I think we’ll all be better for it.”

If you would like to find out more information or sponsor Rob, click here.


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