Adventurer from Harpenden completes pioneering expedition to bottom of the world

The South Pole expedition.

The South Pole expedition. - Credit: Archant

An intrepid explorer from Harpenden has carved out the first new route to the South Pole by a British expedition in 100 years.

Rob Smith.

Rob Smith. - Credit: Archant

Rob Smith, 42, from Harpenden, reached the Pole on Monday, January 9 after travelling more than 650km to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

He was inspired to travel to both the North and South Poles after losing both his best friend Neil and his mother Maureen to cancer in 2012. Shortly afterwards Rob himself was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent surgery and chemotherapy before overcoming the disease.

Following his recovery, while looking for ways to both push himself and raise money, Rob found Eric Philips, an Australian adventurer and founder of polar exploration business Icetrek Expeditions.

Accompanied by Eric and fellow explorer Keith Tuffley, Rob set out on his epic journey from Antarctica’s coastline, using satellite imagery and topographical maps to navigate.

Once the group reached the plateau of a mountain range they sledded across 330km of barren ice, with temperatures dropping as low as -35C. They skied for eight to 10 hours per day, hauling sleds weighing 80kg. Rob’s earlobe suffered from the effects of the extreme cold.

The explorers finally reached the Pole after 34 days. On his blog tracking the expedition, Rob wrote: “I am writing this message from the South Pole! Yes I have made it! I am so excited, elated, shell shocked, bone weary and tired. But most of all proud of myself and very emotional.”

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The day before arriving at the Pole, Rob wrote: “The chemotherapy and my absolute dismissal of being a victim led me to this point.

“I look back to the morning of my last chemotherapy and that is how I feel now.

“I have nearly completed the second of my biggest challenges in life. One I never wanted and one I want with all my heart.

“I am not proving anything to anyone else by being here, I am proving to myself that I can and will overcome anything this life has to offer.”

The last British explorer to forge a new route to the South Pole was Sir Ernest Shackleton, who made four attempts to reach the pole between 1901 and 1922.

Referring to famous explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott, the first expedition leaders to reach the Pole, Rob wrote that he has “a feeling of utter respect for these great men, of being privileged to be where they had stepped”.

Ed Suttie, who accompanied Rob on his North Pole expedition in April last year, said: “He’s an extraordinary guy. His mother died of cancer and it’s what’s driving him to do extraordinary things.”

While on his trip to the North Pole, Rob received letters of support from David Cameron, who was Prime Minister at the time, and Prince Harry.

Rob, who has a 10-year-old daughter, Ella, and works as an IT sales professional in the insurance industry, has raised more than £10,000 for Cancer Research UK so far. He aims to raise £50,000 in total.

He wrote on his blog: “Behind us we leave a ski trail that will disappear in the next storm but will be forever etched on the exploration map of Antarctica.”

To follow Rob’s journey go to