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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 January 2008, 17:01 GMT
Former jockey treks to South Pole
Duo trekking to South Pole
The explorers had to travel more than 1,000 km

Former champion jockey Richard Dunwoody is celebrating what he has called his "greatest achievement" after trekking to the South Pole for charity.

He became the first person to reach the South Pole via a route first attempted by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton.

Mr Dunwoody and American explorer Doug Stoup crossed nine degree lines during the 48-day, 1,088km (680 mile) trek.

He said: "To finally arrive at the pole is indescribable and my greatest achievement."

The jockey, who rode legendary race horse Desert Orchid to seven victories, arrived at 1023 GMT on Friday - his 44th birthday.

"I rashly said to Doug about a week or two before the expedition, 'it could be quite nice if we could make it to the Pole before my birthday'," he said.

'I am exhausted'

Both explorers carried their own equipment and supplies. They used skis and pulled sledges which weighed 17 stone (108 kg) at the start of the journey.

The two men lost over two stone in body weight after burning off about 8,000 calories a day and consuming only 5,500 calories.

Mr Dunwoody said: "This has been the hardest thing I have ever undertaken, both physically and mentally, with every day a 12-hour slog, often uphill, on skis and pulling cumbersome sleds that just seemed to get heavier as we got lighter.

Duo trekking to South Pole
It was really hard work and certainly the hardest thing I've ever done in my life
Richard Dunwoody

"I am exhausted."

The explorers are raising money for three charities - Sparks, Spinal Research and Racing Welfare.

Mr Stoup almost lost his life trying to cross a crevasse field, and another member of the expedition, James Fox, had to pull out of the mission after suffering mental and physical exhaustion.

Mr Dunwoody told the BBC he had suffered altitude sickness and snow blindness, but that the trip had been "fantastic".

He said: "It's the first new route to have been completed in Antarctica for 10 years. So yeah, absolutely delighted. But, we had our hazards. We nearly lost Doug along the way.

"Temperatures have been pretty cold. For example, just yesterday, it was minus 40 when we arrived.

"We've been covering about 18 miles a day pulling the sleds. The sleds were very heavy, but they seemed to get heavier as they got lighter. It was really hard work and certainly the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

The pair will rest at the South Pole for a few days before returning to the Russian Antarctic base at Novo, and then flying to England via South Africa.

Mr Dunwoody, who retired from racing in 1999, was the only jockey of his generation to win the National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle. He was made an MBE and retired nine years ago.

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