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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Marines tackle tough trek

Two Royal Marine commandos are the first Britons to reach the geographical North Pole without outside support, braving severe weather conditions on as little as half-a-cup of porridge a day.

Corporal Alan Chambers, 31, and Marine Charlie Paton, 29, spent the past 67 days dragging 250lb sledges 700 miles across the ice.

Sweet tooth
The pair asked the pick-up team to bring:
2lb of wine gums
10 Bounty bars
Two bags of Revels
Two bags of Dolly Mix
Two bags of Jelly Babies
Four boxes of fruit pastilles

Perilously short of food in the final days of the expedition, the pair broke into their emergency rations last Friday. They ran out of food a day before reaching the Pole.

But the men pressed on, determined not to give up so close to their goal.

The Marines suffered numerous setbacks en route to the Pole, including a tent fire and minor frostbite. The mercury sank as low as -30C.

The original four-man team was reduced to two last month after Corporal Jason Garland suffered exhaustion and Corporal Paul Jones pulled out with frostbite.

Charlie Paton
Charlie Paton twice fell through the ice

Marine Paton twice fell into freezing water. In a message posted on the team's website, he reassured those following the expedition that he had escaped virtually unscathed.

"I'm OK now, all my kit has been dried and I've just got a bruise to my back which is getting better.

"It was quite a scary experience falling in the water but the rest of the team got me out and warmed me up quickly - it feels quite warm in the water compared to the freezing temperatures out of it."

Previous adventurers have proved less fortunate than Marine Paton.

In February, the Exmoor-based adventurer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, abandoned his solo attempt to reach the Pole after developing frostbite.

Sir Ranulph lost all feeling in his left hand after plunging it into freezing water to retrieve a food supply sledge that fell through thin ice. He lost the tips of his thumb and forefinger.

Deep freeze

To prepare for the trip, the team acclimatised to the blistering cold at the Institute of Naval Medicine in Hampshire, where they spent a day in a -30C freezer.
The ice flows
The ice cracked, opening up stretches of water

Without protective clothing, spending just five minutes at that temperature would leave the hands and feet tingling for the rest of the day.

The team boosted their already high fitness and endurance levels by training six days a week, alternating weights programmes with running, swimming and circuits.

In the final phase of the programme, one day's training included a 60-minute run, another hour doing laps while dragging a tyre, and a 40-minute swim.

Their kit included:
Tent, ice screw, hammer
3 cookers, 40 lighters
GPS navigator, compass, charts
3 pairs of boots, 30 pairs of socks
Thermal wear, gloves, balaclavas, snow masks

To fuel their 10- to 16-hour treks across rough terrain, the men consumed up to 6,000 calories a day - three times the normal intake for an adult male.

Even so, the adventurers had been expected to lose about two stone (12.5kg) over the course of the expedition.

A typical breakfast consisted of a chocolate drink, hot cereal with apple flakes, and an energy drink. On the menu for main meals were pasta carbonara, chicken balti and beef with potatoes, followed by chocolate chip pudding or apple custard. The men snacked on biscuits, protein bars and energy drinks.

Think you could make it? Then try out the Polar Challenge on the team's website - Team News Online 2000 made it in 64 days, with food supplies and energy to burn.

Admittedly, it was on our third attempt.

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