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Last Updated: Monday, 24 January, 2005, 06:29 GMT
Married couple tell of trek agony
By James Lynn
BBC News Online

Conrad Dickinson and his wife Hilary
The couple travelled to the pole with a Canadian family
A married couple who made a record-breaking trek to the South Pole have spoken of the "incredible pain" they endured during the trip.

Ex-Army captain Conrad Dickinson, 49, and his 51-year-old wife Hilary, from Hexham, Northumberland, experienced temperatures as low as -45C.

Weather conditions for the 1,380-mile journey were reported to be the worst for the past 15 years.

Mr Dickinson, an expert in Arctic warfare during his time in the Army, told BBC News how they regularly took painkillers to cope with their injuries.

He said: "We would have filled a doctor's surgery 10 times over. We had blisters, pulled muscles, torn muscles, bad backs and horrendous chilblains from the wind and cold.

All you can think is 'it hurts, it hurts', over and over again, all day
Conrad Dickinson

"The wind always comes from the pole, so it's constantly in your face on the way there.

"The first four weeks were just pain. You're skiing for nine-and-a-half hours a day, pulling a sledge weighing about 130kg, and you're completely immersed in your own thoughts.

"All you can think is 'it hurts, it hurts', over and over again, all day. The biggest challenge is a mental one. You can't look at the big picture or you'd go mad.

"So you wake up in the morning and think about getting to the end of the day. Then you break that down into two-hour legs, and you must only think positive thoughts."

Conrad and Hilary Dickinson at the South Pole
The Dickinsons reached the South Pole in 52 days
The trip was unsupported, which meant there was no re-supplying en-route, so all food, fuel and equipment had to be pulled on sledges.

Mr Dickinson said: "We wanted to do the trip in a very pure, clean way without any outside interference, and that's what we did.

"But we did end up in danger a few times. At one point we found an area that didn't appear on the maps and decided to lower our sledges down a sheer ice slope.

"We ended up in maze of ice cliffs and ravines, walking across snow bridges, not knowing whether they would support our weight or collapse underneath us.

"It was very hairy. If you fell down a ravine, it would definitely be game over."

When we arrived at the pole we ate 24 bars of chocolate between us, something we're particularly proud of
Conrad Dickinson

The Dickinsons were accompanied by Canadian polar explorer, Matty McNair, 53, and her children Eric, 20, and Sarah McNair-Landry, 18.

The team skied to the pole in 52 days, but made the return journey in just 17 days, using kites to pull them back to their starting point at speeds of up to 25mph.

They broke several records on the expedition, but Mr Dickinson best remembers some of the accomplishments which probably will not make it into the record books.

He said: "When we arrived at the pole we ate 24 bars of chocolate between us, something we're particularly proud of. Also, I managed to wear the same pair of underpants for 70 days.

"Suffice to say I had a long, thorough shower when I got back to England."



Pole record couple on return trip
28 Dec 04 |  Tyne/Wear
British couple break polar record
24 Dec 04 |  Tyne/Wear
Couple aim to break polar record
22 Dec 04 |  Tyne/Wear
School polar adventurers due home
20 Dec 04 |  Nottinghamshire

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