Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

South Pole pair push pain barrier

Gavin Booth (L) and Adam Wilton (R)
Gavin Booth (left) and Adam Wilton completed the trek without assistance

Two former Edinburgh students have told how they suffered frostbite and battled blizzard conditions to complete a 45-day trek to the South Pole.

Gavin Booth, 33, and Adam Wilton, 30, have been hailed for their "amazing achievement" in the extreme conditions.

The pair were unsupported on the 1,130km expedition, pulling sleds which were twice their body weight.

They completed the gruelling journey, which began on 11 November, in 45 days and 13.5 hours.

Three British women have completed the route in a faster time.

When you can't even see your feet for days, it really tests you
Gavin Booth
Explorer

However, Mr Booth and Mr Wilton are claiming a new record for the fastest unsupported journey to the South Pole by a UK team.

They join an elite group, as only 12 other Britons have successfully made it to the South Pole from the edge of the Antarctic continent unsupported and unassisted.

Mr Booth told BBC Scotland news website that they had to wear full plastic masks to stop their faces from freezing in the -50C temperatures.

He said: "I still managed to get frostbite on my face, which meant I had scabs on my cheeks because the wind was still managing to get in round the edges of my mask.

"My ankles felt like they had huge metal pins hammered into them and several times I thought we had bitten off more than we could chew.

Students' video footage of their 44-day trek to the South Pole.

"It was very tough mentally as well because there isn't much to see. It's just a big white desert with a few mountain ranges now and then for 45 days, which made it tough.

"Some days there were whiteouts where we couldn't even see our feet with blizzard conditions, so we had to rely completely on our compass.

"When you can't even see your feet for days, it really tests you.

"We found we were repeating ourselves just to keep the conversation going to keep our minds off it."

He admitted that because of the physical, mental and emotional stress of the trip they did have a few arguments about which direction they were going.

The property investment surveyor added: "I have read that mild hypothermia makes you more argumentative, but it has made our friendship even stronger.

"The highlight had to be the last hour when we could see the US scientific base, which was amazing and I had butterflies in my stomach."

Scott's Hut at Cape Evans is in Antarctica
Scott's Hut at Cape Evans is in Antarctica

They had to have two showers each when they arrived back in Chile, where they threw out the clothes they had been wearing constantly during the trip.

The pair, who reached the South Pole on 27 December, have now arrived back in the UK.

Tom Sjogtren, the founder of Explorers' Web, which records South Pole expeditions, said: "I am impressed how they handled themselves completely unsupported and self-reliant when they were not professional explorers before they left.

"It is an amazing achievement because the conditions are so extreme."

The pair have so far raised 20,000 towards The Discovery Hut at Hut Point, an Antarctic hut used by Captain Scott which needs 3m to be restored

The hut is at risk after almost 100 years of harsh weather.

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