Distance: 920 miles
Time: 56 days
Rest days: 0
Food: 6000 calories per day
Body weight loss: 15kg (17% body mass)
“With the personal stuff I knew I’d miss – my family, food, creature comforts, etc. – I mentally boxed it up and buried it at the end of the trip. I only get to it when I finish. But I didn’t entertain the idea of finishing until I had reached the Leverett Glacier, about 100 miles from the Ross Ice Shelf.”
Instead, Rudd broke the expedition down into 10-day blocks, as this was how his food rations were packaged. “I never looked further ahead than those 10 days,” he says. “That’s also when I changed my socks – the only item of clothing I changed throughout.
“Weight is so critical,” says Rudd, seeing my eyes widen at the prospect of wearing the same pair of sweaty boxer-shorts for two long months. “The first time I got to experience my full pulk [sled] was when I landed in Antarctica, and it was horrendous. I had to strip it out.”
He removed his spare pair of boxer-shorts, the Christmas presents given to him by his wife and children, and anything that wasn’t an absolute necessity to the expedition. In Antarctica, cutting weight from the sled is of greater importance than hygiene. The result was a starting load of 130kg: 90kg of food; 20kg of cooker fuel; and 20kg for clothes, tent, sleeping bag, communications, and seven pairs of socks – everything he needed for the 920-mile crossing and an intake of 6000 calories a day.
Fifty-six days later, and with a final push of 34 non-stop miles, Rudd hauled his way into the history books. He was emaciated, exhausted, relieved; now part of an exclusive two-man club who can say they have crossed Antarctica unassisted and alone, an epic feat that has eluded explorers for decades.
As a part-time adventurer, Rudd is now back with the Army to resume his official duties, but the next expeditions are already on the horizon. He is off to lead a group in Iceland in the spring, and then leading the Pelorus Trans-Greenland expedition in August 2019, in partnership with his Antarctica sponsor Shackleton; a 27-day crossing of the ice cap.
And on a personal level?
“Well,” he says wryly, “I have some ideas.”