A Twin Otter ski plane dropped Lou Rudd off on the Ronne Ice Shelf and then left. He was now alone, in what he later called a "deafening silence". Ahead of him lay one of the biggest feats in the history of polar exploration: a solo, unsupported and unassisted traverse of Antarctica. Attached to his harness was a 130kg pulk, carrying the equipment he would need for the next 56 days and not an ounce more. This pulk would be his lifeline on the ice; his only source of warmth, food, tools, shelter and contact.
Some of the essentials crammed into Lou's pulk included grazing bags with pieces of chocolate, nuts and raisins; sachets of freeze-dried expedition food; an expedition stove and kettle; water bottles; sleeping bag, compass and satellite phones; a Shackleton flag; a pair of spare skis painted with Amundsen’s face; and several pieces of British-made, expedition-grade Shackleton apparel.
We caught up with Lou to discuss his kit and what else he took to the frozen continent.
How did your Shackleton clothing hold up out there in the worst of it?
Overall pretty good considering the conditions down there. I really liked the lightweight aspect to it and the down-based products performed brilliantly, I was never cold even at -35ºC.
Have you learned anything specific about what to look for in expedition kit and equipment?
Thin windproof but breathable outer garments are key when you’re hauling. It’s so easy to overheat and start sweating, which you want to avoid at all costs. Having everything as light as possible is really important. A large hood with an animal fur ruff is really important on your jacket, so that you can form a tunnel on the strong wind days.
Your pulk was home to all kinds of essentials, was there any weight in there you wished you’d shed before you set off?
I carried a polar skirt and a couple of mid layers that I never ended up using.
Was there one thing in your pulk you grew to appreciate above everything else?
I loved my little lightweight Hilleberg tent. It was the perfect size for one person, quick to set up and super reliable. It was my safe haven from the elements at the end of a long hard day. Also my spare set of skis with the mohair skins fitted were superb. It saved me the hassle of switching skins all the time.