"I've spent enough time in Antarctica to know what an extremely remarkable thing Capt. Rudd has achieved. To have crossed the continent alone without assistance or support of any kind in the time of 56 days without a single day's rest is nothing short of astonishing - a true testament to Lou's mental and physical endurance. Capt. Rudd is an inspiration to us all, I believe his name will go down in polar history."
- Ranulph Fiennes
On November 3rd, 2018, a Twin Otter ski plane left Lou Rudd alone on the far-reaching expanse of the Ronne Ice Shelf. Lou stood at the heart of what he later called a ‘deafening silence’, faced at once with the reality of his undertaking – a solo, unsupported and unassisted traverse of the planet’s coldest continent. Soon he’d be stepping forward into wind chill as low as -30C, facing whiteout days wrapped in coiling blizzards and a seemingly interminable dose of isolation and pain. 56 days later he would emerge on the Ross Ice Shelf as the first Briton in history to complete the journey and the only person to have crossed the continent twice.
Lou stood at the heart of what he later called a ‘deafening silence...'
Way back at the start of his journey, when he was standing alone on the Ross Ice Shelf, Lou was holding all the equipment he needed harnessed to his back in a Norwegian sled (or ‘pulk’). This pulk became his only lifeline on the ice – his only source of warmth, food, tools, shelter and contact. During his first steps it weighed a back-breaking 140kg, and this was after every gram of excess weight had already been shed. If Lou carried anything more he would’ve run the risk of exhausting himself too early in his journey.
Some of the essentials crammed into Lou's pulk included: ‘grazing bags’ crammed with pieces of chocolate, nuts and raisins, sachets of freeze-dried expedition food, an expedition stove, kettle, water bottles, goggles, gloves, sleeping bag, compass, satellite phones, Shackleton flag, pulk, a pair of spare skis painted with Amundsen’s face and of course a few pieces of British made, expedition grade Shackleton apparel.
This week we caught up with Lou, who’s now back at home in Hereford, to learn more about how his kit faired in the company of the Great White Queen:
Shackleton (S): Lou you’ve just spent two months travelling solo across the Antarctic wilderness – no trees, no contact with animals save a single snow petrel – how’s the return to civilisation going so far?
Lou (L): Yes great to be back. I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of media interest in the expedition and the huge amount of support I had.
S: How did your Shackleton clothing hold up out there in the worst of it?
L: 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 -35C.
S: Have you learnt anything specific about what to look for in expedition kit and equipment?
L: Thin windproof but breathable outer garments are key for 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.
Thin windproof but breathable outer garments are key for 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.
S: Your pulk was home to all kinds of essentials, from fruit pastilles to an Iridium tracker and satellite phone. Was there any weight in there you wished you’d shed before you set off?
L: I carried a polar skirt and a couple of mid layers that I never ended up using.
S: Was there one thing in your pulk you grew to appreciate above everything else?
L: 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.