Teenager passes ultimate polar challenge

A Norfolk teenager has joined the ranks of Sir Ranulph Fiennes after finishing a gruelling two-man expedition through sub-zero temperatures with little more than flapjacks for sustenance.

A Norfolk teenager has joined the ranks of Sir Ranulph Fiennes after finishing a gruelling two-man expedition through sub-zero temperatures with little more than flapjacks for sustenance.

George Bullard, 19, and Alex Hibbert, 21, travelled nearly 1,400 miles unsupported and unsupplied across Greenland and the polar ice cap and back.

It is thought to be a new record for an unsupported polar journey, beating a 1,300-mile expedition set by two Norwegians.

The pair set off on March 26 with two 160kg sleds of supplies and only their own manpower to get them through temperatures down to minus 40 degrees over nearly 115 days.


You may also want to watch:


They arrived in the UK on Friday, having beaten a previous record for an unsupported polar journey.

Back home in Gressenhall, near Dereham, George said: “It was amazing, the mental phases you went through. Right at the beginning of the 1,375 miles was the hardest thing, pulling your 240kg load doing 0.7mph. Covering five miles per day you can nearly see where you last camped. It felt like you weren't going to get home for years.”

Most Read

Last Wednesday, the sight of the helicopter coming to pick them up was a joy, said George, who lost two stone on the journey.

When they started their return journey, sponsored by outdoor supplies specialist Tiso, they were wet, cold, sledging in deep snow and short of food, but they kept going despite living on two flapjacks per day by the end of it.

They had not been able to locate their last two sets of provisions, buried with markers on the trip out.

“We had just six days of food left and a packet of Haribo sweets,” said George. “We could have spent an hour looking for the depot, but then we could have got another four or five miles.

“Home was so close, adrenalin was going through us so much. It was all a bit of a pickle. So we started on to emergency rations after 107 days. It was pretty nasty.”

A day's ration was some chocolate, four flapjacks, a packet of nuts, a 125g powdered evening meal and a 150g breakfast. By the end they were living on two and a half flapjacks per day.

A daily sweet treat was reduced to one fruit pastel. A tin of peaches on Alex's birthday was a real treat.

George said luckily for him he didn't know how bad the weather was - he thought it was normal, being a first-timer.

At times it was minus 40 degrees - they were kitted out for minus 20. It had not been that cold in Greenland for years, they found out.

At one point, suffering from bad heartburn, which left him incapacitated in the tent, George said he was ready to pack it in.

In hindsight, he said, he was glad he didn't. But he added: “I have no need to go into a polar region for that long ever again.”

He is going to do more expeditions, including with the British Schools Exploring Society. In September, he will start university at Edinburgh to study biological science and management.

But before that he will be taking his polar tent for a spot of summer camping at Blakeney on the north Norfolk coast, a long way from the ice cap with food that doesn't come from a packet.

Alex, from Hampshire, hopes to become a Royal Marine.

The trip has so far raised £10,000 to £15,000 for Breast Cancer Haven, which offers free information, support and advice to people with breast cancer.

To sponsor George, visit www.justgiving.com/georgebullard

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter