New Year's Day, 2009. Somewhere on the bottom of the world, six teams of adventurers and explorers have gathered to race one another, on foot, to the South Pole. It is the first time that anyone has undertaken such a race in almost a hundred years; the first time since the great Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, beat Captain Scott to the same goal in 1911.
The stakes are high, as double-Olympic Gold-winning medallist James Cracknell and TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle must contend with hidden crevasses, frostbite and the favourites to win: a team of teak-hard former soldiers from Norway, trained in Arctic warfare. Temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius lie in store for the teams as they attempt to ski across 800 kilometres of unforgiving, icy wilderness, pulling behind them sledges laden with equipment, tents and food.
"Race to the Pole" is a rip-roaring 'boy's own' adventure packed with excitement, humour and even a few tears. But with just a few months to learn to cross-country ski before the start, and with national pride at stake, can Ben and James re-write history and beat the Norwegians?
I like this kind of adventure book, following a modern day race to the pole. I liked reading about the race and who was in it and the difficulties that they faced in this extreme environment.
Ben had a terrible time during the preparation for the expedition, catching a tropical disease that almost cost him the chance to compete and then the terrible loss of their unborn child. The mental strain of this and the physical trauma on his body...well, lesser mortals would never have made it to the start line. Ben was strong throughout and my admiration for him grew as the book progressed. I admire his wife as well. What is was like to lose a child then fear losing your husband on this trip doesn't bear thinking about.
Frankly, if Ed and Ben had gone on their own, they probably could have won. It was James and his catalogue of mistakes and arrogant attitude that meant they lost. James was self obsessed, arrogant, rude, bullying and of course knew everything. When things went wrong, it was always someone elses's fault and poor Ed took the brunt of these childish tantrums. He failed to employ common sense at the start and despite knowing he was being stupid, carried on anyway which of course led to the problems with his feet that left him holding the team up at various stages. He was determined to lead them across an area filled with crevasse danger because he was in a bad mood and wanted to cut time off the journey. The man is a reckless idiot and this lunacy could have killed all of them. The others should never have followed his idiotic example! His sulking and whinging about being so weak and injured got on my nerves because his injuries were all down to his own stupidity and I had little sympathy. The way he took everything out on his team was childish to say the least. I might admire his athletic and adventure achievements but I sure wouldn't want to hang out with him.
The book was really good and gives an in depth view of what it is like to take on this kind of challenge, and what it does to you physically and mentally. I recommend this for anyone who likes adventure or expedition type books.