FORMER Newport Gwent Dragons star Richard Parks is hoping to be the British record holder for the fastest solo, unsupported and unassisted journey to the South Pole later today.
The adventurer is scheduled to finish his mammoth Antarctic speed challenge by late tonight or in the early hours of tomorrow morning.
When he finishes, he will have travelled about 706 miles or 1138 kilometres and, as far as records show, will become the first ever Welsh person to ski solo, unsupported and unassisted to the South Pole.
After setting out on December 5, he is set to become the19th person to reach the South Pole unassisted without kites or resupplies and to break the British record.
The British record had previously been held by Hannah McKeand who in 2006 reached the pole in 39 days, nine hours and 33 minutes.
This morning, on day 30 of the challenge, he blogged he had completed two “really long days”. He wrote he was “not really excited at the moment” but that he “will get excited when I am back at Union Glacier [camp] with a can of Coke.”
Parks has faced challenges including one of his skis breaking on New Year’s Eve and he has also faced the brutal Antarctic conditions of whiteouts, windchill and sastrugi, the deep grooves made in snow by wind.
This is the second attempt Parks has made at the challenge after he was forced to abandon his first attempt due to severe weather. Initially he had aimed to break the world record by completing the challenge in just 23 days but missed out due to the adverse weather. His parents talked of their pride.
His father, Derek, said: “I’m aware he is obviously shattered from our conversations, it has been very tough but we are immensely proud of his achievements as always and look forward to having him back home soon. Mum Lee, said: “What Richard is about to accomplish is absolutely brilliant.” The former rugby player played professionally for 13 years and won four caps for Wales. A shoulder injury forced him to retire in May 2009.
He was then inspired to confront his fears after reading Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ autobiography Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know and by a sentence from his late grandmother’s eulogy: “The horizon is only the limit of our sight.” Since he set off from the Hercules Inlet start point he has burned as many calories as a person would running two marathons every day and has been pulling kit which weighs 10 stone 7 lbs.
Leading up to the expedition, he completed 12 months of training, skied solo in Antarctica for 39 days, completed the world’s highest mountain bike race in Nepal, took on the Jungle Ultra in Peru and did the double ironman challenge in Snowdonia.
In 2011 Mr Parks became the first person to climb the highest mountain in each continent and stand on all three poles within seven months after completing his 737 Challenge.