ON Thursday, British explorer and CurraNZ customer Neil Hunter commences his 700-mile solo expedition to become the first Diabetic to reach the South Pole unsupported.
The Type 2 Diabetic will be skiing across Antarctica, the world’s windiest, driest Continent, in extreme sub-zero temperatures, but is ‘relishing the challenge’.
Fewer than 30 entirely solo missions have been successfully completed - and he will be tackling a 2,000-metre incline in just the first few days.
Neil, an officer at the Ministry of Defence Police Marine Unit in Portsmouth, says: “This is a huge undertaking. My diabetes is an issue I will have to contend with - and there are other real risks out there.
“I will face headwinds that could reach around 60mph, white-out conditions and temperatures as low as -45C.
“It is a huge test of endurance - which is something I’ve built up by training for a year.”
One of the earliest CurraNZ customers, he is taking 11 packs-worth of our high-potency blackcurrant extract to see him through the expedition. As he will be skiing up to eight hours a day and dosing every six hours to ward off fatigue and speed muscle recovery.
Neil says: “I’ve been using CurraNZ to help me recover from exercise and aid endurance for the past five years.
“It seemed only logical to pack it for my once-in-a-lifetime adventure because I know that it really works for me.”
He hopes to complete in around 50 days.
Neil says: “I’m confident I can do it in less than six weeks if conditions are good. Last year others doing similar challenges had awful conditions and several people didn’t complete. Those going for speed records had to abandon.
“The record 23 days - but that requires hellish hours - and the biggest problem you have is fatigue. Plus, you lose a huge amount of weight in a short space of time. I’ll be eating over 6,000 calories a day and have put on an additional 10kg because of that.”
“I’ll be taking 65kg of food, and while my sled will obviously get lighter the closer I get to the South Pole, the colder it gets and the snow becomes more like grit and sand and it’s more difficult to get through. It doesn’t get easier, it just gets different.”The 48-year-old will have to lug a 100kg load behind him on a carbon fibre sled.
Neil will wear a device that takes glucose and insulin readings 24 hours a day, which will be monitored by scientists at Portsmouth University via his wireless hotspot that connects him to the outside world.
“If I get to the South Pole, I believe I will be the first insulin-using diabetic to have ever done so solo and unassisted.
“But for me it’s not about the accolade. It’s about raising awareness about this condition and proving that your body will do so much more than you think it can.”
Neil says his life was turned upside down 12 years ago when he was medically discharged from the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service after his doctor diagnosed type 2 diabetes.
He explains: “I had no idea I had it and I was diagnosed entirely by chance – it was just a routine medical test.
“It was a huge surprise because I was fit and healthy, and I had always associated diabetes with obesity and poor health which although is a contributing factor, isn’t always the case.”
The diagnosis forced him to reassess his life, which became the starting point for his adventurous undertakings.
In 2007 he and friend Scott McNaughton completed a 2,935 mile, 67-day row across the Atlantic, setting off from the Canary Islands and landing in Antigua.
For that feat of endurance, he raised £20,000 for charity Diabetes UK.
And he followed that up by climbing Denali, the highest mountain in North America, skiing 350 miles across the Greenland icecap and scaling Mount Elbrus in southern Russia.
Now he’s gone solo – aiming to reach the South Pole under his own steam.
The quest began on November 11, when he flew from Heathrow to Santiago, Chile. He then jets on to Punta Arenas before landing at Union Glacier in Antarctica.
From there he’ll make his way east to Hercules Inlet where the daunting trek begins on November 19.
To follow Neil’s progress, head over to curranz.com and follow his tracker.
To support Neil on his fundraising target of £15,000 for Diabetes UK, go to his JustGiving page to find out more.
Stay tuned for more updates as we follow Neil’s progress in upcoming newsletters.
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