Q&A with explorer Conrad DIckinson ahead of polar trip

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The 2013 Walking with the Wounded race to the South Pole sees three teams from the UK, the Commonwealth and US race 335km across the planet's bleakest landscape.

Each team is made up of four ex-military personnel, many of whom have suffered severe physical injuries, and two supporting guides, who have extensive experience of the environment.

Prince Harry is the Patron for the Walking with the Wounded Charity and announced that he will be joining the teams on the trek in November.

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The UK team, sponsored by Glenfiddich, will be racing over 335km of Antarctic ice cap, a journey which should take them at least two weeks to complete.

We chatted to UK team leader Conrad Dickinson (pictured below), a polar expert with over 30 years’ experience in the field. And he wasn’t pulling any punches about the scale of the task ahead.

Just how tough is this trek going to be?

Look, it’s hard for an able-bodied person. I’ve done it, and I found it very hard. Trying to balance on skis without one or both legs is tough. Then you’re pulling the weight equivalent of a bath-tub full of water behind you. Of course there’s also the temperature issue. The guys with amputations, those areas are going to be much more sensitive to that.

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You’ve just returned from cold weather training in Iceland. How did that go?

I was in Iceland, trimming the team down from the six people shortlisted down to the final four. On day one we did 25km, which was 8km more than the US and Commonwealth. All of our team were hurting, but they all did it.

What’s going to make the difference for whoever wins?

It’s going to take a combination of sheer effort, determination and there’ll also be an element of luck. You could be two miles to the left or right, and one team could have really good snow and one team could have terrible snow. In a way of course, whoever wins is secondary. They’ve overcome such obstacles just to stand on the starting block; in my mind they’re all winners.

There must still be some competitiveness?

Yes, that being said, there will be an element of rivalry. Physically, the US team has the advantage. They have no physical disabilities, in terms of amputations. The commonwealth team, they’ve got guys from Canada, guys with cold weather experience. They’ve also got guys from Australia, who are going to find the acclimatisation really tough for the first week. Hopefully that’ll slow them down a bit.

Walking with the Wounded is a charity event aimed at to raise funds for the rehabilitation of wounded military service personnel, and to help get them back on track.

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