As we approach the much heralded BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards the debate over who is our greatest sports man or woman of 2013 will create as many arguments as answers. But one thing is certain, few will consider the extreme sport of polar exploration when asked who they believe should be on the shortlist, never mind who the winner should be.
Prince Harry has raised the profile of this extreme outdoor pursuit, despite his Race to the South Pole being suspended at the weekend. The Walking With the Wounded trek, which is raising money for injured troops, is expected to resume. But organisers say the teams will no longer be encouraged to race each other to the South Pole because conditions are too dangerous.
Now consider that an expedition to the North Pole is deemed to be a more dangerous challenge because you are walking on frozen ice and you will start to appreciate that Alex Hibbert and his team are tackling something extraordinary when they leave London today (December 9) en route for a ground breaking expedition.
Not only is Hibbert leading an unsupported mission to the North Pole, his team are tackling their extraordinary 210 day challenge mostly in the dark. And they are starting in Greenland, from where the North Pole has never been reached.
In sporting terms The Dark Ice Project is an attempt to set a new world record that would dwarf the majority of record breaking achievements of the polar variety, not to mention the more traditional sporting conquests placed before us by the media.
You may ask why would anyone want to do such a thing and the answer is what sets these Dark Ice heroes apart from your average sportsman or woman. As Hibbert says in an exclusive interview with Tina Fotherby:
“If it was easy what would be the point of actually going out there and doing it, of putting your life in danger in order to achieve something pointless? It’s that very fabric and that danger element that it hasn’t been done before that makes the entire reason behind it exist.”
Only a handful of polar expeditions in history have ventured into the polar winter. Beginning in mid-December, this landmark expedition will be undertaken by Hibbert (27), plus team mates James Wheeldon, a 23-year old fellow Brit, and two 24 year-olds, Russian Anastasia Kim and Anders Rasmussen from Denmark.Each will haul over 250kg the length of the Nares Strait and then make an unsupported return attempt on the Geographic North Pole.
The route will cover up to 1800 miles over fractured and mobile sea ice between the cliffs and glaciers of Ellesmere Island and North-West Greenland and then the vast, frozen Arctic Ocean. The team will set out from the Greenlandic Inuit village of Qaanaaq and travel north to the edge of the Arctic Ocean and then the North Pole, before returning. The sea ice through these narrow straits is amongst the most dynamic and technically demanding in the world.
The team will have only their tent as protection against the brutal Arctic winter conditions and their trusty Inuit dog, Dave, whose job will be to warn them when they are under threat from polar bears.
It is not easy to judge who is the greatest when we compare one sport with another. And many would not even consider the extreme outdoor pursuit of polar exploration to be a sport. But in the rarefied world of this unique trek to the North Pole Alex Hibbert is a leader who will rank alongside the greats if he can lead his team to the North Pole and safely bring them back home in July 2014. It is a triumphant homecoming scheduled to happen around the time the world will be crowning the greatest football team on the planet and one all-conquering team captain will be lifting the famous FIFA World Cup Trophy.