Ollie Stoten, Whitgift School

Old Whitgiftian is the youngest person to reach the South Pole in recent SPEAR17.

Old Whitgiftian, Ollie Stoten, set off as part of a six-man team of British Army Reserves to Antarctica, in mid-November, on a mission to ski unsupported to the geographic South Pole. Ollie, who completed his medical degree last year, passed a stringent selection process, to undertake the 1200-mile trek. During the estimated two-month journey, each man has been hauling an individual ‘pulk’ (a small toboggan for pulling supplies over snow or ice), weighing approximately 160kg and carrying everything they need to reach the Pole. The expedition, known as SPEAR17 (South Pole Expedition Army Reserves 2017), is raising money for the Army Benevolent Fund.

After being dropped by ski plane on the coastline of Antarctica, the team embarked on 800 miles of often treacherous skiing and temperatures of -50ºC. On Christmas Day, they achieved what only six people before them had - they made it to South Pole unsupported. Ollie is the youngest person ever, at 26 years old, to reach the Pole.

The team has endured many hardships along the way – frostbite, constant hunger, low oxygen levels and numerous injuries, aches and pains. Due to muscle mass loss, one member of the expedition, following a medical examination at the Pole, was advised to abandon the rest of the challenge. The group has 400 miles left to go across the Ross Ice Shelf until they reach their pick-up point.

Ollie has had an important role to play within the group; he has been conducting research, along with the two other medics on the trip, to gain an insight into how extreme hardships affect the body’s metabolism, genetics (epigenetics: the study of genetic variations that result from external or environmental factors), and how best to sustain a human body under such conditions.

Whitgift wishes Ollie and the rest of SPEAR17 team a swift and safe journey back to civilisation and a speedy recovery from the toll of the expedition.

You can follow the SPEAR17 blog at www.spear17.org/blog and help the team reach their £100,000 donation target for the Army Benevolent Fund at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/spear17.

For further information on Whitgift School, visit their webpage

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