Race to the Pole, by James Cracknell & Ben Fogle

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The Independent Culture

There's something heart-warming about the ripping adventures of James Cracknell and Ben Fogle. Not simply the fact that the pair seem to pit themselves against unspeakable odds, but also that they do so with a combination of sincerity, dignity and pragmatism. After their Atlantic jaunt, their latest endeavour is up to the mark.

For the first time since Amundsen and Scott raced each other in 1911, six teams competed to be the first to reach the South Pole on foot. Cracknell, Fogle and a third participant, Dr Ed Coats, lash on the skis.

The book of the trip is a tennis match of recollections, with the narrative bouncing between the pair. Fogle has the calmer demeanour and emerges like the Edwardian diplomat in James Hilton's Lost Horizon. Cracknell, as befitting a successful Olympiad, has the drive of a man possessed. His passages are full of "I let rip," "I was busy swearing" and "This is crap." As Fogle succinctly puts it: "We were both worried about his frame of mind." A great escapade told with refreshing frankness.