Ends of the earth ... for the ultimate holiday

For people attracted to the prospect of shooting the Colorado in a bathtub or traversing the Gobi on a mule, a British explorer may have come up with the ultimate holiday.

While many may consider an Outward Bound-style holiday about as enticing as dose of piles, Pen Hadow believes there are people who will jump at the chance to complete one of the last great natural challenges - trekking to the North or South Pole.

In a country where the final diaries of the dying Captain Scott as he struggled to survive the Antarctic, have become ingrained in the public psyche, Mr Hadow should perhaps know better. But the polar explorer is confident of the attraction of walking 500 miles while pulling a sledge across the frozen wastes. "They are two of the last great challenges - and they are open to anyone who is up for it. More people have climbed Everest than have walked the entire distance to either of the Poles," he said.

Seven months ago, another of Mr Hadow's projects made history when a relay of 20 women became the first all-female expedition to reach the North Pole.

His latest challenges offer the option of walking part of the way to either pole. But anyone who wants to take part in the project in spring next year, will first have to pass a gruelling assessment in a British wilderness. "Dartmoor makes a very good test-bed for people looking to go - what is important is to simulate levels of stress and monitor the reaction of people to it in performance terms," he said.

The North Pole expedition members will pull 150 sledges for 500 miles from Ward Hunt Island, in northern Canada, between March and May next year. Those battling all the way will be resupplied three times en route.

Mr Hadow's Polar Travel Company, which is based on Dartmoor, will run an identical expedition to the South Pole between November next year and January 1999.

The treks will cost pounds 9,000 for a leg, or pounds 25,000 for the whole distance.

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