In the icy shadow of Scott and Amundsen

Walking through the park in the rain with Erling Kagge, you are tempted to say, 'Nice stride, but nothing special.' And then you think, yes, but that was two miles in the rain, and Erling is going to walk 312 miles in the snow. As the crow flies. Up hill. Into headwinds. In temperatures of minus 20 to minus 40C. And pulling a sledge weighing about 264lbs (120kg) with a harness round his hips.

Erling Kagge, 28 and Norwegian, is setting off to half-walk, half-ski to the South Pole from the northern edge of Antarctica - alone. He will be leaving in early November, and hopes to get there in about 60 days.

On the way, unless he suffers injury, he is likely to pass two Britons, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his companion, Mike Stroud. Last week they announced details of a vastly ambitious project, starting at the end of this month, in which they will attempt to be the first men to cross the Antarctic via the South Pole unsupported: 2,200 miles in 100 days.

There is little love lost between the Norwegian and Sir Ranulph, and their rivalry raises echoes of the intense competition between Scott and Amundsen 80 years ago. It follows a dispute that arose after Kagge and a companion beat Sir Ranulph to the North Pole two years ago. Sir Ranulph claims that because one of Kagge's companions had to be airlifted home after injuring his back, the Norwegians did not really reach the North Pole without support. Sir Ranulph, on the other hand, hasn't reached it at all in four attempts.

'This affair is more or less water under the bridge to me,' says Kagge, 'because we won the battle.' But he acknowledges that there was a certain tendency in Norway to say, 'Good, we beat the English again.'

Sir Ranulph strongly disputes Kagge's version of events. 'He has made false claims,' he said last week, 'which has made the whole thing a bit of a sham. The Norwegians say it is sour grapes, but that's not true - it's about sticking to the rules.'

Sir Ranulph is a professional explorer, Kagge only a part-

timer: when he is not preparing for polar walks he is a lawyer for the big Norwegian mining and electricity company Norsk Hydro.

Even his legal work can be exciting: he has posed as a rich Scandinavian businessman to expose a fraudster in Panama City, and not long ago he took a bus ride across Yugoslavia to claim dollars 11m which a bank was holding out on.

You can see why the bank handed it over. Kagge is quiet but he is tall, with blue eyes which could easily get quite cold, and he has a bone-cracking handshake. He claims he would get bored if he had to be a lawyer, or an explorer, all the time. He must have a low boredom threshold, because he has taken on a task that is exceptionally tough, both physically and mentally.

He will have to pull every mouthful of food he eats for two months, more than 120lbs of it - a mixture of fat, which is good because of its very high calorie content, meat, oats and chocolate. He will take a tent, modified by himself so he can put it up even in a blizzard, a sleeping-bag of man- made down so as not to absorb sweat, and an emergency radio with a range of hundreds of miles because it uses a satellite.

To save space, he will take no change of underwear: 'I plan to break my own record of wearing the same underwear for 63 days.'

To train for the physical effort, he has been jogging for three hours at a stretch in the mountains round Oslo and hiking with up to 120lbs in a backpack.

It is harder to prepare for the psychological pressures. When he went to the North Pole, one of his companions slipped a disc trying to pull his sledge out of a crevasse, and Kagge himself had to shoot a starving polar bear that charged them.

The South Pole walk presents less physical danger. Kagge feels that 'the biggest challenge is to keep a good rate of progress when you are alone. It is more a mental than a physical thing. The hardest thing is to start in the morning. You get very, very hungry. The fat wears off. The muscle begins to go. You get very, very tired. You get headaches, nosebleeds. If there are two of you, the one who is feeling best goes ahead, and all you have to do is keep up. If you are on your own, you have to motivate yourself.'

Was he afraid of being lonely? 'Not frightened,' he said, 'but I do expect to be lonely.' Every single ounce is a consideration when you have to drag it with your own hips for hundreds of miles, so he is not sure whether he will take a Walkman and a few cassettes. But he will definitely take one book, probably 'light philosophy' or history. He thinks it will be vital to focus his mind on something other than his physical task every now and then.

Why was he doing it? Because it's there? He laughed. 'I'm very fed up with people saying they are doing it because it's scientific, when they could find out far more with less effort by flying in,' he said. 'Those reasons are secondary. You have to accept that what you are doing is absurd.

'Of course, I have secondary reasons, too. People are nicer to you, including the bank manager. Your self-esteem is better. You feel more secure and confident. But my real motives are personal. It is curiosity that drives me.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone