Everest conquerors plot epic polar trek by wind and pedal power

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The Independent Online

Many teenagers find the daily challenge of getting out of bed daunting enough - but not Rob Gauntlett and James Hooper. Not content with having become the youngest Britons to scale Mount Everest in May, the 19-year-olds are preparing to travel across the world using only their own and nature's power.

Their 17,000-mile odyssey will see the old boarding school chums cross 14 countries, beginning at the North Pole. From there they will ski to the edge of the ice pack before joining an ice-breaker yacht which will convey them to Canada, from where they will cycle almost the entire length of the Americas - pausing to take a sailing boat around the impenetrable Darien Gap in Panama.

The final leg will see them once more take to the sea, sailing across the Southern Ocean, before completing the pole to pole challenge, pulled on skis by kites.

Launching the project, called "180 Degrees Pole To Pole Manpowered", on a boat on the Thames last night, they said they hoped to encourage the younger generation to make the most of their lives.

"One of the major driving forces behind our adventures has centred around our desire to try to provide inspiration to young people," they said. "There are always opportunities to strike out and achieve what may initially feel far-fetched or impossible." Backed by the veteran adventurers Sir Ranulph Fiennes and David Hempleman-Adams, the expedition will raise awareness for the Prince's Trust and aims to gain the attention of the nation's schoolchildren by linking the travels to the National Curriculum via the expedition's website. The project is being managed by their old boarding school, Christ's Hospital in West Sussex.

Mr Hempleman-Adams said: "Rob and James did a magnificent expedition to Everest, and should be justly proud of their achievement. I have no doubt that very commitment will see them to both poles, they are well ahead of the curve."

But before they can embark, they must first convince sponsors to come up with the cash, which they believe they can do with the promise of a TV documentary, book deal and extensive press coverage.

In 2002, Rob became the youngest person to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats. Since then they have punctuated their studies with climbing in the Alps, the Himalayas and a 3,000-mile cycle from Bilbao to Istanbul. These adventures, they say, served as preparation for the "main event" of climbing Everest, which they completed in May after a six-week climb funded by £30,000 they had raised in sponsorship.

Since returning from Everest, the teenagers have embarked on a series of speaking engagements, talking to schoolchildren as a well as business leaders, raising money for Cancer Research UK.

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