Torpoint man plans to take team of young Scouts to the North Pole
Not content with walking the entire South West coast path, winning six Ten Tors medals, or even shaving off his dreadlocks for charity, Cornish adventurer Wez Swain is embarking on his most ambitious challenge to date – leading the first Scout expedition to the North Pole.
Wez is one of life's live-wires, inspiring everyone who he comes into contact with, whether they be members his Torpoint Scout troop, students in his circus skills classes or youngsters excluded from school.
Over the years he has stacked up a multitude of achievements, including walking the Cornish coast path in just a fortnight on an exclusive diet of pasties, raising £90,000 to take 40 Cornish scouts to the World Jamboree in Sweden and kayaking from Loch Tay to the sea, while somehow earning both his Queen Scout Award and Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award along the way.
All of these, however, may be eclipsed by the extraordinary feat he hopes to pull off in early 2014. Wez's plan is to lead a team of four Scouts on a ski trek through the last two degrees of latitude to the geographic North Pole.
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Wez explained that the idea was no sudden notion but one which he had been mulling for 18 years.
"When I was 14 I watched a programme in a science lesson about the North Pole," he said. "Ever since then, I have dreamed of skiing to the North Pole."
The North Pole team will consist of four Scouts – including Wez – plus two professional polar guides, one of whom is Antony Jinman of Plymouth University, who has taken part in 14 Arctic expeditions . There will also be a support team of four back home in the UK.
Although organised by the Cornish Scouting movement, the expedition will be open to Scouts from Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Avon. They must be aged 18 to 25. And Wez is well aware of just how tough the expedition is going to be.
"We will be skiing and walking 120 miles across Arctic sea ice in uncertain weather conditions and at temperatures that could plunge to minus 40 degrees," he said. "There will be ice boulders as high as three-storey buildings which we'll have to cross, all the time hauling our kit on sledges. Those taking part will be pushed to the limit of their capabilities."
Clearly it takes a certain type of person to withstand the physical and mental rigours involved. Despite this, Wez has already received a large number of applications from Scouts across the South West. The closing date for applications is September 20, after which a shortlist of 20 possible team members will be selected. They will then be invited to take part in a 48-hour intensive trek on Dartmoor.
"They will be subjected to a really tough regime because for something like this you have to know how people will cope in these extremes, both physically and mentally," said Wez. "The final six selected will take part in a 10-day camp in Norway to learn the necessary Arctic skills."
The expedition will begin in late-March 2014, when the team will fly to Russia's Barneo ice camp. From there they will move to the start position approximately 120 miles from the North Pole. Skiing for eight hours a day, dragging all of their equipment on sledges, the expedition is likely take between 16 and 21 days to complete, depending on ice and weather.
"For an expedition of this magnitude in both physical adventure and media focus it will prove how a little place like Cornwall is standing out and to show what great qualities there are in Cornish Scouting," said Wez.
The challenge – from preparations through to training and the trek itself – is expected to cost £200,000.
"We aim to raise the majority of the money with major sponsors who believe inspiring the youth of today to get out and follow their dreams will create a better world in the future," said Wez.
"This is going to be a first. Eleven out of the 12 men to walk on the moon were Scouts and a group of Scouts from Hampshire have climbed Everest, but no Scout has 'officially' walked to the North Pole – until now."
Ever the optimist, Wez added: "I haven't a clue where the sponsorship will come from – but I don't doubt that we will achieve it."