On Day 5 of the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge, as the teams arrived at their first Checkpoint, it became obvious that underneath the concrete determination of all the team members, the harsh reality of the Antarctic was starting to take its toll.
With the safety of all those involved at the forefront of Expedition Director, Ed Parker's mind, the following decision has been made going forward for the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge:
"We always knew that this wasn't going to be easy, but that is what makes the challenge so exciting. Our aim was to show that despite injury, young men and women from our armed forces can still achieve great things.
Until now, the three teams have been racing against one another across the Antarctic plateau, but yesterday I took the decision to suspend the race.The reason for this is entirely simple - safety, which remains the core principal of our expeditions.
While all three teams were progressing well, it was becoming evident that there was a higher degree of stress imposed on the team members, due to unprecedented terrain on the plateau.With careful consultation from our doctor and race team, we have put the race on hold. This does not mean that the expedition is over. Far from it. We came down here, determined to get 12 men and women, all injured in conflict, to the South Pole, and so we will.
Tomorrow we start the last leg, 112 km, to the Pole, with no stress being placed on the teams, and with the new race format enabling them all to do this in their own time. Each evening, the expedition will be camping together, all able to enjoy and share each other's experiences. By Friday or Saturday next week, I strongly believe that every member of the expedition will be standing on the South Pole, celebrating what will have been the most extraordinary shared journey.We feel your support every step of the way, please continue to follow us and support the walk. "
- Ed Parker, Expedition Director and Co-Founder of Walking With The Wounded
The Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge team members all respect and agree with Ed Parker's decision and now, if anything, are more determined than ever to finish what they started, moving together as one complete allied team.
Guy Disney of Team Glenfiddich commented from the ice on this tough but essential decision:
"Sadly, we had to call off the race element of the expedition.
The first four days was a full out slog. It really tested every single individual mentally and physically.
I think everyone, including myself, has managed to get a hell of a lot out of it and it will be an experience that will live with us for the rest of our lives. However, due to a few small injuries - nothing too serious - and the weather, it is really putting us behind and so the race element has been stopped, but for very good reasons.
Now, what can only be described as stage 2 [...] will be getting everyone back together, all three teams and redefining our essential goal, which is to make sure we get every single person there in one piece and to do everything we can for the charity.
We still have another 7 days of walking, which should be great fun and without the race element, it means we can really focus on what the expedition set out to achieve.
All is well, morale is good, everyone is rested, fit and ready to go. Another 7 days to push. We will probably make about 15-16km each day.
We are about 112 km from the South Pole and we all can't wait to get there as one big group.
There is a bigger goal here, which we all set out from the start and that is what we need to achieve.
All is well."
- Guy Disney, Team Glenfiddich member
This is certainly not the end for the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge, but steps have been put into place to ensure that all of those involved are kept safe. The team members are determined to prove their strength and courage but this must be done without jeopardising anyone's well being.
Going forward, the final leg of the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge will begin from the team's second allotted checkpoint, 112 km from the South Pole. The team members will be driven to this point and over the course of the next 7 days, will move as one whole allied team to reach the South Pole together.