The first British person to cross the Antarctic solo and unaided returned to his roots in Holbeach, close to where he was born amid a blizzard.
Fresh from his record breaking trip British Army Captain Louis Rudd MBE (49) was back in town last week with family and friends from the area at granddad Arthur’s home.
The member of the Parachute Regiment of the Royal Marines told The Voice how it was getting into trouble at school aged 12 that led to an obsession with the most desolate continent on Earth.
“I’d just started at Spalding Grammar School and been sent to the headmaster after being a bit cheeky to the maths teacher,” Louis said. “I was in a queue outside the office and a bit bored.
“There was a little bookshelf and I grabbed a Ladybird book, Scott of the Antarctic.
“I remember sitting there and just being completely awestruck by this epic story of Captain Scott and his battle to reach the South Pole.
“It left a huge impression on me and straight away I wanted to go to this incredible place Antarctica and experience it.
“I then read about other polar explorers like Ernest Shackleton and was inspired by these epic tales.”
Maybe the seeds of fascination were ingrained from birth as Louis’s dad Phillip recollects his son coming into the world amid the winter of 1969.
“With Louis’s mum Linda Marie Smith in labour we set off from our house in Whaplode in this blizzard at 5am and the van broke down a good mile from Holbeach Hospital,” Phillip said. “The only thing was to get out and start walking in the blizzard.
“Luckily enough a van was coming into Holbeach with local newspapers picked us up.
“Within 30 minutes, Louis was born.”
Louis joined the Royal Marines at 16 and the opportunity to fulfil the dream of going to Antarctica came when Louis’s friend Lieutenant Henry Worsley came up with the idea of marking the centenary of Scott and Roald Amundsen’s polar exploits by two teams recreating their race.
Louis was part of the team that took Amundsen’s route and they won by nine days.
Other extreme trips he’s undertaken include navigating Greenland and taking five Army Reserve members on a journey to the South Pole.
He earned an MBE for the latter trip, something he describes as “a complete shock and really humbling.”
It was tragedy that inspired the latest solo trek. Friend and colleague Lt Worsley passed away in 2016 trying to become the first to cross Antarctica solo and unaided.
Louis completed the feat in his memory in 56 days on December 28, 2018 carrying the Worsley family crest.
Louis said of his trip: “The blogs I wrote made it sound straight forward, but a lot of the time I was wary of saying too much that might worry people.
“I had the Army watching me like a hawk as they had seen a friend die attempting the same journey before.
“I knew family and friends were watching particularly my wife Lucy who was apprehensive about the solo side of it.
Lucy, who was also a close friend of Lt Worsley, responded “It was scary, but I knew he would do it.”
So why does Louis keep going back?
“What I love about Antarctica is that it’s one of the last real wildernesses on the planet.
“It’s completely unspoilt and untouched by mankind. It’s got a raw beauty to it.
“I just love that it’s so pure and you don’t see any impact from mankind.
“It’s absolutely stunning and different every day with the changes in light and surface conditions
You go from mountain ranges to skiing down glaciers, which is incredible.
“The other thing is you’re always on your guard as you have a constant sense of, if you make a mistake then very quickly the place will kill you.
“You’re always wary and feeling under threat every moment, which is also a kind of challenge.
“When you finish your journey you feel as if you’ve really achieved something in a place that’s trying to kill you every minute you’re there.”
To keep weight down Louis wore the same clothes including underwear between leaving and returning to the camp in Chile. He says taking those clothes off, having a shower, a beer and satisfying food cravings after weeks of freeze dried food were highlights.
He’d already been in contact with Lucy and their three grown-up children. Amy is training to be a medic in the RAF, Luke has already followed his dad into the Royal Marines and his twin sister Sophie to be a criminal barrister.
Finishing his trip ahead of schedule, he has a five month programme lined up of talking to young people.
“I’m hoping to show that if there’s people not sure what to do in that stage of their life my experiences might help inspire them to join the military.”
There’s plenty of family time first including a few trips back to Holbeach from their current home in Hereford.
“It really helps you knowing you’ve got so much support willing you on. Definitely on the tough days in Antarctica it was always in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to let people down.
“Even though I was physically alone, mentally I never was. I was thinking about friends and family.”