Preston's Jason Bolton follows in the footsteps of Scott of the Antarctic
Preston's Jason Bolton followed in Scott's footsteps as he endured a trek to the South Pole. Emma Mayoh reports
There were many thoughts going through Jason Bolton’s head as he spent day after day trekking in the ice cold wilderness to the South Pole.
Those of his girlfriend Emma and their planned travels around South Africa, Bolivia and Senegal when he completed the 500-mile journey, thoughts of his future and of his mum Hazel, dad Alan and brother, Ryan. But there was also another thing that helped keep him going. His mum’s Sunday roast.
Jason said: ‘When you are spending 12 – 16 hours every day looking at the same white horizon and you have nothing but your own thoughts, all you want is your family and friends.
‘I wanted to be at home having a meal with my mum, dad, brother and girlfriend back in Preston. It was really tough being away from them but those thoughts also got me through it.’
It was in 2009 that Preston-born Jason, childhood friend Andrew Carnie, also from Preston, and Benjamin Boyne decided to sign up for the South Pole Race. It is a challenge that has only ever been done twice. The first was featured on a BBC documentary which followed James Cracknell and Ben Fogle.
The former Broughton High School Pupil, who is now a doctor for the Royal Medical Corps, had already done other expeditions including to Everest Base Camp and he also climbed the highest mountain in southern India.
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But the 34-year-old and his two friends, who had also competed in marathons and other challenges, wanted something to really push them. The South Pole trek was it.
The trio spent two years training which included pulling tyres along wet sandy beaches, huge bike rides and kayaking. They also ran the North Pole marathon and undertook extreme cold weather survival training in Norway.
But nothing could have prepared them for the reality. This was a 500 mile trek through some of the most hostile conditions Antarctica could throw at them. They were dealing with temperatures of up to -50, winds of up to 90mph and they were carrying heavy unwielding packs at altitudes of more than 10,000 feet.
To add to their load, just eight days into the 25 day race Andrew collapsed from exhaustion and broke his arm. He was taken to safety by the organisers and given medical attention. Four days later he was back in the team, determined to finish the trek and retain the �180,000 they have raised for homeless charity Centrepoint. It left Jason and Ben with an agonising decision.
Jason explained: ‘It was very difficult. As a friend I wanted Andrew to go through and finish the race and support him in any way I could. But my professional side as a doctor was telling me it was crazy. He was off his skull on painkillers.
‘Not only was he risking a fracture that might never heal but it was also putting Ben and myself at risk. I kept thinking “people die out here”. But Andrew didn’t want to let the charity down. That would have been awful for him. The race didn’t matter anymore. All we wanted to do was complete it and get there safely.’
With grit and dedication, Jason’s medical knowledge and help from a South African team, the trio crossed the line at the South Pole. They had spent days with the finish in sight and had powered on, determined to reach the end.
Jason said: ‘I don’t think any of us fully appreciated the seriousness of the race when we signed up. We were just so excited to be part of it. We’d stared off doing big distances bit it quickly became apparent there was no way we could keep it up.
‘But we did also have those very special moments when you’re near the end of the day, your sleeping bag is in sight, the weather is beautiful, the scenery is spectacular and you think “wow”. When we finished it, we were just blown away.’
Jason and his team mates are now ranked as one of less than 100 people in the world who have trekked to the South Pole.
He has now returned to his job, safe in the knowledge that he completed the massive physical and mental challenge.
He said: ‘I don’t agree it’s life changing. For me, it was life affirming. It makes you realise what really is important in life. When everything else is stripped away that’s all you can think of.
‘I am very lucky to have done it. It was ridiculously challenging but we did it.’