In three weeks’ time Mark Wood will be dropped by helicopter on the frozen seas off the coast of Russia and, with two colleagues, will set off on what Sir Ranulph Feinnes describes as “The toughest journey on the planet”. He will be travelling on skis to the geographic North Pole. A journey that will take around sixty days, where temperatures will drop to as low as minus sixty degrees and where he will frequently be travelling in extreme blizzard conditions. Global warming and the melting ice caps means that this could be the last time that this journey can ever be attempted and it is clearly going to be a massive challenge.

Last week Mark found the time to visit our school and give three presentations, one to our Pre-Prep children, one to the Main Prep and one to parents and friends in the evening (when a few children came back to hear him again!)

To describe him as inspirational would be something of an understatement. This forthcoming expedition is just the latest in a series of adventures that Mark has completed, including solo trips to both the North and South Poles, supporting the “Top Gear” team on a journey to the magnetic North Pole, climbing Mount Everest and connecting with students around the world while doing so and cycling solo across America and New Zealand.

Mark is a truly extraordinary man and he held his audiences spellbound with his stories. The passion he has for what he does, the determination to succeed and his definition of a successful expedition – “coming back safely, not necessarily reaching the end” all help to define the man and at the end of his presentations the questions came thick and fast. He explained how he prepared for such an arduous journey, the need to bulk up beforehand and the amount of calories that he will burn off each day, encounters with inquisitive polar bears, the need to be able to adapt when things go wrong and the importance of keeping your spirits up when times are tough.

I very much doubt that anyone who heard Mark Wood speak will ever forget the experience. I am also sure that many of us will remember his words when we face challenges of our own and it is just possible that the next great explorer was sitting in the audience last Tuesday and Mark’s presentation will have ignited a spark that really could lead to great things in the future.

Jerry Gear