Ed on Radio Verulam

Eric Philips

Eric Philips is the legendary polar guide behind Icetrek. I got to meet him in St Pancras station between a visit to Norway and having to leave for his flight from Heathrow back to Australia. A great chance to catch up and ask the man some questions: The passion for polar guiding, how did it all start? My parents are Dutch and the proximity to Scandinavia you’d think they have an affinity for the cold but they absolutely hate the cold! Where I got it from I’m not entirely certain, but as a child I loved the look of polar photographs and the National Geographic and I always wanted to go to Antarctica so part of that journey was being in the outdoors, camping, hiking, bush walking and eventually skiing. It got to the point where I thought I could really study this as a vocation and studied outdoor education and taught for many years in Australia. And at the end of that I needed to give up teaching and get outdoors and become a polar explorer! When did you first reach the North Pole and South Pole, which came first? South pole was first 1998/99 we flew from Christchurch New Zealand to McMurdo station in Antarctica and from there skied across the Ross ice shelf for 50 days. Then we pioneered a new route up the Shackleton glacier, a great name Shackleton something that’s really important to me that it had a sense of history. We then reached the plateau and another 20 days or so to reach the South Pole. Strangely enough I think I still hold the record for the slowest ever expedition to the South Pole!! Even Scott was faster than us reaching the pole back in those days! The North Pole I reached in 2002 and then I started guiding in 2004 and have guided expeditions to the South and North poles annually since and have now been to the North and South Pole about 20 times or so. It’s in my blood, it’s in my psyche I love it I am passion about it […]


Taking the decision to walk to the North Pole feels like a heroic single step or moment of madness (leaving my home, my family, my comforts) the rest of it is down to training, a less than familiar discipline, gathering support and the skill of others. Heroic can be small, so not in the sense of Spiderman or Captain Scott (huge), but in the small step of deciding. Then it is a whole load more steps (about 300,000 roughly) I just have to put one foot in front of another for three weeks! Like many folk I examine our heroes and role models. The heroes are rarely those thrust upon us through multichannel media but those who press on in the face of a bad deal in life or those who share their energy and time, often on threadbare resources, to help others. These heroes take time for others, shoulder responsibility and strengthen our social fabric. The charities I am raising money for epitomise these heroes. The people who battle cancer and nuture calm within families dealing with the worst, to those delivering respite care and nursing that makes life possible, to those helping others experience, learn and become part of a diverse community. These are the heroes. I’ve told everyone now, there is only forward, I am trekking to the North Pole in April 2016 and I am delighted to be raising money for Cancer Research UK, Rennie Grove Hospice Care, Earthworks St Albans and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.