Newall Hunter - Adventurer Grand Slam

The Adventurers Grand Slam

Photo: Henry Hunt

To complete The Adventurers Grand Slam, Newall Hunter had to reach both the north and south poles and climb the seven summits – the highest mountains on the seven continents. Here are his thoughts on the different stops of the route

The Adventurers Grand Slam, climbing seven of the world’s highest mountains and trekking to both Poles, is an exceptionally rare feat – just 15 people have done it.

The latest to join this exclusive club is a 53-year-old IT engineer and amateur adventurer from Scotland, Newall Hunter. This is what went through his head while completing this crazy grand slam. 

THE ROUTE:

  1. Antarctica, The South Pole
  2. Europe, Mt Elbrus
  3. North America, Mt Denali
  4. Oceania, Carstensz Pyramid
  5. Arctic, The North Pole
  6. Asia, Mt Everest
  7. Antarctica, Mt Vinson
  8. Africa, Kilimanjaro
  9. South America, Aconcagua
The Adventurer Grand Slam - The Route
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1 ANTARCTICA, THE SOUTH POLE
 
2014/2015
Cost: £60,000

“I decided to do the South Pole solo. I thought ‘Let’s do it all the way from the sea to the South Pole,’ so I chose a route that only two people had done before – the Messner route. Weight is everything. You’ve got to get the minimum amount. I was skiing and pulling for 12 hours a day. That varied from 18km to 28km, depending on the terrain and the conditions. I was burning 10,000 calories a day, but only eating 6,500. I lost 18.5kg in 41 days.”

“Going solo required huge amounts of preparation. It was hard”

2 EUROPE, MT ELBRUS
 
2016
Cost: £5,000

“From the summit of Elbrus, you’ve got Georgia to the south, Ukraine to the west and Chechnya to the east. It’s a great place to be! Everybody climbs it from the south. It’s a very easy mountain to climb from the south. I decided not to do that. I went in from the north. It’s a 90km drive from the nearest town on dirt-track roads with a big four-wheel drive. In winter, the last 20km of that involves getting out and skiing to get to the foot of the mountain. We skied all the way to the summit. It was the first time it had ever been done.”

“We were first people to ski from base to summit and down again on the north side of Elbrus in winter There’s no way I’d go up it on foot. On skis it was fine”
Europe, Mt Elbrus

Europe, Mt Elbrus

© Dani Castillo Lofthouse

3 NORTH AMERICA, MT DENALI

Alaska, USA, 2010/201
Cost: £10,000

“When I really got into the idea of doing the seven summits I thought I’d test my ability by starting the next phase the hard way – with Denali, reputed to be the coldest mountain in the world. The cold was the scariest thing. Trying to do things at -30˚C, -36˚C, having to put tents up, take tents down, dress yourself, put skis on, take skis off… You need a strategy and a process. The key is not to waste energy. You are at the mercy of the elements, but your strategy should cope with that.”

“The chances of frostbite if you don’t know what you’re doing are high”
North America, Mt Denali

North America, Mt Denali

4 OCEANIA, CARSTENSZ PYRAMID

Indonesia, 2015
Cost: £20,000

“Some people choose to climb a mountain in Australia as an alternative, but it’s only 2,228m high – this one is 4,884m high, it’s a proper mountain. The world’s largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine are there. The Indonesian government don’t want you near the mine, so you fly over the it with a helicopter and land on the foothills and then climb from there.”

“It’s hard to climb, hard to get to, as it’s politically unstable, and bloody expensive”

5 ARCTIC, THE NORTH POLE

2013
Cost: £30,000

“Now I’m thinking, ‘You’ve done the big one, you’re going to have to finish this [the Seven Summits]’. But then I thought, ‘I fancy the North Pole’: a different challenge. You don’t need to be able to ski; you’re just walking. You’ve got a pulk, a sledge, behind you with your tent, food and fuel in it. You walk along on skis dragging your pulk. Then you stop at the end of the day, put your tent up. I call it extreme camping with good administration!”

“It’s tough. It’s cold, it’s damp and it’s horrible. It gets into your bones. You can’t get anything dry”
ASIA, MT EVEREST

Asia, Mt Everest

© newall hunter

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6 ASIA, MT EVEREST

Nepal, 2011
Cost: £60,000

“The only way I can describe reaching the summit is that it felt like that Rutger Hauer speech at the end of Blade Runner. I don’t mean the quote about ‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe’, because loads of people have seen these things, but it’s the emotion he had when he said it. There was a peace in the achievement in that I hadn’t let myself think I would make it until I stepped on the summit. There’s a video of me there. The team are saying, ‘Congratulations. What do you think?’ and my comment is: ‘Yeah, let’s get back down safe.’ More people die on the road down than up, because they get careless.”

“A real serenity came over me at the summit, but then you remember that you’re only halfway”

7 ANTARCTICA, MT VINSON

Antarctica, 2015
Cost: £15,000

“Normally, Vinson would cost you £45,000, but it cost me £15,000 because I was already there and the logistics company cut me a nice deal. Vinson is similar to Denali. The approach isn’t as hard, but the headwall is the same. That ice climb for five, six hours. Up and down, camp at the top. Then a summit day, so it’s very like Denali.”

“Doing the South Pole and Vinson was the one expedition thatreally cut into my working life. It ate up a lot of my savings, but it was what I had been saving for”
Staying warm in the Antarctica

Staying warm in the Antarctica, at Mt Vinson

8 AFRICA, KILIMANJARO 

Tanzania, 2004
Cost: £5,000

“There’s nothing particularly  difficult about Kilimanjaro, it’s just a long, gentle climb. But still, lots of people have trouble – headaches, loss of appetite, altitude sickness – and it’s because they go too fast. It’s a 20,000-foot mountain. It’s not to be underestimated. But that’s what happens.”

“Except for the summit, you never notice you’re climbing”

9 SOUTH AMERICA, ACONCAGUAs
 
Argentina, 2003
Cost: £6,000

“Technically it’s not at all difficult, but it’s steep. The walk to the base of the mountain, about three or four days, is incredibly hot, but then once you get away from base camp, it’s freezing. The last 300m is two steps forward, one back, for three hours.”

“The last 300m to the summit is a scree slope – absolute hell”
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03 2017 The Red Bulletin

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