Pole chancing!

Christopher becomes an arctic explorer

SIXTEEN-year-old Christopher Struthers swaps school books for snow boots next month and heads for the North Pole.

The Braes High School pupil is tackling the trip to the top of the world with Bo'ness explorer Craig Mathieson who, having conquered the South Pole in 2004, is no stranger to the world's frozen wastes.

It is a pilot for a scheme, called the Polar Academy, which Craig (37) is setting up to encourage youngsters from all backgrounds to achieve their ambitions.

Christopher's mum, Gillian, said: "Craig is trying to help young people achieve the impossible. The plan is to take youngsters aged 12 - 16, kids who might not have had a chance to do something like this, and train them in outdoor pursuits."

Three other adults – including an ex-Royal Marine and a Swiss nurse – will accompany Craig and Christopher on the trek.

Christopher will navigate the final stages of the expedition and lead the rest of the party to the North Pole.

Training for the trip has been 'easy' according to Christopher, of Shieldhill, who has climbed 11 Munros.

He said: "I've been doing lots of walking with my Grandpa, as well as dragging tyres along the beach at Leven to simulate dragging a sledge on the snow. I've been out at Rannoch Moor in minus two, though that's not really anything like what we are going to face."

Christopher is schedule to spend a week in Greenland acclimatising and learning to sleep out in the cold. He will also visit schools, sharing his experiences of school life in Scotland.

He will return home for a week before jetting off to start the expedition on April 15, 40 miles from the pole. However, the way the ice moves near the pole means that the team could walk 10 miles in a day, but only travel five.

During the nine-day trek, Christopher will have appetising meals like freeze-dried cod and potatoes to look forward to.

It will be so cold that his eyelids might freeze shut when he is sleeping. And he will need to avoid sweating, in case the perspiration freezes on his body.

He will keep in touch with home via a satellite phone and is also hoping to have an internet link with his school so his classmates will be able to chart his progress.

The trip is being part-funded by the Scottish Executive, and among his first duties when Christopher reaches the pole, will be to phone First Minister Jack McConnell. On his return, he might also have to address the Scottish Parliament about his adventures.

Gillian and dad William, who have no qualms about letting Christopher, who wants to study geography when he leaves school, take part in the expedition.

Gillian said: "We're really excited for him – I have no concerns about him going with Craig."

William said: "Craig has planned the trek meticulously. Everyone who is going with him is well trained."

Younger sister Jennifer (12) is also excited – about getting rid of her brother for a few weeks!