Frenchman aims for both poles in a year in world first

A French adventurer hopes to reach both the North and South Poles alone and unaided within one year in what would be a world first, he said Monday after completing the first half of his trek.

Faysal Hanneche, 40, reached the North Pole on April 15 on his own, pulling two sleds loaded with 120 kilos (265 pounds) of equipment across hundreds of kilometres in temperatures dropping to -42 degrees Celsius (-44 Fahrenheit).

"It's a French first. I did it alone, without anything to pull me (such as a sail), I pulled everything myself, all alone," he told AFP on his return to Oslo.

Hanneche, who divides his time between Norway and France, said he was surprised by the constant movement of the Arctic's pack ice, which could in one night leave him eight kilometres (five miles) further from his goal, erasing half the distance he had progressed the previous day.

"It's actually a game of chess," he explained.

"The pack ice moves and you adapt to the movement. After two weeks, you start to move with it. You don't look at the sun anymore (which never sets at this time of year), it's the pack ice you have to watch," he said.

His journey took him on a 400-kilometre roundtrip from the floating Russian base Barneo to the North Pole, and was peppered with frightening moments.

An ice barrier several kilometres long forced him to leave behind most of his equipment to cover the final 17 kilometres to the pole, not knowing if he would be able to recover his tent and sleds on the way back for his trek home.

"I only had my skis, a satellite phone, food for 24 hours and my flags," he said. "When I told experts of polar expeditions what I'd done, they said it was a suicide mission."

Once at the pole, he planted the French flag and the flag representing his hometown of Valence in southern France.

During his three-week journey, Hanneche also had to cope with ice floes breaking up, which risked leaving him and his sleds on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean and forced him to make several long detours.

Hanneche is now setting his sights on the South Pole.

He hopes to leave Cape Town on November 6, and make the 3,500 kilometre trek across the frozen continent in 80 days.

"The difficulties will be different ... but now I know that I'm capable of making it in extreme conditions," he said.

Having spent most of his savings on his Arctic adventure, Hanneche also needs to raise another 60,000 euros ($78,000) to finance his Antarctica journey.