Leeds adventurer targets the South Pole

An exhausted Ben Thackwray is back in Leeds after becoming one of the fastest Britons to cross Greenland.

The 29-year-old and friend Ian Couch, 40, encountered deadly polar bears, biting cold temperatures and ice boulders while completing their 15-day journey from the east coast to the west.

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And despite fearing for their lives as they spent an entire night being watched by two hungry polar bears, their 360-mile coast-to-coast mission is complete.

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It was a sterling effort from the pair who had to abandon the trek last year after Ben developed frostbite on his thumb.

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Ben, of Yeadon, said: "We are pretty sure we're that we are the fastest Brits to cross Greenland. It was absolutely exhausting and my whole body is broken but we have done it. I'm so pleased with what we've achieved."

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And apart from a few frost injuries to his fingers, face and toes, Ben managed to escape the dreaded frostbite this time.

Temperatures dropped to -30C through the night, breaking the tent poles and zips while warmth during the day meant they had to dodge melting ice blocks.

"It was unseasonably hot then on the west coast there was a 10-mile glacier that we needed to get down. We cross-country skied the whole way then in the last 10 miles of glacier we were roped together. The glacier was broken up and there were massive crevasses the size of five-storey buildings and lots of running water. It took us 18 hours to do just under nine miles because we had to probe steps in front of us."

A whiteout also meant they failed to spot two polar bears who had been following them.

"As the whiteout cleared we saw them. They ended up stalking us for two days. We didn't sleep that night. We set up camp and did one hour sleep while the other one watched with a rifle then swapped. It was terrifying. I thought we were dead."

Ben and Ian, who lives in Norwich and has family in Harrogate, spent months training for the bid.

In 2008 Ben was part of a record-breaking team of five who rowed from Antigua to the Canaries. The Greenland trip was a "warm-up" to a South Pole expedition in 2011, something Ben has always dreamed of.

Ben added: "It's the toughest thing I have ever done, more than the Atlantic or running 100 miles. It was brutal. I feel so surreal now we are home."

* For more information visit: www.benthackwray.com