Joe Levin, managing director of the Capital Group of hotels and restaurants, is setting off on a charity trek to the North Pole next week to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. He talks to Emily Manson
Caterer Why the North Pole?
JL I’m a closet geographer and feel passionately that the environment will change in our lifetime, so now is a great time to do this. If I can raise money for a good cause as well, that’s even better. My oldest friend was diagnosed with MS three years ago and I’ve seen him suffer terribly. I hope to raise around £50,000. We’re arranging lots of fundraisers, including delivering my kid’s classmates’ letters to Father Christmas.
Caterer What does your journey entail?
JL It’s a bit tortuous to get there, through Norway, on a Russian transport plane and then the five of us are dropped off at a Russian scientific station camp on the 88th parallel. From there, we’ll walk for around 12 days over two degrees of the earth unsupported, with only sleds to help us carry our fuel and food. It’s a relatively short distance but filled with great ridges of ice and “leads”, which are rivers and lakes that move and you simply have to walk around them, even if it’s hundreds of miles. Also the polar currents mean the ice is moving away from the pole to the south, so you have a mental battle that you’re gaining less ground than you’re actually walking.
Caterer What will you eat?
JL All the food has to be dried because of the extreme environment, so you can just mix them with boiled-up snow. It’s a pretty limited selection as they’re all meals in one – chilli con carne, chicken curry, stroganoff – it’s all very retro. We need 6,000-7,000 calories a day because of all the walking and skiing, and even then we’ll lose quite a lot of weight.
Caterer How have you trained?
JL I’ve been to the gym but have also been dragging a tyre round Hampstead Heath. You just have to get real outside experience and the best way is to use the harness that I’ll wear when I do the trek. I’m planning the mother of all bonfires to get rid of it when I get back.
Caterer What are you most nervous about?
JL Letting my supporters and sponsors down after everyone’s put so much trust in me. Getting injured and the fear of the unknown also give you anxiety. Polar bears are a bit of an issue, too – the ever diminishing ice means their territory is getting smaller and we’re on it. We are armed, though, and apparently a shot above the bear is normally enough to scare them off.
Caterer What’s the next challenge?
JL The next project is the polar challenge – a 400-mile race on foot from northern Canada to the magnetic pole – it happens every two years and I really want to do it with people from the industry, but at the moment it’s not being met with cheers at home, so I’ll have to work on it.
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by Emily Manson
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