HE’S Edinburgh’s answer to Ranulph Fiennes – and he’s already planning his next expedition while recovering from a mammoth 400-mile frozen trek.
Former Castaway Mike Laird has just returned from the expedition to the Magnetic North Pole, enduring temperatures of -50C while walking across some of the most desolate terrain on the planet.
The brutal hike meant pulling a 50kg sledge containing a tent, food, cooking equipment, medical supplies, communication and position devices and even shotguns in case the polar bears turned grisly.
It took the risk consultant, from Corstorphine, two years of training to prepare him for the adventure, where he regularly woke to find polar bears had been wandering around his tent.
And after finishing the challenge – complete with 19 blisters, severe weight loss and frostnip – he’s now looking at his next trip.
“It was an experience that I hated at the time but now that I’ve come back I’m really glad that I did it. I’m already looking at doing the South Pole which is even more destructive, I’m always after a new challenge,” he said.
Mike was the only Scot to take part in the gruelling Polar Race event. The experience reduced grown men to tears and one member of the party even needed to be airlifted out after the frostbite became too severe.
The 44-year-old spent 27 days on the ice where negotiating simple tasks like eating, sleeping and going to the toilet was a daily battle against the elements. Food and water would freeze, adding to the challenge of consuming the 7000 calories a day needed for survival.
He said: “Our sleeping bags were always soaked through, then when we put them back on our sledges they’d freeze. It was like getting into a bath with ice in it, it was brutal.”
The adventurer was also fully trained in how to deal with polar bears and spent months learning how to use a firearm.
“We had pump action shotguns but that was the last thing we wanted to do.
“You have all these things you have to go through first, like using a bear banger, then rubber bullets, before you can use real ones. It would be a lot to do if you had one charging towards you – so I’m thankful we didn’t.”