Student’s latest adventure takes him to South Pole

Kasim Rafiq with his skis

Kasim Rafiq with his skis

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HE’S already climbed Africa’s highest mountain, completed a three-week polar expedition to Svalbard and enjoyed various forays into the Scottish mountains.

Now, Edinburgh University student Kasim Rafiq is busy preparing for his toughest adventure yet after setting himself a challenge of becoming the youngest ever British person to reach the South Pole with no resupplies.

The 21-year-old hopes to beat the current record held by British ultra-marathon runner Adam Wilton, who made it to the South Pole with no resupplies at the age of 30 in 2008.

Kasim, who will be 22 when he embarks on the adventure next year, also aims to raise money for Comic Relief.

He plans to set off from Hercules Inlet, on the Antarctic coast, in November 2012 and expects the 730-mile journey to take 60 days.

Kasim said: “This is definitely the toughest challenge that I have set myself. It will be a lot harder than everything else I have done.

“The South Pole has been a big dream for two years now.

“A couple of years ago I got a book for Christmas about another British explorer who went to the South Pole. That inspired me and after reading that, I wanted to go as well.

“It would be amazing if I made it and hopefully with a bit of luck and lots of training, the South Pole will just be the beginning.”

Kasim – a fourth-year zoology student – will pull a sledge carrying food and equipment, weighing a total of 120 kilos, across the Antarctic snow.

“The major weight I’m carrying will be the food for the whole expedition – about 60 days’ worth,” he said.

“Everything else I will try to keep to a minimum, so just essentials like a couple of pairs of clothes, skis, the tent and radio equipment.

“The most common way to reach the South Pole is with resupplies. If you get resupplied, you take half your equipment to start with and at the half-way point, an aeroplane drops off the remainder of your equipment.”

In June last year, Kasim scaled the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, raising £3500 for Action Medical Research.

He then spent three weeks this summer on an Arctic expedition in Norway – his first polar expedition.

Kasim, who will be accompanied by an experienced explorer, reckons the adventure will cost around £40,000. He said: “The biggest challenge is going to be raising the funds to get myself there. If I can do that, then the South Pole will be hard, but I think I will be able to do it.”

After returning in January 2013, Kasim, who is seeking corporate sponsors, hopes to go climbing in Patagonia for seven weeks.

Kasim, who will be away for Christmas and New Year next year, said: “I told my mum and I think she was confused about why I would want to do something like that.

“I have explained everything and she understands it all now and is supportive.”

Kasim said: “I think my biggest concern is going to be the mental challenge, because there’s going to be some days when the weather will be terrible.

“Keeping motivated will be the toughest thing.”