PEN Hadow, who spent eight days stranded at the North Pole, flew back to Britain yesterday and denied his endeavour had been reckless and risked his rescuers’ lives.
The 41-year-old completed the first solo trek from Canada to the geographic North Pole, covering 478 miles in 64 days.
But after completing the record-breaking journey he was then left alone for eight days at the Pole, stuck on floating unstable ice and down to his last meagre rations as harsh weather prevented rescue team, Kenn Borek Air, from reaching him. The rescuers accused him of being irresponsible. Mr Hadow said he was "absolutely delighted" to be home, as he was greeted by his wife Mary, four-year-old son Wilf, his daughter Freya, one, and a host of relatives and friends, although he did admit to "feeling rather claustrophobic after being in the Arctic".
Steve Penikett of Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air, had said it was "a bit stupid" to go to the Pole at this time of year and that "people’s lives were put at risk".
But at a press conference Mr Hadow denied he had been foolish. "No, not remotely. I felt completely comfortable in the situation. They (the pilots) knew the programme. They are the most important part of the operation - they pick you up and take you out there.
"If they had called me up and said: ‘Pen, for whatever the reason, we need you off the ice’, I would stop; I couldn’t go on. They’re the guys that take me off but that request never came.
"If the company was really concerned for its pilots it could have said something - but it said nothing."
Lewis McNaught, a friend who had accompanied Hadow on an Arctic trip in 1999, also said the criticism was unfair.
Holding a placard reading "Welcome Home Polar Pen", Mr McNaught said: "This is completely unwarranted fuss. Other people have gone a bit later, a lot later in fact, in June with no problems."
Mr Hadow described how he broke down and cried at the foot of his sledge when he finally made it to the pole, dedicating the trip to the memory of his father Nigel who had died ten years ago in his 60s.
He said it was disappointing not to be able to share the experience of reaching the Pole with someone else at the time, but thrilling nonetheless.
The explorer also told how he was sad to have missed the first steps taken by his daughter Freya.
"I need to get to know my daughter because she is only one year old and I have been busy preparing for this expedition so I haven’t got the same sort of relationship with her, which is a sadness. However, I am going to make it my business to catch up."