David Hempleman-Adams was born in October 1956 in Swindon and later moved with his mother to Bath. At the age of 13, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme gave him a first taste of the lifestyle that he would soon adopt. By the age of 16 he had won the gold award and had already conquered a succession of Welsh mountains. On leaving school he took business studies at college in Manchesterbut spent his spare time learning whatever he could about mountaineering – either through actually climbing or studying the sport.
In 1998, he became the first man in history to reach the Geographic and Magnetic North and South Poles as well as climb the highest peaks in all seven continents.
This incredible ‘grand slam’, which many believed was almost impossible, was completed when, along with Norwegian companion Rune Gjeldnes, David arrived at the North Pole on foot.
While undertaking his postgraduate studies at Bristol Polytechnic, David was off again, climbing to the summit of Mount McKinley,Alaska, the highest point inNorth America. A year later he had climbed Kilimanjaro,Africa’s highest mountain, but the challenge of scaling the heights of all seven continents was not, at that time, on the agenda. In fact, David found that climbing was no longer enough, and turned to polar trekking as a new challenge.
His Geographic North Pole trip of 1983 was masterminded from Robnor, his father’s epoxy resins company. David had decided to try to be the first man to do it the unconventional way – by walking alone and unsupported.
A fall more than 200 miles from his target was to leave David with two cracked ribs and the Geographic North Pole, for now, remained unconquered, but he returned almost exactly a year later to attempt to reach the Magnetic North Pole instead. This time an attack by a polar bear and a fall through the ice into freezing waters failed to prevent him reaching his goal.
David then took an eight-year break from major expeditions and joined the board of directors of his fathers company, married his wife Claire and for the first time became a father, to Alicia. He returned to the world of intrepid explorers by leading the first ever team to another landmark, the Geomagnetic North Pole, in 1992.
On 9 October 1993, David reached the top of Mount Everestand stood there, on the summit of the world, in disbelief. He also climbed Mount Elbrus inRussia,Europe’s highest mountain, the fourth time he had stood on top of a continent, but making it to the other three had still not entered his mind. ,I suppose once you have made it to the very top of the world, there does not seem much else to do in mountaineering, he said.
The idea of making it to the ‘magnificent seven’ was suggested during a chance meeting with Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to climb Everest. It was just the challenge that David needed and in 1994 he made it to the top ofMountVinsoninAntarctica. Two months later he had also reached the summit of Mount Aconcagua, the Argentinian mountain that is South America’s tallest.
David undertook the ascent of the seventh peak in April, 1995. Carstensz Pyramid in Irian Java isAustralasia’s highest point and a tough rock climb. Having scaled it, David became the third Briton to complete all seven peaks.
It was 1996 and before January was over he had completed an epic 680-mile solo walk to the Geographic South Pole. Within a month he had also reached the Magnetic South Pole, this time by boat, completing the trip in the only time of the year that it isn’t frozen over.
The hat-trick was completed in May when he led the Ultimate Challenge team to the Magnetic North Pole. The only remaining goal in the grand slam still to be reached was the Geographic North Pole and preparations began for the 496-mile walk.
Setting off in March 1997, David and companion Rune Gjeldnes were held up when they saved the life of fellow explorer Alan Bywater who had fallen through the ice. But it was a damaged sled that finally put paid to the attempt, the pair refusing to allow another sled to be airlifted out as the trip was meant to be unsupported. The job would have to wait for 1998 before it would be completed.
On 11 December 1998 David Hempleman-Adams carved is name in history yet again when he became the first person to balloon over the Andes.
To date he has done 31 major expeditions around the world and received the Gold Star Award in 1984, the RADAR Person of the Year in 1992, in 1994 he was awarded the M.B.E. in the Queens Honours List for Services to Polar Exploration. In 1996 he was voted ‘Pertex Outdoor Person of the Year and in June 1998 in the Queens Honours List he was awarded an O.B.E.