12-year-old Winchcombe boy youngest ever to do Arctic expedition
SCHOOLBOY Max Keene is preparing to be the youngest person ever to do an Arctic expedition.
The 12-year-old from Winchcombe will trek 130km in temperatures as low as -50 degrees centigrade in the Canadian Arctic to raise funds for Help4Heroes, which supports injured troops.
Max will put himself at risk of hypothermia, frostbite and even polar bear attacks during the two-week expedition in March.
The year eight pupil at St Edward's School in Cheltenham will be the youngest person ever to do the crossing from Qikiqtarjuaq to Pangnirtung in Baffin Island.
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He will be joined on the adventure by his dad Chris, 44, and a trained Arctic explorer who is a family friend.
Max said: "I'm really excited and I didn't have to be persuaded to do it at all – I was really keen.
"But I am a bit nervous because it's really dangerous and there are a lot of risks.
"There could be polar bears, so we will have two guns with us. During the day, one will fire warning shots and the other will be loaded, but they will both be loaded at night.
"At first my mum did not want us to go, but now she sees that it's a really good thing and will help lots of people."
He added: "I have always been interested in the Arctic and unexplored areas, but I never thought I'd get the chance to go on an expedition."
Max hopes to raise £50,000 for Help4Heroes, and says he was inspired by this summer's Paralympics and the TV show 'Harry's Arctic Heroes', where Prince Harry and a group of injured soldiers trekked to the North Pole.
He said: "I think that the injured servicemen and women of our armed forces are an inspiration, because they risk their lives to keep our country and other nations around the world safe and free.
"When they get a limb blown off in battle they deserve the best support they can get."
Max will have to drag a heavy sledge containing his equipment during the expedition, and to prepare he is pulling lorry tyres with a harness for a mile at a time.
His training also includes hill walks and studying the hazards of the Arctic environment, which includes packs of wolves.
Food on the trip will consist of freeze-dried rations, 'nose bags' containing nuts, chocolate, chewy sweets and cereal bars, and cheese and butter to boost calorie intake.
Their source of water will be melted snow and ice.
Max says his school friends have been very supportive of the expedition.
He said: "They are really interested in the trek. Some of them have joked, asking me if I can write a will and put them in it before I go, but I'm not scared."
St Edward's headteacher Paul Harvey said: "We are very proud of Max and his decision to do this expedition, both in terms of the personal challenge it will be for him but also because he is raising funds for such a worthy cause.
"I think our school motto, Dare to do your Best, is very fitting for Max."
To add to the £2,075 Max has raised so far, go to maxgoestothearctic.co.uk/How-You-Can-Help.html