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First German to trek to South Pole returns

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Photo: DPA
15:58 CET+01:00
The first German ever to make a solo trek to the South Pole, without help from dogs, motors, or food deliveries, returned to his home town of Munich on Wednesday - some 15 kilos lighter.

Other BMW executives go on skiing holidays in the Alps around this time of year. Roland Krüger, who is about to take over as German regional director of Bavarian auto-giant, went on a 890-kilometre, 49-day skiing trip through temperatures of -25C to become one of the few people who have trekked to the South Pole unsupported and unassisted.

"The ground conditions were particularly difficult this year," said the 47-year-old, who had been to the South Pole as part of a team in 2005. He had to contend with uneven ice, strong winds, and constant "whiteouts" - when snow reduces visibility to such an extent that the horizon disappears altogether, leaving the individual completely disorientated. "That was extremely difficult," he said. "I lost a lot of time."

There were other troubles on the way: at one point the uneven ground broke the sled he used to drag his 130 kilos of supplies with him. He managed to repair it once the weather had cleared up. "If you're well-prepared, you can deal with anything," he said. To keep his morale up, he listened to music on an iPod on the way.

But the adverse conditions meant he had to give up his original plan of crossing the entire continent of Antarctica, and had himself flown out once he'd reached the pole.

Krüger spent four years planning the trip and training for its physical exertions. "I trained my stamina and endurance a lot, and my leg muscles - and, this might sound weird, I put on a lot of weight," he said. This turned out to be a good idea, because his trek left him 15 kilos lighter. "That's completely normal in the cold and under the physical strain."

Krüger stayed in touch with a specially-hired company every day to check his position via GPS, and spoke to a friend in Norway who would record his progress in a blog.

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By the end, Krüger found the psychological difficulties as tough as anything. "Suddenly I just started missing my family," the father of two said. "At that point making phone calls isn't enough anymore."

The Local/DPA/bk

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