A Journey to Peaks and Poles -- In Record Time

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Former Wales Rugby player Richard Parks became the first person ever to complete the so-called “Explorers Grand Slam” within a single calendar year.

It’s getting harder to think up “firsts” that have yet to be accomplished. But adventurer Richard Parks has found a new feat to topple.

Last week, Parks became the first person to climb the highest mountain on each continent and journey to the South Pole, the Geographic North Pole and the top of Everest – all in less than seven months. From start to finish, his record-setting globetrotting trek took six months, 11 days and seven hours. He was the first to reach all 10 places in the same calendar year.

The ex-rugby player from Wales was looking for something to do after a shoulder injury ended his sports career. Depressed and fearful of the future following his second shoulder surgery, he read a book by British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who once ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, among other accomplishments. Parks’ imagination began churning, according to information posted on his website:

“I’ve learnt that our lives will always be made up of many chapters. We can never go back and we cannot foresee our future. However, we can take charge of how we choose to live and what we think, right now in the present.”

The clock started ticking at the South Pole on January 1. He finished his circuitous journey on the summit of Russia’s Mt. Elbrus on July 12. Along the way he raised money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Highlights – or low lights – included frostbite in his right big toe on Mount Everest, average temperatures of close to -40 F at the North Pole, and a fall into a 20-foot crevasse on Denali.

Episodes of a documentary about Parks’ trek will begin airing on Tuesday on BBC One Wales.