The POP Challenge

Help us create an iconic new POLE to inspire a better world

“This new, iconic POLE will be a reminder that individually and collectively we are all capable of more than we believe possible. Together we can create a better world.”

Karen Darke MBE

We invite you to join us in creating inspiration for the world. REGSITER for the POP Challenge now and secure your place in history, on our flag, and even in the special TOP TRUMPS card pack.

Choose something you would like to do and embark on a new challenge to discover something new and inspire yourself and those around you. Read more here and explore some ideas! If you sign up you can join us on the POP flag and if your idea is particularly novel or inspiring you may even have your very own TOP TRUMPS card created as part of our special edition Quest 79 Top Trumps card pack!

What is POP? POP stands for the ‘POLE OF POSSIBILITY’. This is a unique Antarctic challenge in which a small diverse team will journey to 79 degrees latitude and longitude, in the heart of the wild icy Antarctic continent, so share an important message: of HOPE & POSSIBILITY through these challenging global times.

Why 79? 79 is the atomic number of gold, and the project an important reminder that when we work with our INNER GOLD*, then ordinary people can do extraordinary things. When we have courage to do something new and step out of our comfort zones, we expand possibilities in a ripple effect. We inspire those around us and spread positive waves from our personal level, to our local communities and then around the world. The project is in partnership with The Polar Academy, and embodying the value of inspiration through exploration. 79 was inspired by Karen Darke who won the 79th medal, gold, for Britain in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Project values? The POP values accidentally spell ICE which seems perfect for an Antarctic challenge:

I : INNER GOLD – the resilience, strengths, and golden, confidence-giving qualities we all have inside us.

C : CONNECTION – when we do something surprising we inspire those around us; we help each other be better versions of ourselves.

E : ENVIRONMENT – the role of nature in human & planetary wellbeing & our responsibility to enjoy, appreciate & protect it.

The team are proud to have the ‘World’s Greatest Living Explorer’, Ranulph Fiennes as The Pole of Possibility patron. Living a life of adventure and a quest for the limits of what’s possible, Sir Ranulph is a perfect patron for the Pole of Possibility. In his words, “Nothing is impossible for those who dare”.

Raising £79K for The Spinal Injuries Association

The Plan

In 2022 a small team including POLAR GUIDE Dixie Dansercoer, PARALYMPIAN Karen Darke, POLAR ACADEMY graduate Iona Somerville & FILM-MAKER Mike Webster will create the new POLE OF POSSIBILITY.

The diverse team will journey to 79 degrees latitude and longitude in Antarctica…a unique new pole, to represent all that is POSSIBLE when we allow our ideas to seed, and when people, passion and purpose come together.

We all have the ability to be the best version of ourselves, and to make a difference to the community and world around us. The POP Challenge is inspired by Paralympic Champion Karen Darke MBE who won gold, the 79th medal for her country in the Rio Paralympic Games 2016. Karen has since cycled 7 continents in 9 long rides following major coastlines, rivers and water sources: water being modern-day gold that we need to protect to conserve our wellbeing and planet. The journey to create the Pole of Possibility in Antarctica will be the ultimate continent for the Quest 79 Project, and champions the need to preserve this vast continent of frozen water. The project is also raising £79K for The Spinal Injuries Association charity.

The Journey

The team will ski from a point near the Antarctic adventure base at Union Glacier, across remote and un-travelled ice in the most hostile environment on the planet. Extreme temperatures and winds, combined with the physical diversity of the team will stretch and challenge them. The team will leave a physical landmark, THE POLE OF POSSIBILITY: an inspirational legacy, at 79 degrees latitude and longitude.

The S79° W079° intersection will be reached from Union Glacier by skiing 79 nautical miles over the Skytrain Ice Rise. This route, marked in blue, involves crossing a crevassed ‘shear margin’ between the Ice Rise and the Ronne Ice Shelf, bringing extra challenge to the journey. 

Paralympic champion handcyclist Karen will journey by sit-ski, propelled only by her arms and leaving her wheelchair behind. The extra challenges involved with being paralysed are body temperature control and personal care in such an extreme environment. The others will ski towing pulks with all the equipment to survive and be self-supporting in the icy wilderness.

The team will begin their journey to the POLE OF POSSIBILITY at Union Glacier, at the south of the Antarctic Peninsula
The proposed route (blue) from Union Glacier (UG) via the Skytrain Ice Rise to create the POLE OF POSSIBILITY at 79/79

The Message

We aim to inspire thousands of young people around the world to believe in themselves and their dreams, and to embrace our message around ICE: Inner Gold; Connection; Environment. Being brave enough to seek our inner gold, connect with others, and respect and embrace our environment, then personal change can lead to local and global change. 

The journey is a call to action about the power we each have to do more than we believe possible, to positively affect personal change, community change and thus global change. No-where on the planet are the effects of human impact on environment more apparent, and the team will share messages and learning about this important continent and how a shift in the way we think and live is so important.

The Team

Project Lead – Karen Darke MBE: Paralympic gold-medallist, Guiness Record holder & adventurer www.karendarke.com  

Karen could be described as a modern-day ‘Alchemist’, her life committed to exploring that is possible when the right mindset, commitment and good people come together. An adventurer, athlete, speaker and author, Karen’s purpose is about inspiring and impacting, about turning challenge into opportunity. A life-changing accident led Karen to becoming paralysed from the chest-down. She found new ways to access the wilderness and outdoors, and has since hand-cycled across the world’s biggest mountain ranges and alongside some of the longest rivers, sit-skied across the Greenland icecap and climbed the iconic rock-face of El Capitan. A decade of Paralympic handcycling took Karen to a gold medal in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Gams.  It was the 79th medal for Britain, and led to Karen creating Quest 79. The project has Karen cycling 7 continents in 9 iconic rides, raising £79K for Spinal Injuries and encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and discover passion, purpose or ability: their ‘inner gold’. The Pole of Possibility will be the last of these ‘Quests’.

Expedition Lead – Dixie Dansercoer: Polar guide & founder of Polar Circles

Dixie Dansercoer is a Flemish polar explorer having been to the poles on more than 40 occasions, for personal or guided expeditions, photo and film productions. His impressive list of achievements has earned him the title of Master Guide in the International Polar Guides Association. Dixie Dansercoer is one of only four people to have crossed the complete Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic continent. Dixie not only brings his experience, but his motivational nature and ‘lets make this possible’ nature are aligned with the values of the project.

In 2012, together with Sam Deltour, Dansercoer broke the world record for the longest non-motorised expedition in Antarctica. On skis, and assisted by a kite, the pair travelled at least 5013km. Read more about Dixie here. Author of 16 books about polar expeditions and the parallels with corporate life. His most recent are Polar Exploration – A practical handbook for North and South Pole expeditions, (2012) Surpassing Sastrugi, (2014)  and Empowering Outperformance, (2017).

Youth Engagement Lead – Iona Somerville: Polar Academy graduate & role model Iona Somerville is 19 years old and a recently qualified Sports Therapist. Iona’s journey started when she was just 14 years old and was selected by The Polar Academy, to train and to take part in an Arctic Expedition to Greenland, completed in April 2016. Iona and the rest of the team have since gone on to inspire their peers, talking to thousands of other young people about their experience: demonstrating what is possible when a goal is set and a team come together, despite previous lack of self-worth or belief. Iona’s confidence has since taken a knock through trauma she experienced when part of the crowd at the Ariana Grande concert and bombing in Manchester. Iona is a determined young role model who would love to go on to inspire others with her personal story of developing confidence and overcoming trauma.

Filming – Mike Webster: Award-winning filmmaker 

Mike is a filmmaker, cameraman and director specialising in the outdoor world. With travels and expeditions in Amazon and the Americas, across Europe and into Africa and Asia under his belt, his award winning films have been screened around the world, whether on the Banff Mountain Film Festival World tour, film festivals, or shooting for broadcast (BBC, ITV, SKY).

However, it always comes down to the most important thing – concept and story. This expedition will yield a Feature Length Documentary on the expedition, exploring the one-of-a-kind expedition, the unique group involved, combined with Karen’s incredible story, and what has brought her to this point. Always looking to better his previous work, this is a unique opportunity to “Go Big”; An incredible story of tragedy and glory, an opportunity to study both human health and planetary health, mixed with exploring un-tread territory, in a landscape like no other on earth.

Simon Darke: Corporate Partnership

Simon is Karen’s brother, and has over the many decades since Karen was paralysed, joined her on various ‘exploits’ from cycle adventures to the Paralympic Games. Also a sportsman with a penchant for adventure, he balances being a father of three with running a busy construction company and training for swim-run, ironman and other stretching challenges. His family have been fully immersed in Quest 79 fundraising events, including a family cycle ride of 79 miles and Karen’s nephew Archie joining the cycle journey across Europe. Together they have raised a significant sum for the charity, The Spinal Injuries Association. Simon brings his people skills, positive attitude, and problem-solving skills to the team, and is helping coordinate corporate partnerships for the team to journey in Antarctica.