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Taking it to extremes

A former British Army officer, raised in Malta in what he remembers as an endless summer outdoors, is on a globetrotting mission to raise millions of euros for charity.

I am fascinated by seeing how the human body, both physically and mentally, can be pushed while exploring the more inhospitable parts of the globe- Patrick Cooke

Justin Packshaw says he developed his love for adventure in the waters and ‘wilds’ of 1960s and 1970s Malta and returns often to these shores to visit friends.

But since those golden childhood years he has wandered, climbed, sailed and rode horses and motorbikes to some of the most inhospitable places on Earth in his quest to satisfy his wanderlust and raise funds for his chosen causes.

“Being the youngest of four children and having colourful and intrepid parents, I was always pushed to dream big and pursue those dreams.

“Needless to say, I have been terribly lucky as I have been able to fulfil many of my early travel aspirations,” he says.

His combined passions for charity and adventure have led to him ride horses across Mongolia (1996), drive a motorbike through East Africa (1999), compete in the Whitbread Round-the-World Yacht Race (1990), complete successful expeditions to Magnetic North Pole (2005) and the Geographic North Pole (2008) and, in May this year, summit Mount Everest from the north side (www.deroemereverest.com).

“The Everest trip was full of everything one could possibly associate with trying to summit this majestic wonder of the world – drama, sweat, danger, frustration, fear, trust, exhaustion and exhilaration,” Mr Packshaw says.

Four of the team – including Mr Packshaw – made it to the summit and all 10 members of the team made it down safely.

So far the Everest expedition has raised £1.2 million (€1.37 million), mainly through corporate sponsorship, for three charities: Walking with the Wounded, The Warrior Programme and Alzheimer’s Research.

The first two charities are dear to Mr Packshaw as an ex-officer in the 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards, while Alzheimer’s research was chosen because it was close to the heart of one of his Everest team-mates.

After leaving the army Mr Packshaw took a Masters degree in Business at Edinburgh University and, following spells working in New York and the Mediterranean, he is now managing director of luxury fashion label De Roemer.

But his passion for adventure lures him out of the boardroom time and time again.

“I try and organise a decent expedition every 18 months, and at 46 I have amassed wonderfully vivid memories of trips to obscure places,” he says.

“I am fascinated by seeing how the human body, both physically and mentally, can be pushed while exploring the more inhospitable parts of the globe.”

Mr Packshaw’s two trips to the Arctic were somewhat different. The first was a 400-mile (644 km) unsupported race to the Magnetic North Pole (www.polarace.com).

“My team-mate was a phenomenal Italian girl called Christina Franco, and by some complete fluke, after three weeks of intense racing on the ice where we were doing a marathon a day while dragging all our kit, we got to the pole first,” he recalls with pride.

“It really was an exceptional experience as it gave us all a real insight into the severity and power of the Arctic, its changeable weather, extreme cold and inquisitive polar bears.”

His second venture to the high north was with world renowned explorer David Hempleman-Adams, 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.

Mr Hempleman-Adams had asked Mr Packshaw to join him to help look after his 15-year-old daughter in her successful attempt to become the youngest Brit to ski to the Geographic North Pole.

“For me, people are a big part of my trips. I have been terribly lucky as I have done them with stunningly able, capable and colourful people who also have similar aims as me: to learn, survive and work within these very different and difficult environments,” Mr Packshaw says.

“These far-flung regions are so beautiful in their remoteness and austerity, and to actually be able to work and see them in situ is unique. One always returns having learnt superb lessons about oneself and life.”

His next trip is to the South Pole with four wounded British soldiers in November 2012. Next year is the 100th anniversary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s extraordinary race to the Geographic South Pole and the team will be replicating some of his journey.

Mr Packshaw’s expeditions support Walking with the Wounded, The Warrior Programme and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

To donate go to www.deroemereverest.com/donate.

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