Born in Wimbledon, London and educated at Harrow School adventurer Henry Cookson felt that the 9 to 5 city life, working for Goldman Sachs, was not quite what he was willing to settle for. He left Goldman Sachs after three years and enrolled in the Scott Dunn Polar Challenge in 2005, a race to the Magnetic North Pole. The team (known as Team Hardware.com) won the 360 mile race across the frozen Arctic in a record breaking 11 days.
In November 2006, the 3 members of Team Hardware.com were joined by the polar guide, Paul Landry, to form Team N2i for their next challenge; kite skiing to the exact centre of the Antarctic continent, the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI). The only previous visitors were a Soviet Tracked Vehicle Expedition in 1948 who took two years to reach the Pole and left a statue of Lenin as a mark.
On 19th January 2007, after 49 days and 1,056 miles the team finally reached the Pole of Inaccessibility, entering the Guinness Book of Records.
Henry has lead guiding trips up Aconcagua, Argentina (6962m), the “Mountains of the Moon” Uganda/Congo and Mount Meru (4566m) and Kilimanjaro (5892m), Tanzania as well as guiding trips in extreme temperatures- including trips across the Greenland Icecap, the Danakil Depression (Ethiopia), the lowest point in Africa as well as Last Degree Trips to the North Pole.
In April 2011, Henry will be one of two polar expert guides taking part in the Walking With The Wounded Unsupported Challenge to the North Pole, the team of people will included amputees from the British Army. The Patron of this Charity is HRH Prince Harry of Wales who hopes his commitments will allow him to participate for some of the expedition.
Henry is a guide, adventurer, photographer and motivational public speaker.
Henry is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and addressed the society on his P.O.I trip in 2007, Life Time Honorary Member of the Wilderness Foundation, an Ambassador for Save our Seas Foundation, a Friend of John Aspinall Gorilla Conservation Foundation and a Guinness Book of World Records holder which was included in “Top 100 records of the decade 2000-2010”.
Q. What were your childhood aspirations? What was it that lead to the dramatic career change?
A. To become a very rich banker which I suppose I got right with three years at Goldman Sachs! The change was very simple, having too many beers one night in the pub and signing up to the Scott Dunn Polar Challenge- that was the first real taste of adventure and I guess you could say I have never looked back.
Q. What do you believe are the key traits/qualities of any true adventurer/explorer?
A. Definitely a sense of humour is key and stubbornness mixed with determination to get to where you have set out to reach- particularly when in the Arctic or Antarctic. I suppose a bit of stubbornness or is that…..stupidity (!!) always helps because you need it to return from any adventure.
Q. Which writers/photographers inspire you and do you keep similar records of your exhibitions?
A. I love photography and think I am both inspired by and jealous of other photographers! One day I would love my photos to be in National Geographic magazine. Nick Brandt is a photographer whose haunting wildlife scenes stir something in your soul.
Q. Is cabin fever something you have suffered from? Being with a small group alone in the wilderness is this something that’s ever hard to deal with?
A. No never! I have always been fortunate enough to be with a great team of people who have a similar warped sense of humour. Both the Scott Dunn Polar Challenge and the trip to the Pole of Inaccessibility were done with great friends and we are still very much talking to one another (!) despite the fact the more obnoxious we are about each other, the funnier it is.
Q. What is your biggest fear?
A. Spiders- hate them…
Q. What has been your greatest challenge to date?
A. The trip to the Pole of Inaccessibility in 2007, I came up with the idea of kite skiing to the exact centre of the Antarctic continent having not felt satisfied at stopping efforts with the Scott Dunn Polar challenge. No one had ever been to this remote point on the planet under their own steam before. I dedicated the next 14 months into planning the trip, including organising the majority of the logistics needed for a challenge of this magnitude.
The hurdles faced during this epic trip were immense and my main responsibilities during the journey included navigation/route leader, communications, photographer and cameraman. After 49 days and a 1700km expedition, encountering crevasses, impossible weather conditions and temperatures dropping to -95 degrees we finally reached the Pole of Inaccessibility and the statue of Lenin in January 2007 getting us into the Guinness Book of Records.
Q. Humour seems to be an important element of what gets you and your teams through the stress of your trips, is it a prerequisite?
A. Absolutely, as mentioned above it is crucial to be able to laugh at oneself and the predicament during times that are often extremely hard both mentally and physically.
Q. You’ve been planning a trip across the Arctic (nb: not Tundra) for disabled soldiers and adventurers, can you tell us more about this and how it’s going?
A. Yes, I am one of two expert guides participating in an expedition to the Geographic North Pole in March/April 2011. The endeavour is known as Walking With The Wounded (www.wwtw.org.uk) and the team consists of the two people who came up with the idea as well as four ex-military servicemen who have lost limbs or sustained injury in the line of duty. Our Patron is HRH Prince Harry who will be joining us for the final stages of the expedition.
We have just got back from a training trip in Norway with a film crew, before that I was in the Arctic again guiding a Last Degree trip to the North Pole. It’s really exciting being part of such a massive charitable project and its certainly keeping me very busy.
Q. What do you hope to achieve in 2010 and beyond and how do you feel Pelime might help either facilitate or prove to be an interesting resource?
A. 2010 is already a very busy year, I have taken a group up Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro in aid of charity and also, of course, the recent trips to the North Pole- next stop(s) Namibia’s skeleton coast, the Congo to see gorillas, volcanoes in Ethiopia and a first trip to the Himalayas.
I am sure Pelime will be a useful and interesting resource- I am constantly using all types of media in conveying the adventure brand. I am sure Pelime will create meaningful links with other like minded people who are interested in travel and adventure.