Record-breaking teenage adventurers Rob Gauntlett and James Hooper have announced their latest epic expedition.

Just three months after becoming the youngest Britons to reach the summit of Mount Everest they are planning a 17,000-mile world-record ski, cycle and sail from pole to pole using only manpower.

  • For many 19-year-olds the prospect of dragging themselves away from daytime TV to attend university lectures is a daunting enough task.

So one could forgive Rob Gauntlett and James Hooper for taking it easy for a while after their immense achievement earlier this year.

On May 17 the friends, who met at Christ's Hospital school in Horsham, set foot on the peak of the world's highest mountain after two years of gruelling preparation.

As they approached the summit they struggled through blizzards, almost got frostbite and made the chilling discovery of the body of mountaineer David Sharp, who days earlier had offered them inspiring words of advice.

The teenagers returned home a week later but rather than rest on their laurels started planning their latest adventure almost immediately.

Nobody has ever attempted to travel from the North Pole to the South Pole using only human and natural power and it is regarded as one of the great unaccomplished challenges.

Rob said: "We came up with the idea when we were at the base camp of Everest. We wanted to do something unique.

"I suppose some people would have thought Everest was enough but we're not like that.

"A lot of people our age get a bad press. I'm not saying what James and I have done is a great thing but here are two 19-year-olds who have climbed the world's biggest mountain and are now going to cycle, ski and sail from pole to pole. It shows anything is achievable.

"It is also an environmental project. Global warming is a massive issue and we want to show what can be done without the power of engines or burning fossil fuels."

James said: "We got back from Everest and we weren't really sure what we were doing. Neither of us wanted to go to university. We were looking at how to carry on in our lives, what to do next.

"We went through a number of different options. We chose this one because it will be the first time it has ever been attempted.

"Also the impact - we would be able to have a significant impact on young people.

"I think that is a major factor. We want to get the message across to young people that if they follow their dreams and really push hard for something, there is no reason why they can't do it."

They will embark on the ten-month voyage next March. Travelling through 14 countries and three continents, Rob and James will experience temperatures ranging from minus 50C to 50C.

Starting at the top of the Earth, they will ski towards the edge of the ice pack. There they will meet an ice-breaker yacht and sail to Newfoundland.

The next leg of the trip involves the small matter of cycling the entire length of the Americas, eventually arriving in the port of Punta Arenas in Chile.

That epic ride will only be broken by sailing around the perilous Darien Gap of Panama, where roads do not yet exist. Having reached the tip of South America, they will board another yacht, sail across the Southern Ocean and on to the Wedell Sea area of Antarctica.

From there they will again ski, using power kites, to the South Pole.

James, whose family lives in Somerset, is staying with Rob's parents in Petworth and working in an office at their old school to prepare the trip.

He said: "We are expecting the toughest part will be the Arctic because of the way the ice breaks up. It gets very, very cold. Because of global warming it is getting more and more precarious."

The pair will visit projects during their journey, despite covering 100 miles every day for five months.

James said: "That is eight hours a day of solid cycling. We are not too worried about the cycling.

Last summer we cycled from Bilbao to Istanbul.

Once you get going it just builds a routine.

"It isn't something we are concerned about because we know we can do it.

"Although we have cold-weather experience from Everest, we don't have specific polar experience.

We are going to train with the marines in Norway."

The project, called 180 Degrees Pole to Pole Manpowered, is backed by an advisory board of trustees as well as a professional project management team. Rob and James will be followed by a support team throughout their journey.

The friends' adventures began as schoolboys at Christ's Hospital when, aged 15, Rob became the youngest person to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats, with support from James.

Since then they have made numerous trips in the UK, Europe and Asia to improve their cycling and climbing skills.

They will be raising money for The Prince's Trust throughout the expedition and are looking for sponsors to cover the £750,000 cost. Substantial donations have already been received and an intensive fund-raising campaign is in operation.

It is also an education project, with Rob and James making videos which they will upload as podcasts on an interactive website.

The Arctic section will feature an examination of endangered species, as well as information on global warming, focusing on the melting of the ice shelf.

At the other end of the expedition in Antarctica there will be a section on polar conquest, looking at the lives and expeditions of Scott and Amundsen as well as observations on the depletion of the ozone layer.

The teenagers have been taking advice from some of the UK's most famous explorers and adventurers.

Rob said: "We have been in contact with David Hempleman-Adams. We are currently trying to get in touch with Ranulph Fiennes. We have talked to people who have cycled the Americas.

"We are networking with a large number of contacts.

We are also getting advice on finance and company set-up, board and procedure."

The pair are also carrying out a punishing physical exercise regime.

Rob said: "This morning we dragged a heavy tractor tyre around the farm for two hours.

"It's very intense training but also a lot of fun.

We spur each other on and that's why we make a good team.

"We are also doing a lot more sailing training.

We can both sail but we will need a skipper in the Southern Ocean because the seas are some of the most treacherous in the world.

"James is more like a brother than a friend to me. We always find something to witter on about even when we are at our most tired and jaded on the trips."

James said: "Our families are behind us. After Everest, they have faith in us. We know what we are doing. They're very excited.

"The message we are trying to get across is: Whatever you are good at - whether that be drama or music or sport - if you really want it enough and you show people how much you want it, they will support you in reaching that goal you set your sights on.

"We have put everything into our trips and we have managed to pull them off.

"We are not from any special background, we are from a normal background. With a bit of luck and a good education it has allowed us to reach what we wanted.

"In the UK there are opportunities for everyone.

There are chances and scholarship funds to allow people who show a drive to achieve an ambition.

There are a lot of people out there who will."