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Teenage polar explorer will race to break world record to South Pole

By Elizabeth Dilts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American teenage polar explorer Parker Liautaud plans to attempt to set a record as the fastest person to reach the South Pole, with a 397-mile (639-km) trek by foot and ski that will begin on December 3.

Liautaud, 19, of Palo Alto, California, plans to televise the trek, which he aims to complete in 22 days, using a satellite support truck that will follow him and his teammate, veteran explorer Doug Stoup, at a distance.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Explorer's Club in New York, Liautaud, who has three times hiked to the North Pole, said he hoped the journey would draw attention to climate change.

"I have to be prepared to pull a sled that weighs approximately 180 pounds (82 kg) for 12 hours a day for nearly a month," Liautaud said, as he sat beneath one of the sleds used in the world's first expedition to reach the North Pole in 1909.

Stoup and Liautaud, a Yale sophomore studying geology, will start on foot at the Ross Ice Shelf on Antarctica's Northwestern coast, switching to skis when they reach the Leverett Glacier.

Traveling 18 miles a day, they aim to reach the Pole in 22 days. The current record is 24 days, one hour and 13 minutes and was set by Christian Eide of Norway in 2011.

Insurance broker Willis Group is sponsoring the trip.

Liautaud's training regimen includes working out on a rowing machine while wearing a 70-pound (32 kg) vest. He's eating 6,000 calories a day, which he will maintain in Antarctica.

Liautaud said he is aware of the dangers he will face, which include temperatures as low as -76 Fahrenheit (-60 Celsius) and possible whiteout conditions.

On his first trek to the North Pole, when Liautaud was 15, his team leader called for an emergency evacuation just 15 miles from the end, when they reached a stretch of open water.

"It felt like a slap in the face," Liautaud said. "But I know better and I'm prepared better now."

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Scott Malone and; Eric Beech)

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