David Hempleman-Adams

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David Kim Hempleman-Adams, LVO, OBE, KStJ, DL (born 10 October 1956 in Swindon, Wiltshire) is a British industrialist and adventurer.

He is the first person in history to reach the Geographic and Magnetic North and South Poles as well as climb the highest peaks in all seven continents, the Adventurers Grand Slam.[1]

Early life[edit]

David Hempleman was born in Moredon, Swindon in October 1956. Following his parents' divorce, he moved with his mother to Stoney Littleton near Bath, and when she remarried, took his stepfather's surname Adams. [2]

He took part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme at school, then pursued business studies at college in Manchester and at Bristol Polytechnic. At the same time, he started climbing with fellow student Steven Vincent.


He visited Everest in 1979, climbed Mount McKinley, Alaska, in 1980, and Mount Kilimanjaro in 1981.

In 1984, he successfully completed a solo expedition to the Magnetic North Pole without dogs, snow mobiles or air supplies. Also he led the first team in 1992 to walk unsupported to the Geomagnetic North Pole.[clarification needed] This was described in the book A Race Against Time. In 1996, he completed a solo unsupported expedition to the South Pole on 5 January, sailed to the South Magnetic Pole on 19 February, and led a team of novices to ski to the Magnetic North Pole on 15 May. The book Toughing it Out describes David's first 20 years of adventuring.

In 1998 he joined Norwegian Rune Gjeldnes in an attempt to reach the Geographical North Pole, the final leg of his Grand Slam attempt, which he described in a book called Walking on Thin Ice. He also became the first man to fly a balloon over the North Pole in 2000, a trip that emulated the ill-fated attempt by Salomon August Andrée, a Swede, to fly to the North Pole in the 19th century and which he also described in a book called At The Mercy of the Wind.

He has made thirty Arctic expeditions and has reached the various Poles a record 14 times.

On 22 September 2003 he became the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an open wicker basket rozier balloon. The journey was from New Brunswick, Canada to north of Blackpool, UK.

In July 2004 he and co-pilot Lorne White flew a single engine Cessna from Cape Columbia in the north of Canada to Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, covering 11,060 miles and arriving on 23 July after 12 days. In June 2005, Hempleman-Adams staged the world's "highest" formal dinner party. Hempleman-Adams, Alan Veal, and fellow adventurer Bear Grylls ascended to 24,262 feet in a hot air balloon. Grylls and Veal, wearing formal attire, then climbed down to a dinner table suspended 40 feet below the balloon and dined on asparagus, salmon, and summer fruits, and finally parachuted down to earth. His daughter Alicia Hempleman Adams,at aged 8, became the youngest person to stand at the North Pole and in April 2005 aged 15 she became the youngest person to traverse Baffin Island. In January 2007, Hempleman-Adams broke the quarter-century old world small sized hot air balloon altitude record, by ascending to 9,906 meters over Alberta, Canada; beating the previous record of 9,537 metres set by Carol Davis in New Mexico.[3]

In July 2007 Hempleman-Adams crossed the Atlantic in the smallest helium balloon to break the record for that particular class of balloon flying this distance. His aim was to land the balloon in Ireland but he was blown over to England by strong winds.See Toshiba Challenge website.

In September 2009 he broke the endurance record for a flight using the smallest man-carrying helium balloon. He flew 200 miles from Butler, Missouri, to Cherokee, Oklahoma, in 14 hours and 15 minutes using the class AA-01 balloon. The previous record was an eight hours and 12 minutes flight undertaken by American Coy Foster in March 1983.[4]

To coincide with the 100th anniversary of Scotts expedition to the South Pole,The Heart of the Great Alone was published with the Royal Collection.It brings together a selection of the astonishing photographs taken by Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley with commentary and narration by David.

In September 2010 he competed in the Gordon Bennett 2010 balloon race held in the UK for the first time.[5]

In May 2011 he led the Iceland Everest Expedition on the North Side of Everest. £1.2 Million was raised for their chosen charity.

In October 2011, along with co-pilot Jon Mason, David won the Americas Challenge Balloon race and in doing so set a new duration record for the race. They are the only British team to win both the Gordon Bennett Balloon Race and Americas Challenge.

Personal and family life[edit]

Hempleman-Adams has been in the Chemical Manufacturing business all of his life. He joined his father's company Robnor, later Robnorganic Systems, eventually becoming MD before selling the company. He is a Non Executive Chairman of Global Resins and Chairman of Hempleman Investment Company, a commercial property company. He is a non executive director of XP Power, a PLC Company based in Singapore which manufactures in USA, Europe, China and Vietnam.

He lives at Box, near Bath, with his wife Claire and three daughters, Alicia, Camilla and Amelia. [6]

In April 2008 his middle daughter, Camilla, at the age of 15 became the youngest person to ski the last degree to the North Pole. On 10 October 2008 Hempleman-Adams, along with co-pilot Jon Mason won the 52nd Gordon Bennett Cup, having flown a helium balloon from Albuquerque, New Mexico eventually landing over 1000 miles later near Madison, Wisconsin. They are the first British team to win the coveted prize in 102 years.[7]

In December 2011 his youngest daughter, Amelia, at the age of 16 became the youngest person to ski to the South Pole having completed Shackleton's last 98Nm

Social and charitable work[edit]

He is a Trustee of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, The Royal Aero Club Trust and St John Ambulance, of which he has been a member for 14 years.

In 1992 David co-founded The Mitchemp Trust, a registered youth development charity working with vulnerable young people aged 11 to 14 years old from across Wiltshire and the UK who are suffering the effects of poverty and rural isolation. See The Mitchemp Trust website.

In October 2004, he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Wiltshire.[8]

In 2009 David founded Wicked Weather Watch, a charity aimed at informing young people about climate change. In summer 2016, David will undertaken the Polar Ocean Challenge - an historic attempt to be the first British yacht to sail around the Arctic Ocean in one summer season.

In December 2010 he turned on the Christmas lights in Wootton Bassett.

Honours and Awards[edit]

He received the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 1995.

In 2004, he was awarded ‘The Explorers Medal’, by The Explorers’ Club of New York at their Centennial Dinner.

He was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2007 New Year's Honours, in recognition of his service to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme. [9]

He became a Freeman of the City of London in 2008. [10]

In 2013 he was awarded the Polar Medal by HM The Queen for services to the UK in the field of polar research. [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "North Pole party for 'Grand Slam' Briton". BBC News. 30 April 1998. Retrieved 12 June 2008. 
  2. ^ "EVEREST60: David Hempleman-Adams". SwindonWeb. 
  3. ^ British adventurer sets hot-air balloon altitude record in central Alberta[dead link]
  4. ^ "Explorer achieves balloon record". BBC News. 20 September 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  5. ^ Gordon Bennett 2010 website
  6. ^ "Who's been honoured for New Year?". Swindon Advertiser. 
  7. ^ Mr D. Hempleman-Adams (2008) Speech at Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award presentation, 29 October 2008, St. James's Palace, London.
  8. ^ London Gazette, Issue 57445 of 22 October 2004, page 13359 online
  9. ^ "Who's been honoured for New Year?". Swindon Advertiser. 
  10. ^ "Top balloonist given City honour". BBC News. 
  11. ^ "David Hempleman-Adams, LVO, OBE". Round Square.