'Walking in Wales helped me survive my North Pole trek...'.
HE'S the first person ever to trek solo, without resupply, across hundreds of miles of disintegrating sea ice to reach the North Pole.
Battling killer temperatures, the threat of polar bear attack, brutal winds and the very real possibility of freezing to death with every misstep, it was a 64-day, 477-mile journey into the barren white heart of the Arctic which, to many, seemed little more than a suicide mission.
It's ironic then that my initial attempt to interview Pen Hadow is hamstrung by something as mundane as an afternoon traffic jam - he's grid-locked somewhere in London and unable to chat.
Calling me back later to apologise, I sympathise and add how I'm often reminded of Captain Oates' famous last words from his doomed 1912 South Pole expedition each time I have to traverse the A470 during rush-hour - "I am just going outside and may be some time."
Laughing, the 50-year-old explorer informs me that, from an early age, he's had a connection to that ill-fated journey which also claimed the life of Scott of the Antarctic and several of their colleagues.
"When I was growing up I had a nanny called Enid Wigley, who'd originally been the nanny of Captain Scott's son, Peter," says Hadow, who will be speaking at next month's Crickhowell Walking Festival.
"She'd been hired to look after him after his father died out on the ice in 1912 and had this habit of leaving the child outside in freezing temperatures in hardly any clothes.
"It was some kind of rudimentary polar conditioning programme I suppose, and my father thought it would be a great idea for me to be toughened up in the same way.
"So he employed Enid to take care of me too and, almost straight away, I came to realise just how cold it could at this time of year - especially in the Scottish Highlands where we were living at the time.
"Thankfully though, my mother quickly decided that enough was enough when she saw I'd started to develop frostbite on my cheek."
Nevertheless, Wigley would continue to make an indelible impression on the youngster by regaling him with tales of Captain Scott and other such famous explorers.
"I called them 'the Antarctic boys' and hearing about their amazing feats created in me this fascination for how far I could push myself, both mentally and physically."
For example? "Well, I'd go into the orchard and hang like a bat from a branch by my feet, just to see how long I could stay like that," smiles Hadow.
"I must have been there nearly four hours - my head swollen from the rush of blood - when mum came out screaming and trashed the experiment.
"She'd thought I'd climbed to the top of the tree, fallen and become tangled in its lower branches. So that's the sort of chap I was."
Why then did he wait until he was 27 to fully submit to that wanderlust? "No easy way to answer that I'm afraid," he shrugs.
"Lost my way a bit at uni, got a job managing top sports stars afterwards, but always felt that life wasn't really for me.
"Then, one day, I popped into the Royal Geographic Society and stumbled across a book by an obscure German natural historian who'd documented flora and fauna in the North Atlantic.
"No-one had even opened the book before - I had to get the librarian to slice the pages open with a razor blade - but I so fell in love with his passion and commitment that I went straight back to the office and resigned."
Various expeditions followed, like photographing polar bears on Norway's Svalbard archipelago, until Hadow set his sights on the seemingly impossible - trekking solo and unsupported from the top of Canada to the geographic North Pole.
"I made a vow to my dad on his death bed in 1993 that I'd do it," he says.
"Our family has always had a history of high-fliers, one of my relatives being the first to ascend the Matterhorn, while another was a tennis champ who won Wimbledon in 1878.
"And, while it may have taken me 15 years and two subsequent failed attempts in '94 and '98, I finally achieved my dream in 2003."
However, even in the face of such an incredible achievement - he similarly conquered the South Pole the following year - Hadow is adamant there's nothing special about him.
"I'm entirely ordinary, it's all to do with application," he admits.
"I reckon more than 80% of a solo trek to the North Pole is about psychological management. "People can freak out in an unforgiving environment like that because it's so alien, so harsh.
"There are no normal reference points like telegraph poles or buildings to focus on and the 24-hour sunlight can be incredibly disorientating.
Plus, it's possible to put up tent on an ice floe and, while asleep, drift back even further than you've just come without ever realising it."
And Hadow, now retired, credits Wales with helping him develop that ability to deal with such challenges.
"I've visited the Brecon Beacons numerous times, particularly as prep for the solo Pole project," said the dad-of-two turned author and motivational speaker.
"It's isolated, remote environments like that which help you adapt.
"I walked around there all day and all night, often in the most unforgiving weather in order to put myself under the greatest stress possible.
"It's all about training one's brain to cope with the loneliness."
Hadow is also a staunch advocate of research into climate change and sees the explorer's role as key to it.
"What we do is at the bleeding edge of scientific research - the sexy stuff, if you like," he says.
"It's our findings which are then fed back to the men in white coats to help us all understand what's happening to the world.
"And you've only got to look at all the recent flooding we've had to see that's happening right now.
"The entire world's already been mapped out and it's down to today's explorers to fill in the details about how it all works, or isn't working."
And, talking of the floods, Hadow admits he'd been heartened by the way whole communities united in order to help one another through the deluge.
"That drive is uniquely British, I think, and it shows exactly what we're all capable of being.
"You see, to some degree we're all explorers deep down -it's just that some of us go a lot further with it," he adds.
For more information on the Crickehowell Walking Festival, visit www.crickhowellfestival.com
'I'm entirely ordinary, it's all to do with application' - Pen Hadow
Explorer Pen Hadow during his 2003 solo trek to the North Pole