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Polar storm grounds Prince Harry and veterans ahead of South Pole trek

By Max Foster and Susannah Cullinane, CNN
updated 7:00 AM EST, Thu November 21, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Three seven-member teams are racing to the South Pole to raise money for wounded veterans
  • Prince Harry is the patron of the British team competing in the Walking With The Wounded race
  • "True Blood" actor Alexander Skarsgard and Dominic West of "The Wire" are also taking part
  • A polar storm at Novo Base is keeping the teams stranded in Cape Town, South Africa

(CNN) -- Bad weather is keeping Britain's Prince Harry and a team of UK veterans stranded in South Africa, their take-off point to Antarctica where they will race U.S. and Commonwealth teams on a trek to the South Pole.

Swedish actor and "True Blood" star Alexander Skarsgard is an honorary member of the U.S. team, while Dominic West, perhaps best known for his role as McNulty in "The Wire," joins veterans wounded in combat from the Commonwealth nations of Canada and Australia.

The seven-person teams also include a guide and mentor.

They are trekking more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) across Antarctica, in temperatures as low as -35 degrees Celsius (-31 Fahrenheit), to raise money for the charity Walking With The Wounded.

The three teams left London for Cape Town on Sunday, and had been due to fly to Antarctica's Novolazarevskaya (Novo) Station on Tuesday, but a polar storm has kept them grounded.

"At the moment, they're just waiting," a Walking With The Wounded spokesperson told CNN. "They're managing to do a bit of training, hiking up Table Mountain and around Cape Town."

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Prince prepares for South Pole trek
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The spokesperson said their actual departure date would not be confirmed until the weather had cleared. Once the teams arrive at Novo Station, they'll have three days of acclimatization before setting off on the trek, which is expected to take about 16 days.

The teams will be pulling pulks -- or snow sleds -- containing all their food and equipment, which will weigh about 70 kilograms (154 pounds) at the start of the trip, Hunter-Dunn said.

Harry is a patron of Walking With The Wounded, a cause close to the prince's heart.

"They're going to achieve something quite remarkable and in doing so will prove to everybody else that even when you've lost a leg, you've lost an arm or whatever the illness may be, that you can achieve pretty much anything if you put your mind to it," he said at the official departure in London last week.

Despite his royal upbringing, it's the prince's role as a solider that has already won him praise from his fellow teammates and rivals.

"He's laid back, we're not scared to have him around, he's just another soldier along with the rest of us," says Sgt. Margaux Mange, from the U.S. team.

An army helicopter pilot who has served multiple tours in Afghanistan, Harry has had plenty of training for the big race.

Back in 2011, he spent time training for a Walking With The Wounded expedition to the North Pole, which saw him diving into the freezing waters of the Arctic. But he had to withdraw from that expedition early to attend the wedding of his brother.

More recently, Harry traveled to Iceland for training and even spent 24 hours in an industrial freezer in preparation.

But will it be enough? The winning team is expected to cross the finish line in time to have Christmas back home.

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