Thomas Avery was born to Julian and Quenelda Avery in London, England and educated at Vinehall School in East Sussex. Due to his father's occupation, he frequently travelled with his family between Sussex, Brazil and France. When Thomas was seven years old, his mother gave him a book about the adventures of Captain Robert Falcon Scott. As he later wrote in his book, To The End of the Earth (2009), he was captivated by Scott's heroic story and knew he wanted to go to Antarctica, and ultimately the South Pole.
Tom Avery's outdoor career began when he was 16 with a series of rock and ice climbs in Wales and Scotland. At university, he organised and led mountaineering expeditions to the Andes, New Zealand, the Alps, Tanzania, Patagonia and Morocco. After graduating in 1998 with a BSc in Geography and Geology, he began a temporary 15-month career as an accountant with Arthur Andersen.
In 2000 he led a British mountaineering expedition to the remote Eastern Zalaay Mountains in Kyrgyzstan. The team scaled a total of nine previously unclimbed and unnamed summits up to 20,000 feet (6,100 m) in height.
Avery has climbed numerous noted mountains, including Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Pichincha and Cotopaxi in Ecuador, Illimani in Bolivia, Volcan Villarrica in Chile, Taranaki and Ruapehu in New Zealand, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, Mont Blanc du Tacul in the French Alps, and Jebel Toubkal in Morocco. He also made attempts on Cho Oyu in Tibet and Aconcagua in Argentina.
Avery has also completed the Patrouille des Glaciers, a ski mountaineering race from Zermatt to Verbier. He led the first British civilian team ever to complete the course.
In 2002 Avery at age 25 became the youngest Briton ever to ski to the South Pole. The Commonwealth South Pole Centenary Expedition was the ninth major expedition that he had organised and was the culmination of two years' planning. Following a training trip in New Zealand, the small party of four flew to Antarctica in early November 2002, beginning their 700-mile (1,100 km) expedition from Hercules Inlet. On 28 December 2002, 45 days and 6 hours later, Avery's team completed the journey to the South Pole. They broke the South Pole speed record by using kites to power them across the ice, much like the modern sport of kitesurfing. They covered the last 47 miles (76 km) to the Pole in a marathon final 31 hours.
Based largely on his Antarctic journal, Avery published Pole Dance as his first book. Written in a diary form, it details the 2002 South Pole expedition.
In 2005 Avery recreated Robert Peary and Matthew Henson's 1909 controversial expedition to the North Pole. His goal of the expedition was to assess whether Peary had achieved what he claimed. Avery's party reached the Pole in 37 days, a faster time that any expedition had managed since 1909. They used the same equipment available to Peary and Henson for their 1909 expedition.
Travelling with Inuit dog teams and wooden sledges, Avery set out from Peary's original Base Camp at Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island with his team. They covered the 413 nautical miles (765 km) to the Geographic North Pole in 36 days, 22 hours and 11 minutes, some four hours faster than Peary and Henson had recorded. The Avery team's speediest distance over 5 marches was 90 nautical miles, significantly short of the 135 claimed by Peary. In the process, Avery and his team discovered original relics and tools from the 1909 mission. Avery recounted his experience in his 2009 book, To The End of the Earth: The Race to Solve Polar Exploration's Greatest Mystery.
Based on this expedition, Avery argues in his book that Peary did reach the North Pole in 1909. Wally Herbert, a polar explorer, was earlier commissioned by the National Geographic Society to assess Peary's records, and gave him access to his original diary and astronomical observations. Based on Herbert's published conclusions in 1989, it is widely held that Peary did not reach the Pole, although he was likely within five miles.
He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London and a member of the Explorers Club in New York.
Avery lives in London with his wife Mary. He raises funds for The Prince's Trust.
In 2005 he was already supporting London's bid to host the 2012 Olympics and carried its standard as official ambassador in his team's record-breaking trip to the North Pole. He carried a London 2012 campaign flag and planted it at the Pole.
Avery's other interests include skiing, ocean sailing and golf. His ultimate ambitions are to ski in Alaska and sail around the world.