Skiing to The South Pole
"Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised."
Polar explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard
Skiing up the Axel Heiberg Glacier
In November 2021, as training for an upcoming never before accomplished feat of endurance and for the experience itself, I embarked upon an epic journey in Antarctica. The plan was to follow in Roald Amundsen’s footsteps skiing from the base of the Ross Ice Shelf up the Axel Heiberg Glacier to the South Pole.
We flew from Punta Arenas, Chile, one of the southernmost cities in the world to Union Glacier Camp in Antarctica. As soon as I landed in Antarctica, my first words were…
The 2nd part just came out without thinking. Which is strange and beautiful, considering I’m going to be spending a fair bit of time there in the next few years.
It was a privilege to have set foot on that land.
Upon arriving at Union Glacier, we began packing our food bags, getting our sleds ready and organizing everything we needed for up to 38 days in the field.
Despite finishing all our preparations in 4 days, we had to wait 9 days for a clear weather window to fly out to our starting point on the Ross Ice Shelf.
On December 1st, after tasting the fear before battle, we began our expedition.
But the journey did not go as planned…
We wrapped them and waited till the next morning to see if they’d get any better. They did not. The frostbite spread. My fingers became even more swollen, blistered and blue. The call was then made for me to be evacuated. The doctor said if I exposed those fingers to the cold any more, I’d lose them.
I’ve analyzed it a lot and I don’t know what caused it to happen. I didn’t do anything stupid. I didn’t do anything differently than the rest of the team or how I’ve usually done it, and I’ve been on cold weather expeditions plenty of times before. Christian also said I wasn’t reckless and it was just bad luck. It really seemed to have come out of nowhere, especially on those particular fingers.
Objectively, I can say with confidence I didn’t make any mistakes to have caused the frostbite. But at the same time, I know I wasn’t perfect out here. That’s on me. I will be next time.
It was an unfortunate end to the trip, but Antarctica is hostile and unforgiving. Playing in that arena is a dangerous game, and there are consequences.
Nonetheless, it was a privilege to experience the beauty and raw power of Antarctica. I absolutely loved it. Before the frostbite, I thrived out there in every way, mentally, physically, spiritually and as a strong, contributing member of the team, as my teammates themselves told me.
Antarctica gifted me some of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life…
I rocked out to 80’s power ballads in Antarctica, which is just objectively cool 🙂
I went on my first ever run on the frozen continent and felt a deep connection to that land that will live with me forever.
I got to see Amundsen’s Cairn and bear witness to a legendary part of polar history. Less than 10-15 human beings have ever visited that site since Amundsen marked the spot 110 years ago.
I began the descent into madness that one day I will complete 🙂
I was blessed to be a part of a team of warriors and beautiful souls who looked out for me and had my back in every way when I got frostbite.
I lived through the magnificent ebbs and flows, highs and lows of expedition life. One of the many reasons why I went to Antarctica and why I go on such adventures is because they are microcosms for the whole human experience. In one compressed moment of time, I get to feel the entirety of a human life.
I came face to face with the unrelenting brutality of a polar storm. It is by far one of the most savage and ferocious environments a human being can endure.
I experienced one of my greatest moments in nature.
I felt a profound sense of peace and oneness with all that is.
My team and I became one of only 26 human beings to ski up the remote, challenging and highly crevassed Axel Heiberg glacier.
We completed the climb and made it to the polar plateau on the exact day 110 years later from when Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole.
I am damn proud what my team and I achieved out there.
Despite how the expedition ended, I was and am in great spirits.
I am already planning my return to the ice to accomplish a feat that a man often called “the world’s greatest living explorer” deemed “probably impossible.”
Even the prospect of this endeavor terrifies. But it has become me. Antartica lives within my soul.
There is something truly magical about that land. It is hostile, unforgiving, inhospitable and deadly. Yet it calls to a handful of brave explorers who dare venture into the kingdom of ice…
About his journey to Antarctica, legendary polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton once said…
“We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.”
I got a small taste of that on this expedition, but it wasn’t enough. Antarctica and I are not done.
I will return to the ice once again…
This was the live tracker of our journey up the Axel Heiberg up to the point where I was evacuated due to frostbite.