The Power of Social Media

landing on the Blue Ice runway in Antarctica

landing on the Blue Ice runway in Antarctica

As a business we focus on social media as a marketing strategy. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram as but a few of the tools used by most businesses these days.

As I am training for my trek to the South Pole I have been pulling truck tires around the neighborhood. This training will put me in a good place to pull a 200lb sled across the glaciers of Antarctica for almost 1000 km to the South Pole. On my daily pull sessions I would receive strange and confused looks from the people I passed. Many would laugh, shake their heads and just walk away. I was starting to get the reputation as the neighborhood lunatic.

A few people started to ask why I was subjecting myself to this torture. A dog walker would walk beside me for a while and ask questions. A cyclist on their own training plan would stop and ask me why. I even had a young man dropped off by his mother to ask me what I was doing this for. He walked beside me for a while and we chatted.

Many people asked if I had a blog or was on the neighborhood Facebook page. I do have a blog (you are reading it), but I was not on the neighborhood Facebook page. After several people asking the same question I decided I should get connected to the neighborhood through Facebook.

I found the group and joined. I then posted a note letting people know who I was, what I was doing and why. Almost instantly I received countless notes of support and encouragement. Some funny and some serious, but all supportive. The next time I was out for my tire walk I had multiple car honks, people rolling down their window to should encouragement, and people standing on their front steps clapping as I walked by. Wow who would have through that Facebook could add so much to my training.

I now look forward to meeting new people each time I go out with my tire and have met many of my neighbors that were until a few days ago strangers. I have even suggested that they grab their own tire and join me. Perhaps we can start a new fitness revolution and make a TV infomercial.

Training to trek to the South Pole

Tire pullAlthough not the only factor in success on a trek to the South Pole it is a critical one and a prerequisite for participation.

When I first started climbing I did not need to train. Youth and natural athleticism was all that was required. I also had a lot more time to actually climb, so I stayed in shape by doing what I loved. Now that I am older and do not have the same time fitness training is critical for success in any of my adventure.

Training for a trek to the South Pole is different than training for a big mountain climb. They say the best way to train for any sport is to do that sport. In the case of the South Pole expedition we will be XC skiing for approximately 20km per day (for about 45-50 days) while pulling a 200LB sled loaded with all our food, fuel, gear, and camping supplies. The daily temperature will range from -20 Celsius to -40 Celsius not including the wind chill.

We are having a beautifully warm fall here in Ontario and therefore I cannot mimic pulling a sled in cold temperatures. But I need to find the best way I can to train given my environment.

A few years ago I did not place the same emphasis on sport specific training. I was preparing to guide an expedition to the magnetic North Pole with True Patriot Love. We would also be XC skiing pulling heavy sleds. It would not be as cold as the South Pole and the loads were lighter, but there are a lot of similarities.

I had a very good fitness level mostly from running. When I started the trek to the Pole I quickly realized the muscles I had trained to run, were not the same ones I was using to ski and pull. I suffered for this and it was a tough trip physically.

Realizing this past error I have modified my training program for the South Pole. I am still running, because cardio fitness is important, but I have added a pulling element to my training. I went to the local tire shop and got two large pick-up truck tires. Believing I was already strong I hooked up two tires to my backpack and started to pull. I could barely move them. Five minutes down the sidewalk was all I could handle. Humbled by this I removed one tire and started to work pulling just one tire around the neighborhood. I would start with a five mile run and then hook on the tire and pull for about an hour. We have some long gradual hills in the neighborhood and these provided lots of gravitational friction for my pulling. After a while the tire pull became too easy so I added a 15lb brick to the tire. Then that became too easy and I added another brick. The process was working and I was getting stronger by the day.

One day I wore a hole through my tire. I took this as a cue to remove the bricks and to hook on the second tire. The pulling of two tires was still difficult, but I could manage it (with many breaks) for close to an hour. This is where I am today and will continue to work with my two tires. I have about 7 weeks before departure so am hoping that perhaps I will get to the point where I will add a brick to my two tires.

So if you see some strange person walking down the road pulling a couple of tires, honk and shout some encouragement. It might just be me or it could be someone else with a dream.

Expedition Communication

Communication EquipmentUntil recently communication while on expedition was a difficult and unreliable process. When I climbed Mount Logan in 1999 we carried with us a big, heavy and awkward VHF radio. The battery was weak due to the cold and we had to put out a long wire antenna strung between our ski poles. It never did work and for 30 days we had no contact with the outside world.

The early polar explorers would be gone from home for years at a time with no communication back home. Nobody knew anything until they got back and if they never returned it was a mystery what happened.

In 2001 when I went to climb Cho Oyu (sixth highest mountain in world) in Tibet we brought an early model satellite phone with us. It was big and heavy and we had to smuggle it into Tibet as they were banned by law at that time. Once at camp we unpacked the phone, but were never able to figure out how to work it. There was a Swiss team there with a working satellite phone that I could use for $10/minute. One 15-minute call home cost me $150. Ouch!

On Everest I had a PDA/Sat phone system that allowed me to make calls and send email back home. I was able to post regular blogs and this was my first real opportunity to have consistent contact with the outside world. It was fun to write at the end of each day and tell my story to others on the web. In return I received many messages from followers and even connected with a grade school class and became pen pals with the students.

For my South Pole expedition I will be using a DeLorme inReach system that I got from the helpful team at . This easy and inexpensive system allows me to send and receive email and text messages and will even provide my current location on a map of Antarctica. I will pair this with a Bluetooth keyboard to make it easier to type long dispatches and a solar charging system from GoalZero.

Once activated I will post a link on this blog where the map can be found and I will begin to post regular blogs once the expedition begins on November 15.

Preparing to Trek to the South Pole

Polar TravelAs I prepare for my expedition to the South Pole I plan to post regular blogs pre-expedition, during, and post wrap up.

Right now I am in the preparation phase which consists of logistics, equipment, and fitness training.

Most of the logistics are in place, but I did have some challenges with my flights to Punta Arenas. I am arriving one day later than desired, but all should be good.

I have made a few new gear purchases (new Fischer E99 skis and a ColdAvenger face mask), but mostly have everything I need and am starting to organize and pack that now.

I am working hard on my fitness training. My program consists of a 5 mile run followed by a 60-minute tire pulling session. I started off with one truck tire and as that became too easy I added a 15lb brick to the tire and then I added a second brick. I have now worn a hole through my tire and flipped it over to start on a fresh sidewall. I just upgraded to pulling 2 tires and it is very hard. When I first tried 2 tires it was very difficult and I could only pull them for about 5 minutes. Now the 2 tires feel almost the same as 1 tire with 2 bricks.

My departure date is November 11 from Toronto. Until that time I will continue to post periodic blogs with updates on the expedition preparation. Once on the ice I will have a satellite communication system and will have the ability to post dispatches to my blog. I also have a GPS map tracker so that you can follow our exact progress on a map.

Our team members are scattered between Oakville, Colorado and the UK. We are communicating via email and starting the team building process. I have climbed with two of the expedition members before, but one if new to me, but has been on trips with one other team member.

Team building will be an essential element of the expedition as the 4 of us struggle together and live in very close quarters for up to 50 days or more. I will share more about this in future blogs.