Kevin Vallely: I visualize a trip to Mars to be honest. Antarctica is so utterly remote that it's like going to another planet. I love this idea. (click to enlarge)
Kevin's 2000 km winter Alaskan bike ride above. Both my Alaskan adventures are incredibly memorable because of the sheer remoteness of the wilderness up there[The Iditarod] was physically brutal, extremely scary at times and mentally exhausting. (click to enlarge)
I love the jungles of South East Asia and have done a number of expeditions there including the retracing of the Sandakan Death March with 8 Australian soldiers in 2006. This was an incredible journey and profoundly touching. (click to enlarge)
Live your dreams. No one can stop you. Time and time again you hear this refrain but it's the cold truth. Only you can do it so if you want it, make it happen. All images courtesy of Kevin Vallely (click to enlarge)
ExWeb interview with Kevin Vallely: It awoke something in me that I'll never be able to put to sleep.
Posted: Nov 07, 2008 03:25 pm EST
(The Poles.com) This Antarctic season North Pole explorer, Richard Weber, and two accomplished long distance, endurance athletes, Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely, will be attempting a speed record to the South Pole.
Kevin Vallely started his extreme adventure life with skiing the Iditarod, which he says awoke something in him that he will never be able to put to sleep. This experience was followed by, among others, a 2000 km bike ride in the middle of winter and walk through South East Asian jungles retracing the brutal WW2 Sandakan Death March.
ExWebs Correne Coetzer caught up with Kevin during the final days of his preparations for the South Pole.
ExWeb: How and when did your adventure career start? Tell us about your adventure background?
Kevin: I have been a competitive athlete my whole life and an avid outdoors person as well. My first big adventure was skiing across Alaska's Iditarod Trail in 1999. This was a 2000 km journey across the barrens of Alaska and it awoke something in me that I'll never be able to put to sleep. It was physically brutal, extremely scary at times and mentally exhausting but when I skied into Nome 33 days later I realized it was one of the most meaningful things I'd ever done. I haven't stopped since.
ExWeb: What were your most memorable moments/expeditions and why?
Kevin: Both my Alaskan adventures are incredibly memorable because of the sheer remoteness of the wilderness up there. I was also touched by the people who would take such interest in us when you stumbled into town. The communities we would reach are ice locked for most of the year so the folks there appreciated what we had endured to get there. I remember entering the tiny community of Koyukuk on the Yukon River after a particularly nasty day and having an old Inuit woman walk up to me and say: "You will sleep in my son's house, he's not here at the moment" She had never met me before!
I love the jungles of South East Asia and have done a number of expeditions there including the retracing of the Sandakan Death March with 8 Australian soldiers in 2006. This was an incredible journey and profoundly touching. We were the first people to retrace this horrible death march route since it claimed over 2400 lives in WWII and to see the reaction of these young soldiers over 60 years later while trekking through this jungle trail will be with me the rest of my life.
I recently ventured north to King William Island in the Canadian high arctic where myself and my teammates discovered bones from the doomed Franklin expedition. Staring at these white washed bones, over 150 years old, made me reflect on man's need to explore and the danger that often comes with it.
ExWeb: How do you think will your 2000 km Iditarod ski experience and the 2000 km ice biking contribute to how you will experience Antarctica?
Kevin: It gives me a background and a confidence for what's ahead. I think I'm aware what real cold means and have a sense of what to expect but like all adventures I'll plan like crazy but something's going to hit me that I didn't expect. It's all part of the fun.
ExWeb: How do you visualize your expedition on Antarctica? What do you expect to experience? What do you expect to be the most difficult of this expedition?
Kevin: I visualize a trip to Mars to be honest. Antarctica is so utterly remote that it's like going to another planet. I love this idea. We will be traversing a vast desert of snow and ice in one of the remotest regions of the world. It will be a great place for personal reflection and as with most expeditions I'll likely come back a different person.
I suspect the most difficult component will be the solitude. The cold will be awful I'm sure as will the wind but I have 3 and 5 year old daughters at home and I'll be sitting in a tent on Xmas morning when they're opening their gifts back home. This will be the hardest part for me without question.
ExWeb: Are you going to run or ski or do both to the South Pole?
Kevin: I'm a competitive trail runner and cross-country skier but for Antarctica my weapons of choice will be skis. It'll be easier on my aging body.
ExWeb: What life lessons have you learned from your expeditions and what advice would you give to people who wish their dreams could come true?
Kevin: Live your dreams. No one can stop you. Time and time again you hear this refrain but it's the cold truth. Only you can do it so if you want it, make it happen. I never thought I could ski 2000 km across Alaska in 33 days but I did it. When I got to the end I realized anything was possible.
ExWeb: How do you and Ray Zahab know each other?
Kevin: I know Ray through a mutual friend. He mentioned to Ray I'd be a great addition to any of his expeditions in the future and, as a result, Ray asked me to be part of this adventure. Canada's a small place and there aren't many of us doing this sort of thing. Everyone gets to know of everyone else pretty quickly.
ExWeb: What are your plans for the North Pole and when? Who will be the team members? Supported or unsupported?
Kevin: We're still debating supported or unsupported but, to be honest, unsupported seems like the likely option at this point. The idea is to hit the ice (if there's any left) in late February, early March 2010. Our team will be the same as the South Pole with myself, Ray Zahab and Richard Weber making the dash.
(Ed note: The teams South Pole Quest Expedition website is not up yet but will be linked to their impossible2possible website see links below the pictures)
Late November 2008, Veteran Arctic explorer Richard Weber will lead two fellow Canadians and long distance runners Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab on an unsupported attempt from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole.
Kevin Vallely (44) works as a residential architect in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He is married with two young daughters Caitlin (5) and Arianna (3). He loves to draw and paint and his favorite food is Indian. Kevin listens to everything from country to trance, from Johnny Cash to Paul Oakenfold (and will when he is in Antarctica). He was born in 1964 (the year of the dragon, he adds.) For relaxation he goes for a long trail runs in the mountains behind his house.
Some of Kevins previous expeditions:
- The 1999 Iditarod, skiing 2000 km with two team mates form Anchorage to Nome in 33 days;
- A 2000 km bike ride with two friends down the Yukon River and up the Bering Sea to Nome in the middle of winter on frozen ice, recreating a major journey undertaken by two miners in 1901;
- In 2006 he and 8 Aussie soldiers retraced the 250 km Sandakan Death March Route from Sandakan to Renau across Borneo through grueling jungles where British and Australian WW2 Prisoners of War died a brutal death;
- Kevin was part of a Canadian team who successfully completed the Fiji Eco-Challenge. Out of 81 teams that started only 10 would finish and 11 teams finished a shortened course;
- In 2007 he and four team members traveled to King William Island in the hope to find evidence of the 1845 Franklin expedition who disappeared while searching for the North West Passage. They found some bones from the doomed expedition and, says Kevin, made me reflect on man's need to explore and the danger that often comes with it.