In less than a months time Ryan Waters and Cecilie Skog will be skiing 1300 km unassisted, unsupported from Berkner Island to the South Pole, and weather and time permitting, go beyond the Pole.
Previously setting his goals on 8000-meter mountains, Ryan now shifted his goals to the ice fields.
In an interview with ExWeb he told Correne Coetzer why the ice fields, what clothes they will be wearing, what their preparation involved, what challenges they could expect on this less traveled route and why he and Cecilie make a good team.
ExplorersWeb: You have quite a long journey from Berkner Island to the South Pole, and time permitting beyond. Weather permitting, when is your planned start date and when is the official season cutoff date?
Ryan: Our plan is to start on November 12th. We would prefer to get an earlier start but due to the logistics in Antarctica this season, that is the earliest flight opportunity. The end date would fall in the last days of January, hopefully around the 27th.
ExplorersWeb: How many days do you plan for? How many to the Pole and how many possible beyond?
Ryan: If the weather goes our way we should have 75 days to go on a nice ski trip there in Antarctica, it would be great to reach the pole in about 55 days or so. With the remaining days we can go visit the Axel Heiberg Glacier.
ExplorersWeb: You are going to ski unassisted, unsupported. How heavy will your sleds be?
Ryan: We think the sleds will be around 130 kg each.
ExplorersWeb: You have many years of mountain experience. What made you decide to ski across Greenland?
Ryan: I was interested in the polar journeys and excited about taking on a different type of challenge. It is quite fun to go out and try different adventures and visit new landscapes. I found it very interesting to see the similarities and the differences between mountaineering and long ski trips.
It is a nice change to be constantly moving and not waiting in base camp for good weather. As you ski you feel stronger each day as opposed to getting weaker on high mountains, just a nice change of pace.
ExplorersWeb: What about the skiing was so attractive that you now want to take on the challenge to the Poles?
Ryan: Well it is fun to get into skiing more for one thing and it is very cool to take all the skills you have learned from your past outdoor experience and apply it to new goals. I have enjoyed learning about the polar pioneers and discovered that these folks were unbelievably determined and adventurous, is has been inspiring for me in my own desire to seek out new destinations.
ExplorersWeb: Tell us about the clothes that you will be wearing pls.
Ryan: We will use Devold wool clothing under Bergans of Norway outerwear. Most of the days we hope to wear several layers of the wool underwear and Bergans is specially making a lighter version of their Dermizax Jacket and Pants for us.
This system is nice while skiing and creating enough heat to stay warm. When things get really cold we have Bergans down vests to ski in and we will have down expedition parkas for breaks and making camp.
ExplorersWeb: What did your preparation involve?
Ryan: Like most people training for this type of trip, we have done a lot of pulling tires to simulate the weight of pulling our heavy sleds. Most of that was on the beach, pulling tires with sand bags in them. Also lots of cardio work and core training. Putting on additional weight with fat and muscle has been an emphasis as well. We will need the extra kilos to fend off the cold for as much time as possible before it burns off.
We got a lot of great information from Norwegian polar explorers and went to visit noted glaciologist Charles Swithinbank in Cambridge, to discuss our route and visit the Scott Polar Museum.
ExplorersWeb: The Berkner Island route has quite few challenging areas. What do you think will be your biggest challenge?
Ryan: I think the most interesting part from Berkner to the South Pole will be transitioning from the Ronne Ice Shelf onto the mainland Antarctica. Here will will have a significant climb to gain the plateau and be navigating to find our intended route up through the Dufek Massif mountains where there are crevasse fields and other obstacles. Should be fun and looks amazingly beautiful from all our research.
ExplorersWeb: What is each one of yours' strong points that will contribute to the teamwork? How do you complement each other?
Ryan: Well.... Cecilie is a strong skier and I can pull a heavy sled... ha!
Ed note: Click here for an interview with Cecilie Skog about their food, special skis she has designed, what she has learned from her own previous expeditions and her feelings the past 15 months since her husband and fellow skier and climber, Rolf Baes death on K2.
American Ryan Waters and Norwegian Cecilie Skog will be skiing unassisted, unsupported from Berkner Island to the South Pole, a distance of 1300 km, and time and weather permitting beyond the Pole to Axel Heiberg Glacier. They will be sending dispatches over Contact 4.0 from Antarctica.
Ryan Waters was born in 1973 and lives in Boulder, Colorado. He did extensive climbing and guiding work in the Himalayas of Nepal and Tibet as well as the Karakoram Range in Pakistan. Ryans hobbies are photography, climbing, drinking coffee and travel. His favourite movie is Casino Royale and his favo food, Thai and Mexican, but he says his favourite music is constantly changing.
Ryan is a veteran of nine 8000-meter peak expeditions, including three expeditions to Mt. Everest, reaching the summit of both the Tibet and Nepal sides of the mountain. He has guided three expeditions to Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world and led trips to K2, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum II.
He developed a passion for the Andes Range of South America and was based in Argentina for several years. During this time he led over 30 expeditions in the mountains of Chile, Argentina and Ecuador. Ryan spent extensive time in the backcountry of South America working as a mountaineering instructor for Patagonia Outward Bound.
A recent unsupported ski crossing of Greenland has helped fuel the desire for upcoming ski expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic.
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