Today Paul Landry tells ExplorersWeb about the challenges of the different ski/kite routes he had done on Antarctica, why teams would choose one route above the other, what his favorite route is and about his future plans.
ExplorersWeb: What are the challenges of the different routes?
Paul: The standard route from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole does not offer many challenges. It is a well-traveled and documented route with many expeditions on the route every season.
The climb out of Hercules Inlet is a little steep but after a day or two, it levels out and the rest is of the way to the South Pole is steady-as-she-goes-music, day-dreaming, meditative, consistent daily mileage, etc. With so many other possible routes on offering, I am surprised that so many people still choose the Hercules or Messner routes.
The challenges on the Axel Heiberg Glacier to the South Pole are on the Axel Heiberg. The snow is very deep, up to 40 cm in places, so heavy pulks are impossible to haul. So much so that for the entire time traveling up the glacier, we were two people pulling one pulk. The gradient is steep. The crevasses are numerous with some large enough to swallow cathedrals.
I still cant believe Amundsen made it up in four days it took us 12!!! Once on the plateau, the going is pretty straightforward to the Pole. Temperatures are cold, with the occasional windy day.
The Novo to POI route is very isolated. An evacuation on this route, especially in the vicinity of the POI is a logistical nightmare and will financially ruin the insurance company.
There is some danger with crevasses on the Somovoken Glacier. Once on the Polar Plateau, temperatures are usually in the range of -20 to -35Â°C. Add some wind for kiting and the wind chill factor hovers around -50Â°C.
ExplorersWeb: Why would somebody decide to do the one route and not the other?
Paul: As I said earlier, I am still puzzled as to why so many people still choose to go on the standard routes when there is so much more to explore in Antarctica. Maybe it is a question of finance or safety in numbers.
I truly enjoyed the two expeditions I completed from Hercules to the South Pole but the vivid memories I have and the photos on my wall are of other parts of Antarctica. I encourage EPERIENCED adventurers to look at other parts of Antarctica and explore new routes. Such as what Doug Stoup did a couple years ago on the Shackelton South Pole Expedition. There is so much to discover.
ExplorersWeb: Which route is your favorite and why?
Paul: The Axel Heiberg Glacier is my favorite area of Antarctic. Amundsen is my polar mentor and, in my opinion, the best polar explorer that ever walked on the face of the earth. To have the opportunity to follow his route through the Axel Heiberg and on to the South Pole was a dream come through.
I still vividly remember climbing Mount Betty at the entrance to the Axel Heiberg and seeing the cairn that he left (the only remaining evidence of his expedition); shivers flowed through my spine, tears poured out and I was speechless for several minutes. I had a copy of his South Pole book with me and studied every line has we made our way to Butchers Camp. The place is steeped in polar history. And the beauty of the place is beyond my ability to describe in words.
ExplorersWeb: Is there a new route that you see as a future challenge?
Paul: There are many new routes that are future challenges. Unfortunately I am getting older and even though my mind is very active, my body continually reminds me that I need to slow down a little.
So Ive past the torch to Eric & Sarah (my children) and other young experienced adventurers; it is their turn to write the next chapter in polar travel. Ive had my turn and I am very, very fortunate to have traveled to so many beautiful places in Antarctica. Life has been very good to me.
There are some beautiful long routes remaining to be done in Eastern Antarctica.
-A full crossing from Novo to Commonwealth Bay or Dumont DUrville.
-Novo to the POI to the Geomagnetic Pole (Vostok) and on to Mirnyy on the coast.
-A partial circumnavigation of the eastern coast.
ExplorersWeb: Do you have any future plans for Antarctica? Or anywhere else?
Paul: After seven seasons in Antarctica, I am taking a year off my mother is getting old and I want to spend Christmas with her. I plan to return in 2011/12 to guide a South Pole expedition and afterwards do a personal kiting expedition somewhere in eastern Antarctica.
I am heading north to the east coast of Baffin Island in April for a kiting and climbing expedition in what will soon be known as the Yosemite of the Arctic the Sam Ford Fiord area. In between, I am busy with my polar and kite training center on Lac des Deux-Montagnes an hour north of Montreal.
[Ed note: Click here for Part 1 of the interview The Russians were super excited to see the photos of Lenin]
Apart from his Antarctic expeditions, Paul Landry has also done four expeditions to the North Pole, three across Greenland, a 4000 km dogsled journey across Baffin Island and a dogsled journey to the Magnetic North Pole.
Paul has been worked for Outbound Schools for 10 years, the last four as Program Director for Canadian Outward Bound Wilderness School. After that he moved to Baffin Island. When his children Eric and Sarah left home to attend school he started guiding expeditions to the North and South Poles. Paul has a polar consulting company.
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