Armchair travel, ExWeb interview with James Castrission: “In this book I wanted the reader to live and breathe the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Posted: Aug 01, 2012 02:43 pm EDT

(Correne Coetzer) It was a tough expedition; their bodies were dying on them and they drifted into some pretty dark and oppressive places in their minds, says James Castrission about his Justin Jones’ unassisted, unsupported return journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back.

Before the 2011-12 Antarctic season nobody has done a return journey without resupplies and wind/dog support – and then the two Australians, Cas and Jonesy, as we got to know them, and Norwegian solo skier, Aleksander Gamme hit the ice with the goal to do so.

James, the scribe in the Aussie team, wrote a book, Extreme South, about their experience. In this book, he says, he wants the reader to get inside his head; to live and breathe the good, the bad and the ugly. He is completely transparent, he added, and wants people to understand everything that goes into a big expedition.

James/Cas tells ExplorersWeb about his longtime mate, their SP expedition, previous explorers and the book.

ExplorersWeb: How did you and Jonesy get together as expedition mates and why do you two make a good team?

James: We’ve been best of friends since we were 15 yrs old-wowsers, that’s half my life! We had a common love of getting outside and getting dirty in the Australian bush - constantly pushing our boundaries. After returning from Antarctica Jonesy was the best man at my wedding.

ExplorersWeb: How did you to get on the idea of skiing to the SP and back as you were not actually into skiing?

James: For Jonesy and me, the attraction has always been in attempting a journey or voyage that has not been done before. Why? Because we get to write our own blueprint and try to solve problems that have stumped previous explorers. When it’s a worthy objective, we both find it incredibly inspiring and rewarding to make all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together. One of those pieces for us was to learn to ski!

ExplorersWeb: What topics do you cover in the book?

James: In this book I wanted the reader to get inside my head. To live and breathe the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m completely transparent and want people to understand EVERYTHING that goes into a big expedition.

Too often I get to the end of books and think… yeah right… so what was he really thinking? Do you have sexual fantasies? What is really driving you forward?

I included information about previous forays in Antarctica in order to humanize these mythic ice-men (a task made more difficult by the emotional reservedness of both that time in history and the nature of these men). In doing so, my intention is not to tarnish their memory, it is quite the opposite – I want to bring these great men to life and share their inspiring feats.

Turning around at the South Pole and marching back to the coast has given me a unique understanding into the challenges explorers of yesteryear faced, which I have shared honestly throughout.

ExplorersWeb: What is your opinion about early explorers?

James: Absolute RESPECT. By doing a big expedition down south it also gave us an insight into the hardships that these explorers of yesteryear encountered.

A blister, frostbite, chafe or bowel issues are no easier nor harder 100 years ago… nor is dragging a heavy sled. In the first month of our expedition when we got slammed by blizzard after blizzard no-one was coming to get us. We were on our own.

ExplorersWeb: What were the biggest challenges during this expedition?

James: Over the first month of the expedition we encountered horrendous weather, heavy snow falls and constant blizzards which made our average daily mileage for the for 30 days and abysmal 10km/day.

In order to complete the return journey we needed that average for the entire expedition to sit at 25km/day. This put enormous pressure on the backend of the expedition after we left the Pole. We didn’t know if we were going to be able to pull it off, but we were never going to give up.

ExplorersWeb: You two have done a kayak paddle expedition from Australia to New Zeeland. How did the two expeditions compare?

James: Three years ago when we pulled into the shores of New Zealand and could hardly stand up, I never thought I’d push myself that hard again. But somehow, our 2275km unsupported journey in Antarctica made the Tasman look like a family holiday.

Our bodies were dying on us (we lost a combined weight of 55kg) and we drifted into some pretty dark and oppressive places in our minds. It was a tough expedition.

ExplorersWeb: What lessons have you learned from this SP expedition?

James: We can often achieve much more than we give ourselves credit for.

Turning our back on the Pole we had 27 days to ski over 1100km. That meant we had to average over a marathon a day (42km) for 27 days to get back to Hercules Inlet before the final flight of the season.

It seemed impossible. Somehow we made it back (more dead than alive mind you). Not bad for two blokes that only learnt to ski 18mths ago.

Here’s a few expeditions Cas and Jonesy have shared together:

2007/08 World first unsupported kayak from Australia to New Zealand (3318km over 62 days)
2001/02 First expedition to paddle the entire length of Australia’s longest river (2560km 49 days)
2006 Bass Straight crossing in a double kayak (350km 9 days)
2002-2009: 5 Mountaineering seasons in New Zealand. Summits include: Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring, Malte Brun.
2004-3 day ascent of The Nose (El Capitan) - Yosemite National Park, USA
2009 Attempt to climb Mt McKinley (highest mountain North America)
2010 Mt Kilimanjaro summit
2011-12 Return ski Hercules Inlet 80°S to South Pole 90°S, unassisted unsupported.

To purchase a copy of ‘Extreme South’, please visit http://www.casandjonesy.com.au


Video below: On day 71 of an 89 day expedition down in Antarctica. Cas and Jonesy (well Jonesy in particular) shows off some of the "sick" ski technique they've learnt over the previous 1500km.



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James Castrission: “In this book I wanted the reader to get inside my head”
courtesy James Castrission, SOURCE
James Castrission: “In this book I wanted the reader to get inside my head”
courtesy James Castrission, SOURCE
August Public Speaking Tour in Australia. Book on Cas and Jonesy’s website (see links section)
courtesy Cas and Jonesy, SOURCE
August Public Speaking Tour in Australia. Book on Cas and Jonesy’s website (see links section)
courtesy Cas and Jonesy, SOURCE
(Aleks left, no flag). His decision cost him a supreme world record but had the entire polar community jump to their feet in unanimous acclaim.
courtesy Aleksander Gamme, SOURCE