(Correne Coetzer) On January 12th, 2013, Roland Krueger became the first German to ski solo to the South Pole, which implies he had no outside assistance during his expedition.
He started 50 days earlier at the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner Start) with a sled weighing 130kg as he planned a crossing of the continent. In 87°S the mix of monster sastrugi and whiteouts were very difficult and he even had to crawl at times, says Roland. This slowed him down and he had to give up his plan to reach his dream destination, Axel Heiberg Glacier at the Ross Ice Shelf.
Nevertheless he was highly motivated as he wanted to do this trip for a long time and his body stood up well, he says.
Last night Roland took time to tell ExWeb more about his expedition. Today he was picked up by ALE from the South Pole and flew back to Union Glacier in the DC-3 together with a Last Degree ski team.
ExplorersWeb: You have planned for a crossing to Axel Heiberg without resupplies and therefore had all your food and fuel and whatever was needed in your sled. For how many days did you provide food for and how much did your sled weigh?
Roland: I carried supplies for 64 days with the sledge weighing in at 130kg.
ExplorersWeb: When did you realize that a crossing would not be possible and why?
Roland: Around mid 87°S and into 88°S when I lost too much time. The mix of monster sastrugi and whiteout were very difficult and I even had to crawl at times. As I could not see the sastrugi and the sledge took a lot of huge hits and I managed to tear off the runners. It bordered on frustration…
ExplorersWeb: What sled did you use? How well did your sled do with the load and the rough terrain?
Roland: Acapulka. My experienced with it was very, very good. But the beating and freak whiteout sastrugi tore the runners off. I cannot blame the sledge. And I hear others have broken their sledges too?
ExplorersWeb: You have done this route before, how did it compare to this year regarding terrain and conditions?
Roland: Well the last time the team took a much more eastern route. This time I travelled much more to the west. It was quite a bit longer, but for safety, as I was alone, I wanted to round the crevasse areas.
On this route I ran into some severe sastrugi fields, and as I have not had time to compare notes with other expeditions I do not know how much was it the route and how much was down to the conditions this year.
But last time, while we used 34 days, we had generally hard and fast surface. This time I encountered very many sastrugi; often higher than myself. On top of that I had several snowfalls – or ‘fish-glue’ falls to use Amundsen’s term. Around 84°S it was so deep my sledge was on its belly, making for very hard work. But the ALE people here at the Pole hints of an exceptional season where many has hit trouble and used much longer than planned. We’ll see.
ExplorersWeb: Did you have any other equipment breaking?
Roland: I had a tent pole tear through in one of the first big winds I had, but I managed to fix it when it calmed down. Other than the runners, nothing at all. I am very happy with everything.
ExplorersWeb: 5 Favorite items in your sled?
Roland: Five? Every single item was a favorite! I needed every little bit; I had no blind passenger. BUT my sleeping bag is maybe closest to my heart…
ExplorersWeb: What was your estimated time to ski from the Pole to the bottom of Axel Heiberg?
Roland: I had estimated 20-22 days including weather and rest days.
ExplorersWeb: Hunger and pain are synonym with long distance polar skiing. Were you carving any particular food? If yes, what? How did your body handle the physical punch? Chilblains? Frostbite?
Roland: Nothing, not even one blister. I had some stomach issues on the last leg to the Pole, but other than that the body stood up well. But as the trip was supposed to be long I held back and took great care. I probably could have pushed harder and gained 2 or maybe 3 days, but I felt that could have cost me in the longer run. I had a plan and stuck to it.
ExplorersWeb: And your mind? How did you keep yourself motivated?
Roland: Good question. And really difficult to say... But you know, I really wanted to do this trip for so long that I had plenty of motivation in stock.
ExplorersWeb: What are the biggest lessons you have learned this year?
Roland: Be patient, don’t over estimate yourself, free mind and be flexible. Do not take anything for granted, as Antarctica always seems to have an ace up her sleeve. And this year it seems she produced a pretty hard year.
But patience was everything. She threw things at me from day one, and you need not to panic or change the approach you have worked on for so long, just keep going, go through the different stages of mind and body and aim far. I needed resources for other side.
ExplorersWeb: Average time skied per day.
Roland: 7 ½ to 8 ½. I was strict in trying to keep 12 hr of tent and rest time. I think it was a very important rule for keeping the body happy.
ExplorersWeb: Start date Nov 23? Why specifically this date and nor earlier?
Roland: I flew out the 23rd, but did not start till the 24th November. It was the most fitting flight and I did the planning with ALE. It was the 3rd possible flight in. In hindsight an extra 10days could have been nice, but earlier starts usually throw up other (weather) obstacles.
Place of residence: Munich
Work: I have taken a 4 month sabbatical, will be at work in February
Family: Married with 2 kids
Hobbies: Running, I am a dedicated long distance runner
Favorite music: lots but it has to have passion
Favorite Food: At this very moment, having just been treated at the ALE tent after arriving: spaghetti bolognaise! But not dressed in Gore-Tex it is sushi.
Best book book: Heinrich Mann der Untertan / 100 years of Solitude / Gabriel Garcia Marques
Best adventure yet: This one!
Dream destination: Axel Heiberg
Roland Krueger became the first German to ski to the Geographical South Pole unassisted and unsupported in the year 2005. As part of an international team of five he managed to ski 900km in 34 days which made the expedition one of the fastest expeditions ever to ski from the Ronne Ice Shelf to 90 degrees South at that time. He skied across Greenland in the year 2002 and conducted several expeditions in Africa - crossing the Sahara desert. He is a dedicated cross-county skier and long distance runner having completed, amongst others, the Marathon des Sables, a 230km ultra marathon in the Moroccan Desert the year 2000.
An Industrial Designer by trade Roland Krueger started his career as an Automobile Designer. He moved on to General Management after obtaining and MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau/France and has lived and/or worked in the US, France, Germany, Singapore and Japan.
German skier Roland Krueger at the South Pole
Roland Krueger's blog
ExplorersWeb South Pole Expedition List
AdventureStats Polar Statistics
AdventureStats Special: What is Solo?
Polar Rules of Adventure
The start point at the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner route) covers a distance of 890 km in a straight line to the Geographic South Pole at 90°S.
1 nautical mile (nm) = 1.852 km
1 nm = 1.151 miles
1 knot = 1.852 km/h
1 degree of Latitude is 110 km / 60 nm / 70 miles
Sastrugi are hard snow bumps and can be as high as 10 feet
A nunatak is a top of a mountain visible above the snow surface.
Geographic South Pole: 90 degrees South
Gateway port Punta Arenas, Chile, South America:
To ALE/ANI base camp, Union Glacier
(79° 45'S, 083° 14'W).
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