Antarctica Last Degree to South Pole expedition

“Do you want to go to South Pole with me?” asked me suddenly my dad couple days before Christmas eve 2018. It was a for him when he shocked all of us by undergoing difficult trip Last degree to North pole after he just turned 70. It is a big commitment, one has to prepare well physically, learn how to deal with cold (after two years spent on Philippines, I was not really hardy) and extreme weather not even talking about preparing everyone else that I will be selfishly taking big part of holiday. Yes, I would take half of the annual leave not to be with my family, but somewhere in Antarctica. I was not ready for any of this, and I had no idea how to do so. But this is the chance of the lifetime. My dad will turn soon after that 72 and every year is noticed. In matter of fact a question is not really a question, when there is only one answer. “Let’s do this!”

I had a year to prepare myself. And it was just enough. I agreed vacation for one year in advance in work, excused myself from all activities, where I could hurt myself (like football or climbing wall) and I scheduled a ten months long training plan, which I consulted with Petr “Iron man” Lukosz. Then I told myself, that I should include also some mountain climbing, so I signed up to expedition with Pilgrim tours to summit Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

Training started in mid-February. First month I was just stretching. Then since about half of the March I put there quite ambitious targets, but I started slowly. One day a climb 50 floors, another day run 5km and another 1 hour of fitness. I also tried swimming, but I drop that later. I kept this combination, just add there more weight. Since beginning, I was concentrating to develop my discipline by pushing myself to do some exercise every time I plan it. This was part of mind training, which is also important. I pushed myself even I really really didn’t want to. And I pushed myself together 161 times. In November I had 26 training days (some two-phases) in which my daily routine was either to climb 150 floors with 16kg backpack or 7km to 4° hill 10km/h or 1 hour fitness with solid load. All together during the year I climbed 7000 floors with 10kg average backpack, run 420km to 2.5° hill and spent 50 hours in fitness. I felt physically ready… but it’s not enough.

Dad compared to me was much more experienced as he was on the North pole before so he gave me valuable tips of what kind of gear I should buy. Also some advice we got from the agency, who facilitated the trip, but they had knowledge mostly only about US market. I needed to find suitable equivalents on the Czech one. In the end I find everything I needed in Czech except three pieces. The warmest boots on planet Baffin with rating to -70°C, which was available only in USA, but luckily my wife Meiting went to Sacramento meet her cousin, so I let them delivered there and she picked up them for me. Another problem was anorak. Polar jacket, which doesn’t freeze (unlike gore-tex pro shell would freeze). I was searching and searching but couldn’t find one, so I just rented one. And the third thing was a mask over the face. I had balaclava with windshield and neck gaiter, but in the end I bought the USA design, which had around mouth a plastic „breathing piece“. That was excellent choice, because it was easy to breathe through it and didn’t get wet from saliva. Then we were solving various different gear – double base merino layer, fleece, small down jacket, big puffy jacket, mid heavy pants, puffy pants. System of four gloves – base merino light gloves, middle gloves and heavy expedition mittens plus one heavier leather gloves as a backup. I had those last ones most of the times because we didn’t used mittens so much and used neoprene sleeves over the poles, which well protected from the colds. Next different hats, neck gaiter, strong sunglasses against snow blindness and goggles. Different bottles, bowls and cups for food, thermos, sleeping bag (rating -54°C), two mats for good thermal isolation from snow, organizers and so on. It was a lot of gear, but we didn’t want to make any compromises. When we will face the Antarctic plateau tests, it would be too late to regret few saved coins.

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