Continuing our series of interviews with polar explorers and adventurers, such as Dixie Dansercoer and Mikael Strandberg, we have recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Foot, arguably the most self-demanding man to reach the South Pole on foot.
During the 2010 / 2011 summer season in Antarctica, polar explorer Chris Foot made an attempt to become the first person to travel solo, unsupported and unassisted to travel from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back.
Only the select few dare to travel solo and completely unsupported in their individual pursuits of extreme excellence and self accomplishment. Thriving on the inherent risks and dangers coupled with the protracted period of solitude experienced, captures the essence of ultimate human performance.
Interview with Polar Expeditionist, Chris Foot
What drives someone to take on a challenge like this and is it possible for the average hiker to become engaged in polar exploration? In this interview Chris talks about his motivation and his experiences on his South Pole expedition.
CheapTents: What inspired you to get into outdoor pursuits in cold weather regions?
Chris Foot: After spending 14 years in the British Military and working in extreme cold weather environments as well as hostile settings, the progression into the Polar regions seemed like a natural continuation and pursuit of my personal desire to push myself to the absolute limits of mental and physical capacity. I will be about for a while I hope.
CheapTents: What is you biggest weakness?
Chris Foot: Impulsiveness I think, or impatience. Maybe there the same thing?
CheapTents: What has been your worst injury (if any) from outdoor activities and how did it happen?
Chris Foot: I have never had an injury and I touch wood as I say that. I am a very robust individual which you need to be if you have an interest in long haul expeditions with no immediate support mechanisms.
CheapTents: You have just returned from a solo, unsupported trek from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. Why did you set yourself this challenge?
Chris Foot: No one has done it before and I needed to set my heights on something big. A one way trip of 700 miles is not enough to satisfy my personal
needs, in order to squeeze everything out of me the return journey was the only attractive option. However, due to a delayed insertion and a 65 day window, the one way was all I completed in 41 days. Starting with 135kg, this was a good effort but I’m still left wanting.
CheapTents: Unfortunately you were not able to make your planned returned journey from the South Pole back to Hercules Inlet. What were the major deciding factors in abandoning your attempt?
Chris Foot: Abandoning the return was a hard decision but I had a strategy to hit the Pole in 40 days with the 65 day window, instead of the intended 80 days. I knew I would have to be covering around 20-22nm a day before I hit the pole. I was doing less than 18nm a day at this point. It would mean increasing the pace to 25nm a day overnight and I knew I could not sustain that. Making a clean cut at the Pole with a one way, made more sense than trying to crawl back and getting picked up short and still failing.
CheapTents: Do you intend to attempt the return journey to the South Pole again in the future? Do you have plans for other expeditions?
Chris Foot: I intend to be back this season. I know its possible as I carried out the return journey strategy with all the weight to the pole, so I know exactly what needs to be done. I think a 75-78 day window is realistic to get this completed. Arm chair enthusiasts may disagree, as some thought I should of carried on this time.
CheapTents: What were the most difficult challenges during the expedition?
Chris Foot: White outs can be mind numbing and I had around 8-9 full days of it, when you have a really bad IPod, the days drag!
CheapTents: What were the highlights of the expedition?
Chris Foot: 41 days to the Pole Solo with 135-40kg start weight is the only real good thing I take away from this. That was 4-5 days faster than I would of planned. I’m a hard man to please.
CheapTents: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
Chris Foot: My Thermarest chair converter, great to sit back and have a moment whilst supping your brew after a hard day on the ice. I’m not a kit freak, the basics will always get you there if used properly.
CheapTents: You are a supporter of the charity Combat Stress. Why is this particular charity important to you?
Chris Foot: Combat Stress is an essential charity to help former soldiers confront and overcome mental illness i.e. PTSD. I have had an intense military career but luckily remain mentally unscathed by war, others are not so lucky and need this critical assistance.
CheapTents: Any people or sponsors that you would like thank?
Chris Foot: Devere Group, YCO and C3IA Solutions. These people part with the cash and ensure the pursuit of extreme human endeavor can be pushed whilst inspiring others to have a go and raise awareness of vital charities.
CheapTents: Anything else you would like to say?
Chris Foot: Some adventurers voice that Polar travel is only for the select few or specialists. I have read about this crap far too much. Solid Basic training followed by applying basic principles will see you achieve some unthinkable things, in whatever arena you choose to venture.
Many thanks to Chris for providing us with this insight into your South Pole expedition. Good luck with your attempt this season!
If you are interested in finding out more about Chris Foot’s expedition, his dispatch notes can be found on the South Pole expedition website. Chris also has a page on Just Giving for anyone who wishes to make a donation to Combat Stress.
Everyday is hard as expected and the temp has got significantly colder and the wind stronger. I went for a change to mitts due to this, and realized after 37 days of finger gloves what sometimes seems 2nd nature becomes a pain in the ass! Even I nearly fell pray to the classic” I will just whip the mitts off for a second and adjust this” it was a second and no adjustments made, even I know this is the common cause of polar travelers in the dodgy handshake club getting frostbitten rapido! Chris Foot in Antarctica, 2nd Jan 2011.