A Quebec man has become the first person to reach the geographic South Pole by kite ski.
Frédéric Dion, 37, accomplished the feat on Christmas Eve after travelling 3,000 kilometres since Nov. 9. He has now been on his adventure for 48 days in an attempt to become the first person to cross Antarctica solo through its centre point. On Dec. 15, he reached the continent's centre, called the South Pole of Inaccessibility (Antarctica's most remote point), becoming the first person to do so alone. The geographic South Pole, which he reached nine days and 1,000 kilometres later, is one of two points (the other being the North Pole,) where the Earth's rotation axis meets the surface of the Earth.
Mr. Dion, who acts as a spokesperson for the Scouts Association of Canada, is now trying to reach the opposite side of the continent from where he started. He spoke to The Globe and Mail, mid-journey, on Saturday to share his thoughts on his experience.
Why did you set out on this journey to reach the South Pole by kite ski?
I am an adventurer and Antarctica is the continent of adventure. It's the highest continent, the windiest, the driest. Being here and doing that kind of thing was a dream for me. Kite skiing has been my favourite sport for 10 years.
What's an average day like for you during your trek?
It's always different. In a normal day, I'm waking up with the wind. It can be like 2 or 4 a.m. It takes me about an hour to get ready. I'm melting snow for the day. I do two litres of snow, breakfast and I pack my stuff. At the beginning, it was like two hours doing this but now it's more like an hour, maybe faster. I'll kite for as long as the wind is good, or as long as my body can do it. Yesterday it was 13 hours of kiting. I do small breaks, like five minutes, to eat and drink. I can't do more than that because it's very cold. At the end of the day I put the tent up and melt snow for the evening, do my dinner. I brought 65 days of food, which has become less than that because in the sled it's moving a lot and I got my food crushed. I lost maybe 15 days of food.
What's been your greatest challenge?
Mentally, it was being far away from my daughters, my wife. It's been very hard for me. Fighting a blizzard or doing long hours or the freezing cold temperatures – I got close to -60 with the wind chill – in some ways I like it. It's a challenge to face it. But being far from who I love the most has been very hard for me. It took me like three weeks to get through it and now it's better. I know they're well at home, they're happy, they're waiting for me, so I'm stronger mentally now than I was three weeks ago, that's for sure.
What training and experience prepared you for this?
Training is part of my life. It's been part of my life since I'm a professional adventurer. I ran in the last years more than 50 marathons. I did a lot of kite skiing. I did 24 hours of kite skiing, more than 600 kilometres in a day. My training is between seven hours a week to 50 hours a week.
What's the next step in your adventure?
I reached the South Pole. Now I'm on my way to Hercules Inlet. I added 1,130 kilometres to my trip, now it's still 900 kilometres [to go]. If I complete it, I'll be the first person in the world who crossed Antarctica solo by its centre. I'm also the first person in the world who reached the centre solo, who did the distance between the centre and South Pole solo. If I complete this distance too I will be the first one to do so.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Mr. Dion worked for Scouts Canada. He is a spokesperson for Scouts du Canada. This version has been corrected.