(Interview) Solo South Pole skier Sebastien Lapierre: “Mind over body”

Arriving from Hercules Inlet: “They informed me that it would be very cold so my plan was to ski only 5-6 hours on the last two days. But after 2 hours, I saw the Amundsen-Scott Station far away. That was it, I knew I would get there on that day”

“All this experience was about finding out how strong I can be mentally,” said Sébastien Lapierre to Explorersweb/Pythom. The fire fighter is now back home in Quebec, but in Antarctica he didn’t have to fight fires. “When I got back to Union Glacier, they compared me to someone who was just coming back from the mall.” Preparation is the key, Sébastien says, furthermore he focused on the positive things, took care of his body, and had no problems with his clothes and equipment. He found navigation “quite exhausting” on white-out days. “I was a bit jealous of the groups who are able to rotate on the navigation position, hahahah.”

Sébastien arrived at the Geographic South Pole on January 9, 2017, after 43 days on the Hercules Inlet route (42 days and 5 hours to be precise, he says). In a straight line, the distance is 1130 km. He became the first Canadian to do a solo expedition to the South Pole (no outside assistance), according to the Rules of Adventure at AdventureStats.

Here goes:

Explorersweb/Pythom: You did quite good miles from the start. Nearing the end, you said in a message to us you didn’t want to race it, just taking your time and enjoying it. Not racing, but you still covered good miles per day. What contributed to your effectiveness on the ice?

Sébastien: I think that preparation is the key. I put a lot of energy and time to get ready. I didn’t suffer from any injury, nor frostbite because I didn’t rush it and I took care of myself on the ice. I wanted to enjoy my trip from the beginning so I focused on the positive things. They (Union Glacier staff) even gave me the reputation of being the happiest man in Antarctica!

Tell us about your arrival at the South Pole please?

Sébastien: It was a bit improvised, hahah. I wasn’t supposed to arrive on that day. They informed me that it would be very cold so my plan was to ski only 5-6 hours on the last two days. But after 2 hours, I saw the Amundsen Scott Station far away. That was it, I knew I would get there on that day, so after a 34 km the previous day, I skied another 30km that day to reach the Pole.

At the NGO campsite, Hannah Mckeand was quite surprised to see me because Union Glacier had been unable to inform her of my arrival. I just told her that I was going to touch the pole and that I would be right back.

I went straight for the Geographic Pole and when I touched the marker, everything I’ve done for the last 42 days came back to me and a mix of emotions just hit me. It was so intense I could barely speak. Tears were freezing on my cheeks, thinking about what I just realized (becoming the first Canadian to ski solo) while reading the big signboard about Amundsen and Scott’s journey 105 years ago.

How did you find the weather / white-outs and surface conditions?

Sébastien: I was more prepared for headwinds and cold so I found the white-outs days quite difficult. I got about 7-8 of those, while I was expecting about 3-4. As for the rest, it was about what I expected. I had very good clothing designed by Kanuk, especially for this trip so the cold has never been a problem.

How did you find navigating all the time, only you?

Sébastien: As for navigating alone, it was not too bad on clear days. But quite exhausting on white-out days. I was a bit jealous of the groups who are able to rotate on the navigation position, hahahah.

Did you have any equipment that broke, or any medical or frostbite issues?

Sébastien: Nothing at all. Apparently I made good choices in terms of equipment. As for medical issues, nothing at all. Even the doctors in UG were surprised by how good I was feeling. At my last medical report, I said I was starting to feel a little bit tired by the end of my days and the doctor said: “well finally you are human! ” hahaha. When I got back to UG they compared me to someone who was just coming back from the mall.

What were your favorite items in your sled?

Sébastien: My inReach device was quite appreciated since I was able to give news and get messages from home. My Thindown Jacket was another piece of equipment that worked very well and kept me warm during my breaks. Thindown is a brand new (and the only) down fabric that I tested during this trip.

How was your food? Did you have cravings?

Sébastien: Food was ok. Had quite enough so I didn’t suffer from being hungry. But after a few weeks already I was just so tired of the nuts. I was already dreaming about fresh fruits and good meat!

Tell us about your daily routine please?

Sébastien: Wake up time was around 6:30, then by 7:45 I was on my skis. I was skiing an hour followed by a 10 min break for 4 hours. Then it was soup time (15min break) and in the afternoon I was doing 5 sessions of 50 minutes followed by 10 minutes break. But in the last 2 degrees I was mostly doing only 4 sessions in the afternoon, managing to cover as much distance that what I was doing with 5 session. So I was stopping around 6 pm, setting up the camp, then cooking, eating and melting my water for the next day. At 8:20 pm it was my sked call, then I was texting home and finally went to bed at around 10:30 pm.

Three tips for future skiers?

Sébastien:

1. Take care of your body. Your body is what will get you to the Pole, so better have it in good condition.

2. Focus on the positive things and flush the bad ones

3. It is a mental game, so prepare your mental. Mind over body!

What did you miss, and what kept you going on the ice?

Sébastien: I missed my kid and girlfriend. I had a recording of my boy on my iPod telling me not to give up. And I knew that the sooner I would get to the Pole, the sooner I would see them again.

You were quite emotional when you arrived back home (video on the Internet). How did this intense experience affect you?

Sébastien: I was really happy to see my family back, and by getting back to the civilization, I realized a bit more what I just realized. All this experience was about finding out how strong I can be mentally. The result being quite positive I think I can now transmit a lot to my kids.

Previous/Related on Explorersweb/Pythom

Canadian Sébastien Lapierre to attempt solo ski to South Pole (Interview) (2016)

Northwest Passage interview with Sebastien Lapierre, no waiting for perfect conditions (2013)

Mike Horn, Sébastien Lapierre and Reedy Team at the South Pole – Updated

What is solo?

AdventureStats Polar Statistics

2016-17 Antarctica Expedition List

Interactive Map: Antarctica Skiing Routes

Latest news about Polar skiers still on the ice – updated

Sébastien’s website

Facebook

#antarctica #skisouthpole #sebastienlapierre

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