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ExWeb interview with Frédéric Dion, invention and modification for the South Pole of Inaccessibility

Posted: Nov 03, 2014 06:00 pm EST


(By Correne Coetzer) Arriving at the South Pole of Inaccessibility (POI) is not his one-and-only goal of this expedition, solo kite-skier Frédéric Dion told ExplorersWeb over a mid-morning snack of bacon, eggs and a thick milkshake in a rainy Cape Town and cloud covered Table Mountain. “I have already eaten breakfast,” he said when ordering, "but I read on your website that I have to gain weight before the expedition.”




Frédéric explained about his destination, “There will not be fire works. In fact, I will be all alone. There will be nobody.” Except for the bust of Lenin.


“For me success lies in every step that I am taking. Therefor there are hundreds of successes, the Pole of Inaccessibility only gives direction.”


Frédéric and his wife, a psychologist, have thought of a term for this "art of breaking the objective up in smaller units", Unit Thinking


“The smaller parts, or units, are closer and easier to reach. It also brings you to the present moment and we only have control over the present, the now.”


To remind him of that, Frédéric has a special symbol, a diagonal arrow with four vertical lines dividing the arrow in units, that he has sewn onto his clothes and drawn onto his gear.


Inventions and modifications


"I am an inventor,” Frédéric said to ExplorersWeb with a big smile. “That is fun. I have modified or invented nearly all my clothes and gear, to make it lighter, more efficient and faster.”


His sled is unique. It is "homemade" from a kayak. It is strengthened not to get damaged by the hard sastrugi while crossing them at high speeds in the wind. Great care is taken in the design that the sled doesn’t flip over while kiting.


The sled also doubles up as a tent. Frédéric wanted to use only the sled-tent during the expedition, but consultant Paul Landry, who has kite-skied the Novo to POI route in 2007, persuaded him to bring a Hilleberg Nammatj 2 gt as well. “Paul and also Matty McNair says the double layered Hilleberg will be much warmer."


Still not giving up on his sled-tent, Frédérick then designed it in such a way that he uses the Hilleberg poles to set it up. "Now I have two tents and only three tent poles. Where I definitely will use the sled-tent is when I want to sleep for a short while. It is fast to put it up and everything is handy.”


With the 24-hour daylight conditions on Antarctica, kite-skiers does not necessarily stay with the 24-hour clock because they have to be on their skis when the wind is favorable for kiting. Power naps and short eating and drinking breaks are then re-energizing.


Frédéric assured Exweb, “you can’t imagine how much I had to think about my inventions and modifications and sew it and try it.”


Among other modifications are his little backpack that he will wear every day with emergency and rescue gear and his pants, which got padded knees and back side and a broad neoprene belt to hold it up instead of braces. “The padded knees are useful when I kneel on the ice, and when I kite to protect my knees from frostbite and in case I fall.”


"Most of my clothes are from Mountain Hardwear. I modified many pieces to reach my own needs.”


Frédéric also made his own overboots for his Scarpa Rush skiboots. 


Survival course


As part of his training, Frédéric decided to stretch his limits by going outdoor in winter for four days on Mistassini Lake (the biggest natural lake in Quebec) without food, water, extra clothes, a sleeping bag or a tent.  


He didn’t drink anything the first three days and didn’t eat all four days. With only the clothes he had on his body, he slept in a self-built snow shelter. "I thought I would sleep warm in my down jacket and boots, on a mattress made of sticks, but after half an hour I woke up feeling my feet freezing. Rubbing didn’t help warming them so I had to go outside and run up and down to warm my feet.” This is how he spent his nights trying to sleep and keep warm.


Frédéric’s watchdog, Nanook, went with - with enough food for him to eat. He had no problems sleeping in the snow cave and thought running around at night was great fun.


What Frédéric learned from this survival exercise is, "if you don’t eat, you have less energy and your body don’t have heat.”


But for this Novo to POI kite-ski he has enough food for 65 days, he assures. His wife, Caroline, and friends have prepared his food. She and his two daughters, Adélie (6) and Danaëlle (3) fully support him. 


"In fact it was my wife who suggested I go on expedition to Antarctica. We respect each others passions. I supported her in achieving her doctorate in psychology.   


Frédéric says he has an "emotional toolbox" with him, his wife’s food and stuff that his daughters packed, which he can smell to bring happy memories. "For example pine needles which will bring back memories of camp fires with my wife and daughters and my daughters shampoo.”


The Canadian’s sled weighs 127 kg and he will carry 10 kilograms on his back.


The expedition


He approached several people for advice, "Paul Landry, Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry, the satellites, and others mentors. I learned from them about crevasses, storms, extreme cold, facing the winds for the first 250 km. The biggest danger is my actions in the field.”


For kiting Frédéric will be using Ozone Chrono 60 m lignes, Conceptair Smart Evo12.5 and 6.5 both on 30 m, and as skis, G3 zenoxide C105 plus one spare C83. Front bindings are Dynafit and rear are homemade.


When the French-Canadian is not on expedition or out on an adventure (especially rafting) with his wife and daughters, he is a full time speaker at between 100 and 200 conferences a year, around the world.


Frédéric was scheduled for November 4th Ilyushin-76 flight from South Africa to Novolazarevskaya, but due to bad weather on Antarctica the flight is postponed to November 8th. The flights to Novo departs 23h30 from Cape Town.


Ten years ago Frédéric started kiting and last February, on the frozen lake, Lac St-Jean in Canada, he decided to see how far he could ski in 24 hours. With a team keeping an eye on him and two GPS’s, he kite-skied 600 km in 23h15m. "I lost the wind in the last hour,” he told ExWeb. Eric McNair-Landry and Sebastian Copeland did 595 km on Greenland. They were pulling sleds in the midnight sun. I wasn't pulling a sled but I had do half of it in the dark. Can we compare? Still it was fun!”








Unassisted Supported

(no resupplies, wind-assisted)


Faysal Hanneche (FR, solo traverse Novo - GSP- Hercules Inlet)


Frédéric Dion (CA, solo, kite-ski Novo - POI)


Assisted Unsupported


Traverse Messner - GSP - Hercules Inlet

Stéphanie Gicquel(FR)

Jérémie Gicquel (FR) 

Are Johansen NO 


Newall Hunter (UK, Messner to GSP)


Adventure Consultants team

Hercules Inlet route

Einar Torfi Finnsson (IS, guide)

Hugh Dougall 

Bill Morrison

Tim Garrett


ANI Messner Route team 

Robert Smith (guide)

Paula J Reid (UK)

Arabella Slinger (UK)

Julian Thomas (UK)

Vincent Piguot (Switzerland)


PolarExplorers team

Messner route

Keith Heger (CA guide) 

Ian Evans (CA) 

Andy Styles (UK) 

Bradley Cross (UK)


Assisted Supported


Tractor expedition (Novo to GSP)

Matty McNair (US, leader)

Manon Ossevoort (NL)

Sarah McNair-Landry (CA)


Non-coastal start


Outer Edge snow sailer (AU)

return journey

Polar Plateau South of Novo - GSP (- POI) - Novo

Kristan Ficher (leader)

Charles Werb

Adrian McCallum

Jon Moody



ExplorersWeb Interviews


ExWeb interview with Ian Evans, skier with PolarExplorers on Messner Route


ExWeb interview with Newall Hunter, solo South Pole skier: "pretty hectic last preparations"


French married couple and Norwegian adventurer for South Pole crossing: ExWeb interview with couple


ExWeb interview with Tractor Girl, Manon Ossevoort: tractor passed tests and arrived in Cape Town


ExWeb post South Pole interview with Fagan couple


Lessons from a yachtswoman: Paula Reid to ski to the South Pole


Geoff Wilson’s Top 5 South Pole Tips


ExWeb interview with Faysal Hanneche, "I learned to be patient on Antarctica"


Rules and Regulations in No-Man's Land: ExWeb interview with ALE's Steve Jones


Mount Sidley, Antarctica’s highest volcano accessible to climbers


Polar Technology


Rules and Regulations in No-Man's Land: ExWeb interview with ALE's Steve Jones


Polar Tech Week Roundup: 2014/2015 Recommendations


Your Smart Phone going Global: Review of Iridium Go


ExWeb Special: 2014 Polar Tech Roundtable Conference


HumanEdgeTech Expedition Technology (e.g.CONTACT software)




2014-14 South Pole list - Updated


AdventureStats and Rules of Adventure


Antarctica news bits


Mission to Mars: Stage 2 Report


A journey to the South Pole in a wheelchair


Antarctica video trilogy


Video: Second 2012-13 Ilyushin-76 flight lands at Union Glacier, Antarctica


NASA Worldview


Current Polar Sea Ice Situation (Sept 2014)


Animated map of global weather conditions


New satellite map of Antarctica freely available


Antarctic ski/climb/pole/science Logistic Operators


Adventure Network International (ANI and ALE)


Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI and TAC)



Gateway port Cape Town, South Africa: 

To ALCI /TAC base camp Novolazarevskaya / Novo 

70° 46’37”S, 011° 49’26”E 


Gateway port Punta Arenas, Chile, South America: 

To ALE/ANI base camp, Union Glacier 

79° 45'S, 083° 14'W


Hercules Inlet is located at 80°S near Union Glacier, 1130 km from the Geographic South Pole.

The Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (Messner) start is 890 km in a straight line from the Pole.

The bottom of the Leverett Glacier, at the Ross Ice Shelf, is located at about 85ºS, a distance of 550 km from the Geographic South Pole.

Axel Heiberg Glacier start is also located at the Ross Ice Shelf and 535 km in a straight line from the South Pole.


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.


South Pole of Inaccessibility 2011-12 position: 

S82°06.696, E055°01.951

Geographic South Pole: 90 degrees South













Frederic Dion in Cape Town with his sled, which is already on the Ilyushin-76 ready for the flight to Novo, weather permitting now Nov 8th instead of 4th.
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
Frederic has a 127 kg sled and a 10 kg backpack.
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
"The biggest danger is my actions in the field.”
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
The sled can be used as a tent.
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
The Unit Thinking logo visible on the pants with well padded knees.
courtesy Correne Erasmus-Coetzer, SOURCE
Tech securely packed for his backpack - sat phone, cameras, iPad (yellow and red cover), batteries, inReach.
courtesy Correne Erasmus-Coetzer, SOURCE
Ironman competitor.
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
The family enjoys to go on rafting trips.
courtesy Frederick Dion, SOURCE
Antarctica ski and kite routes.
courtesy Map compiled by ExplorersWeb, SOURCE