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Michele Pontrandolfo turning his compass South

Posted: Aug 29, 2013 06:51 pm EDT

(By Correne Coetzer) His biggest dream is to reach the Geographic North Pole, says Pontrandolfo to ExplorersWeb. We got to know the Italian for his expeditions in the Arctic. Since 2000 he has been active in the North, but this year he wants to attempt a crossing of Antarctica; starting at Novolazarevskaya, kite-ski to the Geographic South Pole (90°S) and then head back to the coast to Hercules Inlet.


ExplorersWeb: Why have you decided to go to the South Pole after so many years in the Arctic?


Michele: My first expedition was to Greenland in 2000. That experience has sparked in me an uncontrollable desire to discover the world of the Arctic and to reach the most distant points of our planet. Actually I have done 14 polar expeditions in the Arctic area (except the Hielo Continetal [Ed: Southern Patagonia Ice Cap]) but I had as a last wish, in this order, to reach the following latitudes: North Pole, South Pole and last expedition, to cross Greenland.


For a variety of circumstances I decided to keep the last crossing to the North Pole and to attempt the expedition on Antarctica. Now I'm waiting for the funds to come from corporate sponsors .... it's not a good time to ask for money.


ExplorersWeb: How is your preparation for the South Pole the same and different from the North Pole?


Michele: The training is quite similar, but I have to implement some specific workouts for my legs. Certainly the terrain is different from the Arctic Ocean, but the sleds will also be pulled differently. I am planning the crossing with kites; using the wind as energy for hauling.


Last year I made ​​the crossing from Narsarsuaq to Qaanaaq on Greenland with the sails; it has not been an easy feat as I hoped for. The sails require specific training, especially for the legs, which are stressed for a long time and for many hours a day.


ExplorersWeb: What lessons have you learned in the Arctic, also Greenland last year, that you will take with you to Antarctica?


Michele: Last year I learned to be more careful and painstaking. I have encountered crevasses at the beginning of the glacier. In Greenland, in the middle of the crossing, I stumbled upon an area with 10 crevasses, which has made their mark in my mind. The sleds of Marco Martinuzzi (my partner crossing) entered into one of them and have threatened to end the expedition.


One crevasse in particular had made an impression on me and is shown in one of the attached photos. It was impossible to be avoided and was 20 meters from our camp .... the walls were perfectly parallel and looking inside, were scary.


The wind, the cold, the crevasses, fatigue, isolation and being alone are emotions I felt close, but fear teaches me every year more; stay alert and be ever more careful. Greenland has taught me not to underestimate anything.


ExplorersWeb: What do you see as you biggest challenge on Antarctica?


Michele: My biggest dream is to reach the Geographic North Pole ... and it's the thing I most want in the world ever since I started this long adventure (not easy).


The route for the traverse in Antarctica is very hard, long and really challenging. Starting from ALCI's Novo Base, cross the mountain range of the Queen Maud Land, arrive at the Geographic South Pole and finish the crossing to Hercules Inlet - if all goes well :-)


Being Antarctica, reminds me of all the titanic expeditions of the past where men from the inescapable values​​ gave their lives.


ExplorersWeb: Why are you attracted to the cold places?


Michele: Simply because I love the cold. I like to feel the cold wind on my face, to observe the effects that these elements has on the environment. I always say during my lectures, that the most important thing is the extreme tolerance for polar cold.


When the temperature reaches 40/50 degrees below zero ... and the closest warm place is 700 or 1000 miles away, the difference is made by the head and not only the clothes ... as a some people think.


The faithful companion of any polar expedition is the cold. It never leaves us alone!


ExplorersWeb: What keep you going when conditions get tough?


Michele: When the situation becomes difficult, try to remember the primary objective, stay alive. Thanks to this I can pass even the most demanding situations.


The power is given to me by so many factors, from my family and from my country, Italy.


The concentration and the experience gained over many years of expeditions, allows me to deal with more serenity and safety even during really challenging moments.


ExplorersWeb: What are your favorite gear and clothes?


Michele: For many years used as the first layer Merino Wool, the second layer of Polartec Power Dry and Dernimax the last layer. Down jacket and trousers only for dinner.


Double sleeping bag in plastic. Boots of Crispi, an Italian company that makes the model ideal for any classic Polar crossing and especially a very light shoe with double removable inner wool. As for a sled: Acapulka.


It takes many years of experience to choose appropriate gear for a polar expedition. Thanks to many explorers who I met during some of my expeditions, I was able to learn concepts that are essential for survival in the polar areas.


ExplorersWeb: Do you have a SP mentor?


Michele: I do not have one, but many from past to present. I admire all those men and women who have challenged themselves to reach a great goal.


I do not cite the most famous explorers, who are known to most. I followed Rune Gjeldnes closely (we are same age, 1971), the Belgian, Dixie Dansercoer, Lonnie Dupre, my friend Martin Hartley; mentioning all the modern explorers requires a blank notebook. Nansen and Shackleton, they remain undoubtedly the fathers of the polar exploration world (my own opinion).


As for Italian explorers, I admire Umberto Cagni and Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi. Walter Bonatti remains the primary figure of exploration in Italy.


ExplorersWeb: What is on your to-do list till the beginning of November?


Michele: Training, search for the remaining sponsors and media partners. It's still a lot of very hard work, but I'm very confident.


Gateway port Cape Town, South Africa: 

To ALCI 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 not far from Union Glacier.


A "solo" ski requires unassisted status (therefore no resupplies carried by pilots or car drivers, or anything received from any person) and no following of vehicle tracks (vehicle drivers navigating the way). 





ExWeb Interview with Michele Pontrandolfo, So many times I said to myself, perhaps only the devil goes here.


ExWeb South Pole 2013 interview with Geoff Wilson, "my mind I feel will be the greatest maze of all" (crossing Novo - Geographic South Pole - Hercules Inlet)


Married couple for South Pole 2013-14


Australian science and adventure celebrating Mawson Centenary


ExWeb interview with Juan Menendez Granados: the greatest challenge


ExWeb interview with Eric Philips, three decades of polar experience


ExWeb South Pole kick-off interview: Daniel Burton, return cycle journey


Michele Pontrandolfo's website


Adventure Network International (ANI)

Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE)

Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI)


#polar #novolazarevskaya #herculesinlet # MichelePontrandolfo #kiteski #southpole2013


Greenland's crevasses made an everlasting impression on Michele
courtesy Michele Pontrandolfo, SOURCE
Greenland team mate Marco Martinuzzi nearly lost his sled in a crevasse.
courtesy Michele Pontrandolfo, SOURCE
"The wind, the cold, the crevasses, fatigue, isolation and being alone are emotions I felt close, but fear teaches me every year more; stay alert and be ever more careful."
courtesy Michele Pontrandolfo, SOURCE
"The concentration and the experience gained over many years of expeditions, allows me to deal with more serenity and safety even during really challenging moments."
courtesy Michele Pontrandolfo, SOURCE
Michele Pontrandolfo last year on Greenland, crossing from Narsarsuaq to Qaanaaq, not as easy as he had hoped for, he says.
courtesy Michele Pontrandolfo, SOURCE
"When the temperature reaches 40/50 degrees below zero ... and the closest warm place is 700 or 1000 miles away, the difference is made by the head and not only the clothes."
courtesy Michele Pontrandolfo, SOURCE
Michele Pontrandolfo's Antarctic solo crossing route
courtesy Michele Pontrandolfo, SOURCE