South Pole traverse skiers, Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel: the race begins halfway

South Pole traverse skiers, Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel: the race begins halfway

Posted: Mar 02, 2015 07:41 am EST

 

(By Correne Coetzer) With 2 days to spare before their pick-up deadline, French long-distance-running married couple, Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel, completed a 2,020 km traverse of Antarctica from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf to Hercules Inlet, via the Geographic South Pole (90ºS), in 74 days. 

 

The first 40 days, skiing uphill to the South Pole at app. 2,800m, the couple, together with team mate Are Johansen, averaged app. 23 km per day south to the Pole. Then turning their compass north and 1,130km to go, the race started, Stéphanie and Jérémie explained to Explorersweb. “As it is the case when running ultra trails, the race only begins when you have done at least half of the distance.”

 

Exweb caught up with them in France. They tell about their biggest challenges, how that experienced the “very long effort in an extreme environment”, gave three top tips for a traverse, and tell about the effective polar skirt, which is growing in popularity.

 

 

Explorersweb: Was this traverse what you thought it would be?

 

Stéphanie and Jérémie: The traverse was indeed pretty much as we expected it to be: a very long effort in an extreme environment. Over the past year we had tried to focus our preparation on these two aspects as much as possible - besides all logistics and financing aspects of such an expedition, plus the projects we wanted to build with some schools in France and our support to the Charity Association Petits Princes.

 

The traverse was a very long effort over 2,000 kms and we anticipated and got prepared for our endurance and patience to be tested. We started with shorter skiing days, progressively from 5 to 8 hours over the first week and then keep this schedule until we reached the South Pole. It can be frustrating sometimes because you feel good and would like to do more. But as it is the case when running ultra trails, the race only begins when you have done at least half of the distance. And because we had 76 days maximum to reach the South Pole and get to Hercules Inlet, this had to be a race.  

 

So we reached the South Pole using 40 days - which makes a daily average of app. 23 kms. We took two ‘rest’ days at the South Pole - not much rest actually as we worked on the equipment for the second part of the expedition, did some filming and photos for our sponsors, answered to media inquiries, exchanged information with schools in France, but no skiing on Christmas Eve!

 

Then with 1,129 kms to cover in order to reach Hercules Inlet within a maximum of 34 days, that was when the race started. We increased progressively the daily duration of the effort - up to 12 hours of ski every day at the end of the expedition, and we reached Hercules Inlet from the South Pole using 32 days - which makes a daily average over 35 kms.

 

The environment was also extreme as we thought it would be: extreme cold (down to -50°C), strong winds sometimes and nice sastrugi on the way! We were surprised however - and that was a good surprise - by the variety of landscapes we went through. The landscape itself is almost the same all the way, but the weather makes it looks different almost every day, depending on whether it is sunny or not, cloudy or not, cold or extremely cold, strong wind or no wind, not to mention white-out or snowy days, etc. 

 

 

Were there times that you thought it would be impossible to complete? What was the most difficult for you?

 

We were extremely motivated during this traverse. Mostly because we had the opportunity to share this experience with many school students in France, we were also raising funds for a charity and sharing this expedition with so many people through our blog. And we had the chance also to share this expedition as a couple. So the motivation was high and we knew we would be on the ice until the very last day if we could manage to avoid serious injury and frostbite. 

 

The fact of sharing this adventure as described above gave us so much mental strength that even when the weather conditions were extreme and made it more difficult to progress, when the body was suffering from the cold, when we felt tired and hungry, we were always happy to be down there on the ice!

 

The most difficult thing about this expedition was actually the logistics and financing beforehand - the effort and energy one has to put in to be at the starting line of such a traverse of Antarctica is very important and we did actually not sleep much the last couple of months before getting to Union Glacier

 

Regarding the expedition itself, the most difficult was to manage to take photos and do some filming as this was also part of the overall project we had structured. And this means carrying more equipment (we started with app. 25 kgs of video/photo and related equipment in Jeremie’s sledge), taking time to recharge batteries with solar panels, taking out gloves to do filming and photo, making copies, so this is less time to rest and recover, and also more exposure to potential frostbite. But it definitely is worth it as it gives more ways and opportunities to share. 

 

 

What did you learn about each other that you didn’t know before?

 

We met at school 13 years ago and somehow grew up together at some stage so we knew each other very well. We know the strengths and weaknesses of each other and being together made us stronger. 

 

 

Stéphanie, love your skirt. Did the men also wear a skirt sometimes? How did your skirt work? Was it easy to put on in high winds and with gloves/mitts? Where did yo get it?

 

I had a pink skirt and Jeremie had the same - blue color. This is just a polar skirt that we put over our bibs on windy days, to reduce as much as possible the exposure to polar thigh - kind of frostbite on the thighs. We got them from Skhoop. And it is very easy to put on in and out even with gloves and mitts thanks to zippers on each side! It worked very well as we had no frostbite. 

 

 

Three tips you would give someone who wants to traverse?

 

First tip is just go for it - do not think it is too difficult, too long or whatever, and do not listen too much to people who tell you this is not possible. As long as you are prepared for it, motivated and able to keep your spirit up, then the chances to achieve the traverse are high enough. 

 

Then it is important to know why you want to traverse and what you are trying to achieve - high motivation is a key, because being dropped to the start line requires a lot of effort, but being then picked up on the way is not so difficult. 

 

And as mentioned above, keeping spirit up is another key. Even with the best preparation ever, and the best equipment, some things will go wrong and not as expected during such a long trip.

 

 

Future plans?

 

Nothing planned yet in terms of future expedition. We know at some stage we will want to experience other experiences like this - so the question then is, where and when! As for now, we just enjoy spending more time on post expedition projects, notably with the schools involved, preparing photo exhibition, working on the expedition film and sharing through conferences lessons we learned from Antarctica.

 

Stéphanie and Jérémie covered a distance of 2,020 km in a straight line between waypoints. The last day, Day 74, they managed 45 km in 18 hours, team mate Are Johansen reported. The team calculated a distance of 2045 km on their GPS, and 73 days 15 hours and 35 minutes on their stopwatch. As they started on November 14, 2014, and completed their journey on their last full day skiing, January 26, 2015. They received resupplies along he way.

 

AdventureStats statistics:

 

With covering 2,020 km, Stephanie completed the longest ski expedition for a woman on Antarctica. In 2009-10 Cecilie Skog skied from the ocean edge of Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf at the bottom of Axel Heiberg Glacier, a distance of 1800 km. The two expeditions though differ in terms of assistance, Cecilie had no resupplies. 

 

Married couples who together completed ski expeditions on Antarctica are:

Tom and Tina Sjogren (Hercules Inlet to SP, unassisted unsupported 2001-02, Explorersweb founders and owners)

Ray and Jenny Jardin (Hercules Inlet to SP, assisted supported 2006-07)
Marty and Chris Fagan (Ronne-Filchner to SP, unassisted unsupported 2013-14)

Jéremie and Stéphanie Gicquel (traverse Ronne-Filchner to SP to Hercules Inlet, assisted unsupported 2014-15)

 

 

Previous/Related

 

ExWeb pre-South Pole interview with Stéphanie and Jérémie

 

Are Johansen, Stéphanie Gicquel and Jérémie Gicquel completed South Pole traverse

 

South Pole Traverse Trio: weak, tired and hungry, nearing the end

 

South Pole innovation: The Skirt

 

ExWeb interview with South Pole traverse kiter Frédéric Dion: One step at the time

 

Exweb interview with South Pole skier, Ian Evans: Attitude is everything

 

AdventureStats (Polar Rules and Statistics)

 

Martin Szwed admits manipulating South Pole photos

 

 

Stéphanie and Jérémie’s pages:

 

Website

 

Facebook

 

Video - Into the Wind (1:50)

 

 

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

 

 

#polar

#Antarctica

#southpole

#southpole2014

#southpole2014-15

#exwebinterview

#StephanieandJeremieGicquel

#southpoletraverse
#antarcticatraverse

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We know the strengths and weaknesses of each other and being together made us stronger." Image at the Ceremonial South Pole.
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
"The effort and energy one has to put in to be at the starting line of such a traverse of Antarctica is very important." Image ALE's Kenn Borek pilots dropped the team at their start point.
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
"The landscape itself is almost the same all the way, but the weather makes it looks different almost every day, depending on whether it is sunny or not, cloudy or not, cold or extremely cold, strong wind or no wind, not to mention white-out or snowy days, etc."
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
"Extreme cold (down to -50°C), strong winds sometimes and nice sastrugi on the way."
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
"It is important to know why you want to traverse and what you are trying to achieve."
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
"The polar skirt worked well and we had no frostbite [on the upper legs]."
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
"A very long effort in an extreme environment."
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
"As long as you are prepared for it, motivated and able to keep your spirit up, then the chances to achieve the traverse are high enough." Image, mission completed.
courtesy Stephanie & Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
"We wanted to build the project with some schools in France and...
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
...support the Charity Association Petits Princes."
courtesy copyright Runners to the Pole Stephanie and Jeremie Gicquel, SOURCE
Antarctica ski and kite-ski routes.
courtesy Map compiled by Explorersweb, SOURCE
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