South Pole solo ski interview with Doug Tumminello

Hercules Inlet route, 1130 km, solo unassisted, unsupported
(Correne Coetzer) The classic Hercules Inlet route seems to be popular ski route this 2015-16 Antarctic season. One of the solo skiers on this route is American Douglas Tumminello. He has been planning this expedition for a long time and had to overcome setbacks, but kept training until it is finally going to happen in a month’s time.

Doug plans to complete the 1130km / 700 miles in 50 days. As he is aiming to do it solo according to the Rules of Adventure at, he is not having resupplies. He will also be unsupported (no kites).

In 2009 Doug was part of a crew that rowed the Indian Ocean from Geraldton, Western Australia, and landed on the island of Mauritius. “We were 58 days at sea and set the record for the fastest row of the Indian (since broken). We were a crew of 8, women and men and from England, the U.S. and Belgium.” 

Doug shares a couple of lessons from the row with Pythom:

be patient, and

be prepared to fix any equipment that might break!

Pythom caught up with Doug, who had also climbed Everest, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where he lives with his wife, Lisa Renee, and two children, daughter Alexandra (18) and son Bowden (12) and works as an attorney.

PYTHOM: This is not your first year that you are trying to get on the Ice. Tell us about your journey up to here please. How did you overcome disappointment?

DOUG: This is actually my third (or so) effort just to get to the ice! I was delayed one year by injury, another year by partner issues (hence my decision to go solo this time), and yet another year because of work.  But, I’ve been committed to this expedition for a long time, so I considered those delays to be temporary setbacks. I just kept planning and training! It looks like this year the expedition will, finally, happen.


PYTHOM: Tell us about your preparation please. What does it take to prepare for a solo? Who has helped you? What is still on your to-do list?

DOUG: I think the mental preparation is most important for a solo effort. There is certainly an added physical component since I’ll have to carry all of the gear, including backup gear, by myself, thus increasing the total weight I’ll be carrying. However, the mental strain of being alone on the ice for over 40 days will be the real challenge.

With no one to help manage decisions or double-check my judgment calls while on the ice, I’ll have to ensure that I don’t overextend myself without adequate margins.

Hannah McKeand has acted as a consultant for my expedition, and I participated in her first US-based polar training course. She is an extraordinary wealth of information (not surprising considering her accomplishments) and I highly recommend her help for anyone considering a polar expedition. 

Still lots to do on my list – finalize my food and medical kit, purchase some last-minute clothing, and pack it all up!


PYTHOM: How does your training program look like?

DOUG: Not surprisingly, plenty of tire dragging using my sled harness. But also more of the usual time in the gym and running on the trails. Last winter I spent lots of time uphill skiing at our local ski mountain. 

I also believe in cross training – this summer my wife and I were a 2-person team in a 3.5 day expedition length adventure race. It involved lots of mountain biking, trail running and trekking, flat and whitewater paddling, map and compass navigation, etc.


PYTHOM: Three tips that you got from experienced skiers (Hannah) about the Hercules Inlet route? 


1. Wear a skirt to prevent polar thigh, so I’ll be wearing a Skhoop down skirt over my windpantsu2028,

2. move slowly but steadily and constantly, and u2028

3. carefully stay on course to avoid the known crevassed areas.



Skis: Fischer E99 Xtralites

Skins (full/half): half skins, screwed on

Boots: Alfa Mordre, with Intuition liners and 40 Below overboots, just in case in gets really cold

Sled: Acapulka Prof. Exped, 210

Clothes:  Specialty clothes include a Wintergreen Anorak and Guide Wind Pants (made in the US), a Skhoop down skirt, Aclima base and mid layers (including a woolnet base), a Bergans down parka, a light weight Big Agnes down jacket, and the usual assortment of fleece, down and merino wool.


PYTHOM: Anything else?

DOUG: I’ll be using a North Face Mountain 25 tent, modified with snow skirts and modified for easier solo pitching.


PYTHOM: Departure date?

DOUG: Nov. 20 my family (wife and two children) and I fly to Chile. We’ll spend a week there, with my family assisting the preparations. I’m scheduled to fly to Union Glacier on Nov. 29.


#skisouthpole #DougTumminello #solosouthpole #southpole2015 #antarctica


Shackleton’s leadership skills, by fellow 2015 South Pole solo skier, Henry Worsley.