Preparing for the Pole
October 8, 2007
When Doug Stoup is not packing freeze-dried eggs into plastic bags, he’s dragging a car tire up the hill in front of his house in Juniper Hills just outside of Truckee.
“I haven’t been sleeping too much,” says Stoup, surrounded by shredded packages of freeze-dried food and a detailed map of Antarctica.
On the map, Stoup traces the geography he plans to cover pulling a nearly 300-pound sled: Up from the Filchner Ice Shelf at the edge of the Antarctic continent, across the inland ice plateau, and all the way to the geographic South Pole.
It’s a 660-mile route that’s never been skied before, according to Stoup. And he only has three weeks left to ready himself and the expedition’s gear.
“I really think it is going to be brutal,” says Stoup of the estimated 60 days he will spend on the ice in temperatures as low as minus-40. “Lots of danger. Lots of crevasses.”
Stoup, who runs the Truckee-based Ice Axe Productions, will be guiding two British clients ” businessman James Fox and retired champion horse jockey Richard Dunwoody.
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The grueling two months of steady skiing is nothing new to Stoup, who has skied to both the North and South poles and snowboarded and skied some of the highest peaks in Antarctica.
“He’s kind of like a bull moose who is charging ahead,” said Squaw Valley’s Glen Poulsen, an adventurer in his own right, who skied to the North Pole with Stoup last summer. “He’s tenacious and strong and also an inspiration to his clients.”
Stoup will retrace a route first attempted by Ernest Shackleton nearly a century ago. Shackleton’s ill-fated attempt to traverse the continent by this route in 1914 was derailed before it truly began. His boat, The Endurance, became trapped in ice and crushed in 1915, and Shackleton and his crew began a daring escape to the island of South Georgia, a narrow escape with no lives lost that is now canonized in exploration lore.
“We’re going to re-create where he intended to start,” said Stoup.
There is little known about the mostly unexplored terrain, except that it is steep and likely filled with crevasses.
The ski to the South Pole, which sits at an elevation of 9,300-feet, is entirely uphill.
To prepare for two months of pulling 300 pounds uphill in subzero weather, Stoup straps a tire to a waist harness and pulls the tire over a steep, rocky slope near his home.
“You’re tied to this for 60 days,” says Stoup, tugging on his harness, which replicates the straps of his Antarctic sled.
It’s been four years since Doug Stoup toted a custom-made, balloon-tired bike to Antarctica and attempted to pedal 200 miles through frozen terrain.
And it’s been seven years since Stoup became the first American man to ski from the edge of the continent to the South Pole.
In between, Stoup has overseen a marathon race at the South Pole, taught students ” including North Tahoe students ” about climate change, and climbed in the Himalayas, Alaska and the Andes.
And he has equally ambitious plans for the future, including a trip to the Galapagos Islands, and a 100-person “ski cruise” to the coast of Antarctica next year.
The trip will feature ski descents on peaks that run down to the ocean.
“That’s what’s magic about it is you are skiing down to penguins and seals,” says Stoup.
And while the future outings are on his mind, as well as his responsibilities for his adventure and film company, Stoup is focusing right now on the rigors that await him in the Antarctic.
And that, right now, means a lot of tedious food packing.
“With an expedition like this, you really have to cross all your T’s and dot your I’s,” says Stoup.