Let’s not even ask what on earth he was doing going to the bottom of the earth. He says one must follow one’s dreams. Geez, if this is how far his dreams go, lord knows how far his nightmares reach.
What’s with people like Dion? What’s with people and herculean quests? Is it a hale, healthy ego identity or a horrid, huge personal complexity that drives people to do other-worldly tasks? Why this indulgence to be first in something that no one, save your mom, Ripley’s (and this writer) will care about two years after?
Maybe one needs a break from things, or has a bit too much spare time on his hands. (This trek took nearly two months.) Perhaps such a voyage is simply a manifestation of one being so collected, with ducks all in a row, and so cohere, with I’s dotted and t’s crossed, that the time can be taken to explore the extremities of one’s psyche and the nadir of one’s planet.
Or perhaps one is bored…
Whatever the reason, when that soul meets his maker, and tells the deities, deity, or non-deity of his choice that he kite-skied around Antarctica solo, will the response be: that’s great, but did you take out the garbage like you were supposed to? Hmmm?
Specifically, this is what Frédéric did do. He hit the “geographic South Pole” – please don’t ask for a precise definition, all you need to know is that there’s ice and snow - after 45 days of kite skiing. What about the South Pole of Inaccessibility, you ask? He hit that marker after 35 days. That point is the greatest distance from all the surrounding Antarctica seas. And all with just 137 kg of food and equipment and a climactic conundrum. When the winds were light, he didn't feel those – 50C degrees as much. But he also didn't travel as far, so his trip back to civilization (and reality) would take longer.
Let’s take a brief look at Britisher, Felicity Aston. She, like Dion, has gone all the way and tripped out. She could relate to Dion’s odyssey of highs and lows. The 34-year-old skied across Antarctica alone, setting a world record for this feat in 2012 and she did it knowing, as a meteorologist, how formidable that frontier is. Yet, she did it anyway.
She pulled two sledges for 1,084 miles. She battled craziness and loneliness, cranky knees, sore fingers, and “frost nibbled lips” all the while facing whiteouts and katabatic (downhill) winds.
Her trek took 59 days. One savings grace was she toured in the summertime. Though 30-degree days were not uncommon the temperatures were generally not bone-chilling killing, averaging in at a hot and heavy 3 degrees Celsius daily - with the place lit more than Charlie Sheen on a bender.
Aah, benders. Let’s look at the root causes of lunacy in this nowhere land. The main culprit for kookiness there is hypothermia. That’s when one’s body temperature drops drastically and precipitously. Hypothermia can trigger insanity, resulting in actions contrary to one’s well being. For example, people who are freezing to death may actually remove clothing, thinking they are too hot!
Dion didn't go off the deep end into lunacy– but he admits now that a couple of records he thought he set were disallowed.
(For you must know, there is a wizardly weird castle, in a desperately, dark land, which keeps the gnomes with the tomes - that keep the records, that keeps disallowing some, which keeps allowing others – for a sum. Just kidding on the sum – most people that care about this stuff are scrupulous in their honesty and soberly serious in their notational observances.) The problems for Dion were 1) he got help when his “homemade” sled busted up (thanks Dixie Dansercoer!) - and 2) got help being stocked up with more food. The big record hype would be in declaring that all these points he reached – were done alone. Solo. Still, we should give him part marks for trying.
As for the 37-year-old Frédéric, much of the brunt of his trying – his resistance training – put into practice - was mental: to not blow a fuse when winds blew the wrong way; to not get enraged when whiteouts hampered sight; to not get bummed when Sastrugi (ridge-rife) snow landscapes slowed progress; to not freak out when he misplaced his sled for a half an hour; to not get down, missing his daughters; to not get depressed not seeing another human for weeks on end...
He did get down, losing 7 kilos all told – that’s gotta count for...not much.
Come to think of it, when all is said and done, getting back to normal, to persevere without weather severe, may be Dion’s biggest, hardest, longest, test yet. He does, however, have a term and tactic for breaking down seemingly insurmountable obstacles into, if not bite-sized, at least somewhat manageable chunks: Unit Thinking. But upon seeing his family, a unit in itself, after his journey, with all safe and sound, there was only joy.