Canadians set record hiking across Antarctica
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, January 8, 2009 2:38PM EST
Three Canadians have set a new world record after hiking across Antarctica in just over a month.
Ray Zahab, Kevin Vallely, and Richard Weber walked and skied into history this week after trekking across Antarctica from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in 33 days. They shattered the old world record by six days.
Zahab made the entire journey on foot using snowshoes, while Vallely and Weber skied the 1,130-kilometre route. Along the way, all three had to deal with altitude sickness, blisters, snow drifts and blinding whiteouts. Zahab told CTV Newsnet on Thursday, just a day after breaking the record, that the trio is exhausted.
"I guess you can say we're on a physical low and a mental high because we're done," he said.
"We each dragged sleds weighing 170 pounds (at the beginning) with all of the supplies we would need for the 33-day adventure ... It was an uphill journey, with wind in your face."
Zahab said the three packed high calorie food because they were burning as much as 15,000 calories each on some days. He also noted that setting the world record after enduring nearly five weeks of some of the harshest conditions on Earth was not the team's only -- or even primary -- goal.
Zahab, a former "pack-a-day smoker" who only started running a mere five years ago, said the team wanted to prove that "we are all capable of doing things we set our minds to."
About 3,000 students in the U.S. and Canada tracked the trio's progress online. The team's website gave the students an opportunity to learn about environmental themes, including issues such as climate change and the history of South Pole exploration.
Zahab says interacting with the students gave the team their inspiration during their toughest times. A satellite phone allowed them to get online and answer student questions all the way along the team's adventure across the southern-most tip of the planet.
While there were a lot of science and environmental questions, many of the students wanted to find out more about the three.
For example, students in Coquitlam, B.C., wanted to know how they were planning to spend Christmas. Obviously, there was no tree, but the team did bring along some gifts they exchanged on the 25th. There also wasn't any eggnog as they approached the South Pole. But the team reported back to the students that they had a "special hot milk drink."
Zahab says that while he's still recovering from his latest adventure, he's not sure what's in store for the team next.
"I'm often asked: 'what's the toughest (expedition)?' They're all tough. The straight up answer is: the expedition that I'm doing at the time is the toughest one. So, I've got to recover from this one first," he said, with a chuckle.
The trio's "South Pole Quest" was the second among a series of extreme adventures sponsored by Impossible2Possible, a non-profit organization seeking to link adventure and sustainability causes among youth and future leaders.