by Will Sandberg
Michele Pontrandolfo is a man on a mission. An incredibly long and dangerous mission that is testing his mind and body beyond any of his past achievements. Michele is currently on a solo exploration trek of over 2,400 miles across Antarctica to reach the South Pole by himself, just to prove he can.
Michele, an Italian military veteran, has over 400 skydives under his belt, is an experienced caver and rock climber and is certainly no stranger to endurance trekking. He has completed 14 polar expeditions in the northern hemisphere, conquering the Alps, Greenland, Iceland, and he even reached the magnetic North Pole. However, this is his first expedition in Antarctica, and things are already not going as planned.
Michele intended for the trek to last three months covering a hostile and unforgiving landscape with elevation changes ranging from 0-3800 meters. He is dragging with him two sleds packed with survival gear, food, and water.
The explorer had hoped to cover vast amounts of ground by means of kite skiing in which the wind would drag him and his gear at faster speeds over greater distances. Unfortunately for Michele, the wind just hasn’t been there, and he has been forced to drag his sleds by means of his own physical propulsion. To make matters worse, he can only drag one sled at a time, drop it off, and then return for his other sled, more than doubling the amount of distance needing to be covered to accomplish his goal.
Not being one to quit, Michele is striving on. He must now put his survival in the hands of his prior training and preparations. He has spent countless hours on the ice, laboriously dragging his sled to train his body and mind to continue pushing past physical limits and mental breaking points.
Obviously polar exploration isn’t something one can just jump into. These athletes, for lack of a better word, spend months, if not years, training and preparing for these events. They know that by shortcutting their workouts and going too light or too heavy on their packing lists could mean an icy, lonely death on a barren landscape.
Research must be done. What are your routes and backup routes? What is the normal weather patterns for the time of year? Has anyone done this trek before? If so, they must be contacted, their brains picked, and their log books studied. Research how much food will you need to bring down to the exact calorie.
Test yourself and your gear. You may have new, top of the line equipment (according to the brand’s marketing team), but do you really want to find out if the buzzwords are true in a real world situation? You must know the limits of this gear, whether it be based on temperature, wear-and-tear, wind, moisture, etc. Are you trekking with a team? Even if they’ve all been dedicated in their own personal training… will you be able to work together when the situation turns south? Testing is important.
Above all else: Train. Train. Train. Expensive gear and cutting edge technology are wonderful, but you must be a master in understanding and executing their implementation. Furthermore, you must not be wholly reliant on these tools and devices in the instance that they break or become unserviceable. This is where good old fashioned training, with the help of experts of that field, is absolutely imperative. This training philosophy should be applied to all activities and fields of operation with an inherent risk of losing one’s life, limb, or eyesight. Train hard and relevant.
As for Michele Pontrandolfo and his tremendous undertaking: Godspeed. We will be following your journey closely.