A Norwegian adventurer gave them less than 10% chances of success and yet… Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel have crossed Antarctica on skis this winter, using only legs and arms to get to one end of this land to another. This couple of lawyers has covered 2 045 km in 74 days. It is the longest travel ever achieved in this ice desert without sail or kite. It is also the longest travel ever achieved on this continent with such conditions, by a woman.
31 October 2014
27 January 2015
73 days 15 hours and 35 minutes
A CRAZY IDEA AT FIRST SIGHT
The idea of crossing Antarctica was born in Stéphanie and Jérémie’s minds during breakfast in a Parisian pub, between two meetings. They both share a genuine passion for polar regions. They have travelled in Greenland, Spitzberg, North Pole on skis, sail or on foot… Also they approached Antarctica and the couple was fascinated: “We wanted to know about it. One day we were thinking: Why not crossing Antarctica”, tells Stéphanie.
The idea seems “a little wild but not impossible”. Their first challenge? Raise awareness; prove they can be trusted… In short, they have to convince people in order to gather a budget of 100 000€! After many meetings and lots of perseverance, they have managed to raise 60%. The couple will borrow the remaining 40%. And the gear will be provided by Millet: The couple is delighted to be part of the 2014 expedition scholarship laureates!
At the same time, the two running lovers are multiplying ultra-trails, preparing with a coach specialized in martial arts, getting used to the cold by going in cold storage facilities… They also took part in the 2013 North Pole marathon which consists of 42, 195 kilometers by -30°C.
The clock is ticking and the 31st of October 2014 is getting closer. The two thirty-years-old are flying to Punta Arena (Chili). Now is the time to get the last preparations done before getting to the white continent: buying food rations, customizing pulkas, preparing supply backpacks, testing the communication equipment… The final details. Few days later on Union Glacier’s base, the two adventurers are dropped at the expedition’s starting point. We’re here, in the middle of nowhere “we’re alone and we are slowly realizing what a challenge we’re into”. It’s a strong moment, especially when the plane leaves.”
“ We’re alone in the middle of Antarctica and we slowly realize what a challenge we’re into.”
74 DAYS DIVORCED FROM THE REAL WORLD
But no time for self-pity, quite the contrary actually…
“We had limited time to finish this crossing. We had to catch the last plane of the season, leaving to Chili on the 28th of January. We have planned to reach the South Pole before the 20th of December. During this first bit, we started at sea level and gained 2 850 vertical meters. We’ve skied 8 to 10 hours a day with 10-minute breaks every hour. We were pulling pulkas weighing about our own weight. During the first 400 km, the sastrugis really slowed us down, we were constantly trying to keep a steady balance! We’ve finally reached the South Pole on the 24th of December for Christmas eve, unforgettable!”
On our way back to the barrier of Ronne, we’ve speeded up the pace with 10 to 16 hours of daily skiing. “The last day, we had to progress very very slowly through a quite foggy crevasse-area. When we arrived, the sky cleared up, unmasking the barrier of Ronne… At this moment, we knew we accomplished something huge, that we were back from the brink”.
All this for a good reason: “We had to face the cold (a dozen of days below -50°C), katabatic winds, sastrugis, fog, crevasses, moving on a highland (in between 2 500 and 3 000 meters high), cope with hunger despites our daily consistent food rations…”
Even though, our two adventurers have never wanted to quit even during the beginning when Stéphanie was sick or when one arch of their tent broke. “We had put so much into this and there were so many people following us!”
" We had 8 to 10 hours of skiing each day, with a 10-minute break every hour. "
A SHARED ADVENTURE
Breaking records isn’t Stéphanie or Jérémie’s goal. “Beyond the logistical, physical and mental challenge, we have planned this expedition with the intention to share it.”
To share? It’s mainly feeding their Facebook page and blog all along their travel. “We were charging our two satellite phones with a solar panel laid on the tent. We had an address that would automatically update our Facebook page but we couldn’t access comments. We did not want any information from the outside world. Some bad news could have been fatal to the expedition”.
It’s also bringing photos, videos, moments and sensations back so we can share them with the greatest number during interactive expositions with the professional photograph Kyriakos Kaziras.
It’s collecting and sending data about the cold, the weather… To two college and high school classes so they can analyze them with their teacher. It’s collaborating with a painting school in Auvergne.
But it’s also supporting the Petits Princes association which realizes the dreams of severely ill kids. “We took this dimension to heart. Because we made one of our dreams come true with this expedition, we wanted to give children the opportunity to make theirs come true as well.” 8 000€ were gathered and entirely given to this structure.
" We have created a donation page dedicated to the Petits Princes association in order to enable ill kids to realize their dream. "
No man's land
Antarctica is the coldest continent (average yearly temperature of -53°C), the driest (less precipitation than Sahara) and also the planet’s highest continent (average altitude of 2 500 meters). A continent twenty times larger than France. A white continent covered of a 1,6km thickness layer of ice.
EXTEND THE EXPEDITIONâ€™S SPIRIT
Today, Stéphanie and Jérémie are preparing an exposition but also a conference, an illustrated travel diary and a 52 minutes length movie to keep their incredibly uncommon 74 days alive. Because “it would be really sad to turn the page too quickly and not to extend this expedition’s spirit.”