The big chill

AntarcticaDr Geoff Wilson, director of MyVet Clinics in NSW and QLD, is the world record holder for the fastest, unsupported solo crossing of Antarctica.

“I was four days into my solo crossing of Antarctica when the first storm hit. It was absolutely ferocious and I was pinned down for days. I wasn’t convinced the tent would survive and I felt there was a distinct possibility that I may die within four days of the start of the journey.

“Antarctica had been on my radar for years even though I’ve concentrated on crossing deserts with a team. So far, I’ve traversed the Sahara, Simpson and Namib deserts. All these adventures have two common elements—we use wind power rather than hydrocarbons and raise money for charity.

“When one of my clients was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31, we discussed ways to raise awareness and money for the cause. She had incredible support from the McGrath Foundation nurses, so we put together the Pink Polar Expedition. I would drag a giant set of breasts from one side of Antarctica to the other.

“One of my mentors, a tough Norwegian guy called Børge Ousland, had set a record in 1997 for the fastest coast-to-coast crossing through the South Pole. I planned to beat his 64-day record.

“On day 35, a sack of food burst on my kite-powered sled and I lost two weeks’ worth of food. Initially, I dropped my daily calories but I started to get very disorientated so I upped my calorie intake and pushed harder than ever. I covered an enormous distance in 10 days by travelling for 16 hours, sleeping for four hours, travelling for another 16 hours, then sleeping for eight hours. Then I would repeat the cycle again.

“I was pushing so hard that I beat Børge’s record and crossed Antarctica in 53 days. I ran out of food the day I finished the journey. I also lost 22 kilos in weight.

“For the first part of the crossing, I would only let myself think about home, family, friends and food for an hour a day. Then, for the last third of the journey, I softened the approach and thought about family for hours on end. I wasn’t walking away from them, I was walking towards them.

“Thanks to my sponsors, I was able to give the McGrath Foundation a cheque for a quarter of a million dollars.

“I’m returning to Antarctica in October next year to complete the longest solo journey in history. It will take at least 90 days and any money raised will also go to the McGrath Foundation. It’s crazy but I’m really looking forward to it.”

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