Taking on Antarctica

CANDICE BRADFIELD
 
EXTREME Adventurer Peter van Kets inspired and amazed Club 100 with stories and footage from his race to the South Pole earlier this year.
 
Despite completing such feats as rowing across the Atlantic, both with a partner and alone, he said he has never come so close to not coming home.
 
Seven teams from six different nations took part in the Century Race to the South Pole, following in the footsteps of Robert F Scott and Roald Amundsen. The race distance was 704km.
 
Fellow adventurer Braam Malherbe was the one who approached Van Kets to be part of the South African team. Malherbe has completed several challenges, including running 4 200km along the entire length of the Great Wall of China.
 

GOING THE DISTANCE: South African extreme adventurer Peter van Kets recently finished the Century Race to the South Pole, the toughest endurance race he has ever done. He spoke about this amazing journey and gave advice on how others can achieve their dreams at a Club 100 dinner last Friday Picture: CANDICE BRADFIELD
They spent six months training for what was to be the toughest endurance race they had ever taken part in. Van Kets said he is currently the thinnest he has ever been in his life, losing 13kg, most of which was muscle.
 
“It is the highest, driest, coldest, windiest continent,” said Van Kets.
 
It is larger than the United States of America, the volume of oxygen is less than in most areas at that altitude, and nothing lives inland. During summer the sun does not set and is always just above the horizon.
 
The temperature is – 45 degrees Celsius without taking the chill factor into account. You cannot touch anything with your bare hands and no skin can be exposed while you are outside. Many got frostbite and Van Kets said his fingers and toes were still numb.
 
Van Kets said that having a dream or a vision is one of the most important things in life. If your dream is different in reality to what you imagined, you will need to be prepared.
 
The teams had to spend six days acclimatising before they could start the race. At the halfway mark they had a compulsory 24 hour stop so that the doctor could see to everyone.
 
“To achieve what you want, there are going to be tough times. But there will also be incredible things too” he said.
 
The team, who named their sleds Tallulah after the bobsleds in the movie Cool Runnings, decided they would try to have fun on this trip. Van Kets said they made incredible friends in this way and helped other teams where they could.
 
He said it is important to surround yourself with the best team who must share your vision and passion. You should also be prepared, have a strategy and adapt yourself to change. Van Kets and Malherbe had to do this constantly as they had no clue how to handle the environment.
 
Van Kets cautioned the audience not to be paralysed by fear of failure.
 
“Some people have big dreams but won’t even start because they worry ‘What if’,” he said.
 
One of the ways to really achieve greatness is to move from external discipline. While it was one thing having Malherbe to motivate him when it was time to get up or get going, it was another thing for him to have the strength to motivate himself.
 
At one point when they had stopped to put up their tent, their bodies stopped functioning before they had got the tent up because of the cold.
 
“We sat on our sleds and I thought, this is it,” said Van Kets.
 
The best motivation was thinking about his daughter, six-year-old Hannah. They were able to keep going until they warmed up and then stopped to put up the tent again.
 
Of the seven teams that entered the race, only three made it to the finish line.
 
Van Kets said the end of the race was very emotional. The Norwegian team won, followed by a Welsh team and then the South African team who finished with two hours to go until the cutoff.
 
He said the best part was getting to see his family again.
 
“These trips are not about bravado or heroism. It’s actually about relationships. It’s a love story,” he concluded.
 
A four-part documentary on the expedition, Cold Sweat, will be broadcast in South Africa in June.

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