How Michele Pontrandolfo prepares for a historic solo Transantarctic trek – in the middle of an Italian summer heatwave.
“Michele Pontrandolofo needs 397 pounds of stuff to survive. That’s a stove, fuel, food, clothing, technical equipment, a tent, maps and more, piled up on a sled that, if all goes well, he’ll spend November and December dragging along a 2,400 mile, hellish Antarctic path called the Southern Poles of inaccessibility. Temperatures can reach -58 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds will whip up to 300 miles an hour. And he will be solo, aiming to become the first person to make it across entirely alone.”
“But today, he is not alone. And he is hot. It’s August and 100 degrees in northern Italy, where he lives and he is looking for anything that will prepare him for the Arctic suffering. So he’s come here, to a rock-strewn landscape called Magredi. It’s thematically appropriate; in the spring, the place is a raging river of water from melting Italian Alp snow. More importantly, it is unforgiving-no shade, nowhere to rest, a great place to drag a 50-pound car tire across an expanse of gray stones. ‘It is the closest feeling to pulling a sled across one of the most inhospitable landscapes on the planet,’ he explains, as sweat runs down his face.”
“Pontrandolfo is a legend among explorers, and during his 15-year career, he has crossed Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Ocean, the Magnetic North Pole, the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, Ellesmere Island, Svaalbard, and the geospacial North Pole, often solo. He is 43 and stands just 5″7′. ‘When I make speeches, people are often initially disappointed. They expect someone bigger, someone more heroic,’ he says. But strength is not the key to survival. ‘It is the mind and emotions that determine success or failure. Let fear take hold and you are dead.”
In this exclusive interview with Mark Abouzeid, Michele shares his unorthodox training regime, past failures attempting the same expedition and his love for the Ramones. Text and photos by Mark Abouzeid.