NEWS

Ian Evans, 58, skis to South Pole, but leaves 'traumatized'

01/23/2015 05:00 EST | Updated 03/24/2015 05:59 EDT
After skiing roughly 1,000 kilometres across the unforgiving Antarctic landscape, 58-year-old Ian Evans from Elora, Ont. and his three companions arrived at their final destination, the South Pole, on Jan. 6.

But there was no outpouring of emotion or celebration from the group. Forty-four gruelling days of skiing and ascending 9,500 feet over ice and snow had taken its toll.

"It’s a harsh place. It takes no prisoners down there," said Evans, who’s a chartered accountant and motivational speaker. "We were pretty numb [when we arrived]. [I]t was, 'Yeah well okay, whatever. Let’s put the tent up, let’s have something to eat, let’s get out of here.'"

Evans is no stranger to adventure, having scaled multiple peaks including Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Aconcagua in Argentina.

But this trek to the South Pole was the most difficult he has endured, with two foot injuries plaguing him throughout the trip and losing 25 pounds from his already slight frame.

"I’ve still got one of the injuries. One foot has got a heel spur, so every time I put my foot down skiing there would be a pain through my heel," said Evans. "[T]he right foot, the ball joint swelled to almost twice the size and so hard to get the boot on and I just couldn’t bend that foot."

Evans says he ran out of energy after the first few weeks, but never even considered quitting.

"I just had to play the mind game of getting the next hour of skiing done. Getting to the next two hours. Getting to the next break. Getting to the end of the day," said Evans. "I don’t know what it would have taken for me to quit. I managed the injuries and they never got worse."

Evans was the oldest of his group and believes he might be the oldest Canadian to ever have completed the journey. His companions came from the U.S., Scotland and England and were in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

9 hours a day spent skiing

The group began the expedition at Ronne Ice Shelf on the Antarctic coast in late November, which is considered midsummer. Despite 24 hours of sunlight, Evans said it was never difficult to sleep due to the exhaustion of skiing for nine hours a day.

The group carried mountaineering tents and piled snow around the edges to keep it safe from strong winds.

"Inside the tents, if it was sunny, which it was about 60 per cent of the time, it was very hot actually because of the solar radiation," said Evans. "So one side of tent could be 25 C, and the other side could be - 5 C because there was no sun on it…It was a nice break from the climate outside because it’s the coldest place on earth."

Evans said the group consumed 4,500 calories a day in the form of freeze-dried food and homemade oatmeal in the mornings, but burned at least 9,000 calories a day.

Trip 'traumatized me'

After arriving in the South Pole, the group was flown to base camp on the edge of the continent, then took a plane to southern Chile, and then flew to Santiago where Evans caught a flight to Toronto. It took about 24 hours to get home.

"I think this trip, partly because of my age and partly because I was underweight when I left, it really traumatized me, mentally," said Evans. "I felt pretty traumatized and pretty vulnerable after the trip for a few days and I was undernourished and weak and everything. Gradually that’s been corrected. I’ve been to the pub with all the friends."

Evans said he’s gained 17 pounds since arriving home, basically by eating everything in sight.

"I’m still hungry all the time," Evans said with a laugh.

Evans said he may not embark on an adventure so strenuous next time, but he’s no less motivated to go exploring.

"There’s always a new adventure. There’s always something I want to do, or my wife and I want to do together. We’ve been fascinated for many years of Mongolia and want to go to the Gobi desert," said Evans.

"But also go back to Antarctica and do something less strenuous. Maybe go on a boat and go to the old explorer’s camps from 100 years ago."

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