Two days. The blistery cold of Antarctica wasn’t too bad for two full days, even with 160 kilograms of supplies dragging on a sled behind. But when the weather changed, fortunes changed for professional adventurers James Castrission (Cas) and Justin Jones (Jonesy).
There aren’t too many people in the world who can claim their occupation as “professional adventurer”. And although there may not be a dedicated industry Super Fund for their careers, Cas and Jonesy have managed to make a life of adventure pay the bills. But a fancy title doesn’t explain just how easy it is for some adverse weather to throw an adventurers plans to the wind.
“We didn’t have enough food for the expedition, because the first month actually went a lot slower than planned,” Jonesy explained to EFTM. “In that first month we had 14 days straight of whiteout and in that period of time about one and a half to two feet of snow came down. So when you’re dragging 160 kilos when we started, it was incredibly slow progress.
“We were lucky some days to hit a kilometre per hour, and we were meant to be hitting 14-15 kilometres a day,” Jonesy adds.
“The first two days we did,” Cas interjects. “Before the weather actually blew in. And then we didn’t see the sun for weeks.
“After that first month, we both thought there was only a very small chance for success for the expedition. The numbers had just blown out so much, and it put so much pressure on the back end of the trip that we didn’t know if it was possible,” Cas explained.
“When we got to the South Pole we had to average over a marathon a day to just get back to the coast in 27 days, and we didn’t know if we could. Up until that point in the journey the biggest day we’d done was probably 34 kilometres. So to have to average close to 45 a day… We just didn’t know if it was possible,” Cas told us.
The challenge was not just about hitting a deadline either. To help the journey along, the pair buried caches of food on their way to the pole, noting its precise location with GPS lighten their loads. On the way back, cut back to half rations to ensure they didn’t starve, Cas and Jonesy would regularly reach their food stores with less than half a day’s worth of food left.
How the duo managed to save their 2,300km expedition is an amazing tale. Because the physical challenge of trekking 45 kilometres a day pales in comparison to the mental battle you have to fight when you’re taking on the world’s fifth largest continent.
“On an expedition like this, you’re going to experience your really high highs and your really low lows, and it’s natural you’re going to fight out there and there’s going to be tension,” Jonesy told EFTM.
“I know that when I was really down, I did need Cas there, he needed to be strong in those periods of time. It’s really dangerous when you both get in a low position, when you both feel adrift.”
Which is exactly what happened during that initial month, when the weather turned against them. Overcoming the funk was partially an improvement in conditions, but even more of a switch in how the couple looked at their challenge.
“In my head, the objective changed from ‘having to ski X kilometres per day’ to ‘let’s get out there and do eight hours hard on the trail, and whatever we can do in that eight hours is all we can do, so let’s be happy with that’,” Cas explained.
Mental games, music and the complete collection of Harry Potter audiobooks helped the duo not only survive, but overcome the odds to return to the coast despite the initial month-long setback. Also, the idea of food helped.
“Jonesy doesn’t shut up about food. He just goes on and on and on and on… He designs meals and recipes and dishes and half the time he’ll just be wanting to talk about food,” Cas laughed.
“Often after good sessions, Cas would pull up and say, ‘What’s going on man, I could hardly keep up with you then?’and I’d say ‘I’m just making up some recipes!’ I had all these recipes, I was writing them down in my diary… And I… I really craved meat,” Jonesy admitted.
Cas and Jonesy recently filmed a series of webisodes with Garmin, designed to get everyday Australians excited about adventure and the great outdoors. The webisodes will be launching on Garmin’s website soon but you can check out the first video above. Visit www.garmin.com.au over the coming weeks to watch the rest.