After 525 days and many many kilometers I am back in civilization.
The 18 months long journey has been filled with joy, happiness, tears, problems and solutions. A journalist once asked me what the most important skill is if you want to become an explorer. I answered; flexibility! To be able to find new routes, find solutions to problems and to think outside the box. There is a known climber called Reinhold Messner who crossed Antarctica and published a book called “Heaven and Hell”, and I can really see his point. There has been moment during these 18 months that has been the best of my life, but also moments that has been the worst ever.
The first problem came when I was trying to reach Greenland from North Pole and there was no ice left to reach land. We had two options; give up or find a another solution. I chose the other solution which was to ski to Canada instead of Greenland.
From Greenland we were about to use dogs instead of our own human power which would have been nice after 47 days of pulling a sled. We had fuel, food, supplies and people that would meet us in Greenland. In Canada we had nothing. No maps, no food, fuel and most important; we had no clue how to get through Nunavut since that was not in the plan and schedule. So when arriving to Canada the only solution for me was to fly to the closest place to get food, travel to the first place where I could bike from (Tuktoyaktuk in Canada) and then start biking. I tried to get through with both kayak, boat and hiking but since I had no maps or equipment that was a bad idea.
So what about flying to northen Greenland and start going down with dogs? Well, the dogs where no longer available so the only solution for me was to leave this undone and go back later during the expedition after South Pole.
From Canada I started biking with a support car. I didn’t have my Audi bike yet since I was a bit early so I had to take the only bike I could find and then start down. The roads were fantastic and the weather to. After the snow storms on North Pole this was almost vacation. My knee was bad and the back to so with the support car taking the heavy load I was able to make it down to Vancouver.
From Vancouver I changed bike and hooked up with my school friend Carl Robert who would join me all the way down to Bogota. He is a close friend that also was with me on Mount Everest. The biking through USA was great, but my knee was still bad. Now we could split the heavy weight between us and not was good. In Mexico the support car got stuck in customs so we had to bike all the way through the deserts by our selves. I ended up in hospital due to heat struck and we did not meet the support car until we arrived to Guatemala.
Central America was one big long rainfall and after 50 days of rain and biking a sailing over to Colombia was not to bad. Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and chile was a long long endless road through jungles, over 4500 meters in snow storms, over mountains and through salt deserts. But it was extremely beautiful.
In the middle of Colombia I got very alarming information that a crack in the ice in Antarctica has been seen by NASA, the largest crevasse ever reported. At the same time ice bergs started to crack from the continent and the three captains that I was discussing my crossing with refused to sail at that time to that area. Instead I again had to make a difficult decision; give up or find a new solution. Again I refused to stop and started to find new solutions. My only option was to take a flight with scientists to a Russian base called Novo. This was way longer than my plan but it seemed to be my only option. We reached the coast of Antarctica and after 2400 km we reached the South Pole. But it was a little bit more complicated than that. The second day my co explorers fuel tank started to leak and we lost at least one week of destroyed food and fuel to melt drinking water. This means that we had no extra days or spare time. We had to move fast. My knee started to get worse and one day I had an accident with the kite and broke two ribs. On top of that a hurricane came in and took another four days from us. The season was heading to its end and Antarctica is one of those places you don’t want to be left alone. So be able to make it to the South Pole we had to move as one machine, with one kite pulling us both. With my broken ribs and wounded knee, a harness over my chest was not possible. Since did food was ruined this was a good solution.
After reaching the South Pole I had to go back to South America and then bike the last distance and then sail over to Antarctica. This was hard with my knee and broken ribs. I didn’t feel my 10 toes for about three weeks so I was afraid I was going to loose a few, but all went ok.
The sailing over to Antarctica was fantastic, but it felt strange to sail over to a place I just been to. But since I wanted to do everything in my power to travel with natural powers…this is what I needed to do.
After getting back I still had the Greenland part left to cover. I was late in the season and the world climate is really complicated to predict so skiing all the way from Ilulissat in Greenland to 82° was not an option, so again I had to make a decision….quit or find a alternative way. I found a sailboat that could take me from Ilulissat to Thule and that would solve all my problems. I would travel with a sailboat and I would cover the distance. After a few weeks I reached the north part of Greenland and I had to ski, kite and hike close to the coast line to be able to reach 82°. This spot was the exact location to where we where about to go from the North Pole so this would close the circle. I did not want to go out on the big ice cap since the crevasses where bad and the melt water was covering the ice. I followed the coast to Lincoln sea and then after 525 days I had made all the distances between the poles.
There was no possibility to do all distances in one stretch, but I can proudly say that I have covered all the distances from North Pole to South Pole with ski, sail, kite, climbing, hiking, kayak and bike.
The expedition between the poles was a challenge. Both physically and mentally. I have been forced to fight against time, nature and politics. I have been through minus 50 to plus 50. I have used everything from bike, skis and sailboat to climbing gear, swim suit and kites to able to travel through 19 countries. But I have been alone. During this long adventure the team is of course a very important part. I thank the over 20 persons who have traveled with me during this odyssey and I also thank the millions of followers who have followed me in media along the way. It has been fantastic that the expedition has been covered by up to a billion viewers through media like Wall street Journal, Financial Times, CNN, CBS, NBC, BBC, National Geographic, Playboy, GQ, TIME, Miami Herald, SVT, Terra.com, Wired etc.
To predict an expedition is always the most difficult and during this expedition I had to take new routes, find different solutions to problems and fight with time. But I never gave up and even if I had to go back and fulfill distances I never even thought about giving up. With two broken ribs, injured back, hurting knee and frostbites on nose, fingers and toes I was many times thinking “why am I doing this?….when is this going to stop?”.
When I climbed Everest I was told that no matter how hard it will be, it will be worth it afterwards. This was something I took with on Pole2Pole. I knew that I would had to fight the pain and the time and now 18 months later I am back home and guess what?
It was worth it….
Everything is possible – the Impossible just takes more time
Johan Ernst Nilson