This November, Johanna Davidson, a Swedish polar adventurer is reaching for what some consider the ultimate goal – the South Pole.
Even though Sweden isn’t as big of a polar nation like its neighbouring country Norway, or other Europeans countries like the UK or Russia, there have been Swedes on the south pole before. Nevertheless, before Johanna sets out on here mission, no female swede have ever skied solo to the pole, and maybe yet more impressive, no Swede have before her gone for the southernmost area on our planet; without a return ticket home.
Johanna, which is educated as a nurse, and lives her life in the Arctic Capitol of Tromsø, is used to the wild. She spent plenty of winter seasons in the Alps and during 92 days she paddled by herself 3660 km of the coast of Sweden and Finland; however, this is not what made her known to the public. In 2014, she kited from southern Greenland, all the way to the north with her older sister. They crossed 2300 in 36 days, and was appointed “Female adventurers of the year” in Sweden.
I caught up with Johanna in late July, for some climbing in her excellent backyard in Tromsø, a place that really seems to suit here. However, even though Johanna isn't a complete stranger to the wild and polar areas, what makes her go into an Antarctic isolation for over two months, even risking her life…? Johanna explains that she has some form of fascination towards big oceans and endless plains.
"I feel that I have some short of fascination towards the endlessness that vast open spaces represent. I'm dragged towards huge oceans as well as huge plains, like the South Pole Plateau itself. Its something about being so far from any form of civilization, being in an almost unexplored area. At the same time, when you know that you are completely alone, it feels more extreme. It makes the challenge much greater, and you need to plan everything to a greater extent."
Johanna admits that its a long period to be all by herself, but she says its just nice to be alone sometimes, without being disturbed by someone. "Its just great to think without being disturbed. To think clear about what you have accomplished, and what you want to accomplish in the future. There is a lot to think of. I think I got some idea how it is to be alone for so long time, when I paddled for three months alone on the coast of Finland and Sweden, its not that bad."
The expedition starts in November, but even before she walked a meter on the South Pole, there have been immense work beforehand; on planning, training, talking with sponsors, again and again. When Johanna is confronted with this, she admits its really an enormous amount of work putted into the project beforehand, estimating that 70% of the work is already done before taking a single step on the South Pole. She explains that there is tons of work, concerning everything from planing the practical part, training, how to document the expedition, getting help and advice. Its a full scale jigsaw with tons of pieces.
Unfortunately, some of the biggest challenges is to raise the money needed for the expedition, and Johanna used an incredible amount of time to get it. She managed to get some big and good sponsors, but expeditions like this, usually cost much more than what we think. Today she got most parts covered by sponsors and contributions, but she admits its necessary for her to loan money as well. Nothing comes for free, especially not the South Pole.
"Im not walking around being afraid or anything, if I was that, I wouldn't have done this at all".
Johanna starts to talk about the challenges during her trip, and if there is anything in special that worries her. She explains, that even though she's alone, and she´s completely surrounded by wilderness, there have been allot of people on the route, and there is lots of information available about the area from other expeditions. She is mostly worried about getting injured, frostbites or some short of inflammation, especially when she is kiting back. When you are kiting, you expose your body to far greater power, and the risk of hurting your body grows. Its important to remember the long distances she is surrounded by, and if anything happens, its not certain the weather is good enough for external help to fly in. As Johanna says, there is no guarantee that things would end good, but those guarantees doesn't exist in daily life either, or as she would put it: "I just need to do this, there is no way back".
She clearly sees the advantage of being a nurse, making it easier to see symptoms and therefore preventing further damage. Off course she outlines that she doesn't hope that this set of skills will be needed. However, staying healthy or not, she admits the journey will be long and heavy. Some days will certainly be worse than others, a real pain in the ass, but she is hoping for good days as well. Days were it wouldn't be as much storms, and were she can enjoy the trip more, and most importantly, days were she can do necessary repairs if needed.
As extra motivations, she thinks she will bring some music, or recorded pep talk, or to have someone in her family or among friends which she could call, when she need extra motivation.
any tips for newcomers?
It’s all about taking a decision, then you just need to prioritize. There is tons of excuses, so its important to prioritize. Set a date early, then its easier to work towards it. And last but not least, ask for help, there is always someone who can help you with what you need..
This days, it’s seldom that woman who compete in sports, who act as excellent leader or those like Johanna who are going on expeditions like this, gets away without hearing references to their gender. Johanna doesn’t approve on being put in a category like this. As she says, she is doing this under the same conditions and with the same challenges like any man, and doesn’t want to be portrayed like a female adventurer. Off course she admits it’s partly her own fault, by going on a expeditions where she beforehand focused allot on branding herself as the very first female swede to complete this. On the other hand, she stands firm, on claiming this got more to do with pure will power, than what gender your born into.
as part of Johannes campaign to raise money, her friends at Up ski &Mountain Guidesdecided to launch a competition. The competition is easy, and maybe more like a lottery infact. For as little as 200 SEK, you will get the chance to go on a one week ski trip in the French Alps, in the majestic Maurienne Valley. For more information about the lottery,se here.
I don’t know about you, but Im buying a ticket for sure, and thereby helping Johanna as well!
We wish Johanna the best of luck on her South Pole Adventure.
For more info about her journey, check out her homepage.