Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Georges' Nationality

There's this thing bugging me that all of the articles on my North Pole expedition have this inaccurate detail (besides many). All of them, from Nguoi Viet, Tuoi tre to Thanh Nien, for some reason, "awarded" Georges Baumann, one of team member in the expedition, a French citizenship! He is not a French man. He is a Swiss. I thought I would "give" back his true nationality here :) He is supposed to be on a historic expedition crossing the Arctic from Russia to Canada via North Pole this year. I am not sure if he did it or not. Nonetheless, I wish him luck. By the way, the picture in is homepage was taken in our trip. His face mask is very well built, but it resembles (a little) Dr. Hannibal's mask :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Raising the Bar

I detailed my workout and training plan to Steve and Christoph and asked for recommendations. Well, my plan is apparently a bare minimum for SP! Here's what I said:

3 times/week on cardiovascular (more on stairmasters) for 1 hour each session
2 times/week on weight lifting
Hiking on weekend with added weight backpack - By July I must be able to carry 30-35 lbs to hike up the mountain near my place (Mission Peak or Mt Diablo)

Here's what the experts says:
From Steve
- Mountaineering expeditions
- Winter camping
- Cross-country and touring skiing
- Tire-pulling
From Christoph
- Need to go out, camp, ski, sleep, wash, anything, in bad winter weather

Advices are taken seriously.

I have now plan for two climbs this summer: Mt Shasta and Mt Rainier. More hiking trips to Yosemite or other places will be done this summer/fall. Right now I hike two times a week. My god, it's not that easy. Last week I had small problem with my left knee so I only had 3 bottles of water in the backpack. Yesterday I had 1.5 gallon of water and today I added more to 2 gallons. 2 gallons is about 16.5 lbs (7.5kg) of weight. Just half of what I need for Shasta. So my plan is each time increase by half a gallon. It seems small but it is killing if you do it consecutively. Mission peak is now my weekend hang out place. It is only 2517 ft (767m). The trail is 2.8 miles (4.5km). So far I did it within 1h 20 mins straight with no break. First I need to get the weight up, then speed.

Another hangout spot is the beach. It sounds nice if you go there just to chill. "Lucky" me, that's where I do my tire-pulling. I pulled the tire around my neighborhood last week. Some people looked at me weird, like I have some mental issue. I didn't care, kept on pulling. But pulling on asphalt and concrete is pretty easy, so I "raise the bar" today. I went to the beach after the hiking, starting to pull. I did get a lot of stares, that for sure. Some poeple gave me thumbs up, not sure if they know what I am doing ;). Pulling the damn tire on the sandy beach is damn tiring. It really drains you. I could only do 30 mins this time. I need to increase the duration. One thing I could see that keep me going is the fact that I was on the beach and it was very nice. There weren't that many people today as it was quite cold, but it worked out great for me. I was hot!

And for training, I have increased cardio exercise duration and frequencies. I now do on the weight day too, but shorter. So hope all of this will help. One thing I could see change immediately is I eat a lot now. All those calories burned need to be refilled.

Good thing I see progress, everytime and everyday. Don't know where I am going reach the ceiling but I need to keep on pushing. Sometimes it difficult to self motivate but I think having a goal in mind really helps to raise the bar.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Speed of Email Response

I have shot a lot of emails to contact people and also received initiating emails. Some I got really quick response, some still waiting. All of these related to the SP. Obviously I would love to get fast responses but its not always the case in the reality as we all know.

1) Slow
I started the application to the SP back in Feb! Only now I got accepted and yesterday I sent in my booking and medical information forms. They were passed on to ANI doctor for another round of assessment. I was told I would be in touch soon but haven't seen anything yet. Guess another phone call would do, as always.

2) Kinda Slow
I contacted Christoph Höbenreich, my guide for the North Pole two weeks ago, asking him for tips on training. I thought my email was lost as I kept on waiting. Tonight I received his email. Turned out he went on a historical expedition: Ski across Nambia sand desert. This is the first of its kind. I've been to Sossouvlei (Namibia) and climbed the sand dunes in the spring. It's quite harsh there in the desert, especially it is winter. Congratulations Christoph, very cool.

3) On Going
I replied Eric Larsen last weekend, and I have not received his words. I hope I didn't catch him at a wrong time. I think he might have gone off to the second leg of his quest, the Everest. I'll give him a call tomorrow to see what's going on. I need to know the schedule for the training in order to plan ahead.

4) Fast
When I booked for Mt Shasta early this month, the guy at Shasta Mountain Guides was nice and all and promised to send me information regarding the gears through email. I received it within few days. I shouldn't call this is fast but faster than a lot.

5) Super Fast
I talked to Chip Popoviciu, a Cisco guy who climbed Everest last year regarding the mountaineering. He was very helpful and very patient with my questions. He recommended Eric Remza, who also scaled Everest and works for major outfitters such as International Mountain Guides. Eric contacted me even before I did. So now I am asking him if he could accommondate me to one of his climbs to Mt Rainier in Sept. everything happenend within a few hours. I'm sure I learn a lot of him.

Update (Aprl 26)
- It seems Eric Larsen has gone to roof. I called him on his cell but it went straight to his voicemail. Hope he's doing well. On this leg of his quest he has support, I wonder what kind of support it is.
- You know the slowest of email reponse I had? It's gotta be from Mr Zhao, the guy who paid 2.1 million to have lunch with Warren Buffett last year. He is the hedge fund manager in ShenZhen and Hongkong. He paid the money just to fly up to the North Pole. We met in the helicopter on the way to the pole. Anyway, he took picture of me and promised to send me when he got back. I emailed him a few times and he said he would send it. Only one year later he sent it. I'm not complaining since I can be very slow too and I can't expect this guy who is so rich, why would he care about someone he met at the pole.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Beginning to the Bottom of the World

South Pole Last Degree - it's almost official.

Last Friday Steve Jones (the manager at ANI) sent me an email saying that I am accepted for the program. I did not know it could be this difficult just to get into the program. It's like meeting certain standards for an admission to a university in North America or an entry exam in Asia. Whether you have money to pay for tuition or are able graduate is another story, but first you must pass the test or meet their criteria to get into the school. But I finally made it. I am now working with Melanie, a staff at ANI, to complete registration process.

It is just the beginning of a long journey to destino South Pole. Next 8 months will be time for training/preparation, or studying (in school terminology). Would I have enough time to prep for this? I don't know but I think this is quite a long preparation and hopefully it is enough.

Now the next deciding factor for this journey is $$$. I do not have the money for this yet. I need sponsors. Anyone knows who might be interested in sponsoring me (obviously I need to do my part of the sponsorship), please let me know :). I really appreciate it.

Or if I could join the Russian crew this year to the South Pole, then I don't have to raise money. I can only wish.

Eric Larsen, a world renown polar explorer also contacted me last week regarding a training in preparation for this much challenging expedition. Hopefully I have a chance to work with him. This year, he's on a quest for something that has never been done before, 3 poles in the span of 365 days: North Pole, South Pole and the Everest. The roof of the world is considered the third pole in the world of explorers. An impressive quest indeed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Year Later

Time flies! It's exactly one year since I last posted anything here. I said I would post some stories from the North Pole expedition but haven't done so. Partly because I have been busy, and partly lazy. But most of all, I think I will save them for later, maybe in a form of a book, or maybe a website. I have no plan for these yet as things started to get even busier for me. So I have to apologize to those who'd been asking me for this, especially one of my friends from Toronto.

Last week was the "anniversary". I did not celebrate it, but it was very nice to see my story published in two newspapers in Vietnam (Tuoi Tre and Thanh Nien) exactly one year after the date I arrived at the pole. Actually last summer a Vietnamese paper in Southern Calif (Nguoi Viet) already ran an article about this trip. Thanks guys for picking me out of obscurity. Also, I want to thank those who left comments, here or in forums on the internet.

Well, a year has passed and time to look forward to the next challenge: the South Pole.