The silence is deafening. Its land is a universe of ice and inhabited by neither human beings nor animals. There is no other place in the world more forbidden and savage than the South Pole, but for Doug Stoup, he feels right at home.

This November, the Squaw Valley skier and acclaimed adventurer once again leaves Truckee to lead an international cast of professional and extreme athletes, in addition to expert Antarctic historians and scientists to the Antarctic Peninsula. Called Ice Axe Expedition Ski Cruise 2009, participants will trek, ski, snowboard and explore several of the southernmost continent’s untamed peaks.

Stoup’s fascination with Antarctica and exploring began at age 14 after reading the tales of Ernest Shackleton. He fell in love with the continent in 1999 when he made the first ski and snowboard descent of the 16,077-foot Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica. Two months later he returned and completed the first ski and snowboard descent of the Antarctic Peninsula. That same year he became the first American male to ski from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole, in the process guiding a blind skier and a deaf skier. The trip lasted 62 days while crossing 730 torturous miles.


The continent continued to beckon the former collegiate soccer player who, in between his trips to Antarctica, attempted a snowboard descent of the 8,000-meter peak Cho Oyu in Tibet. In 2003 he became the first person to ride an ice bike 200 miles on the Antarctic continent. And he even met his wife, whom runs an environmental company in Truckee called 2041, Anne Kershaw, while in Antarctica.

‘To me, Antarctica is like a rose. It has its thorns and is difficult to get inside,’ explains Doug, 46. ‘But once you get inside there is an intoxicating beauty. The sparkles off the ice and the rings around the sun are hypnotic. There are more colors than you think. There is nothing else on earth like the beauty of its land.’

His Kong-size track record reads like a Homeric Odyssey. He’s topped out on Ama Dablam, Denali and Cerro Aconcagua. This past April he led back-to-back expeditions to the geographic North Pole. His Ice Axe Expeditions has grown into the foremost extreme guiding service in the world.

But Stoup’s contributions go past exploring remote regions of the world. His nonprofit, Ice Axe Foundation, and its educational programs have initiated awareness to thousands of young students throughout the country in the protection of the planet. He brings students along on his expeditions via satellite phone and Internet communication. An official ambassador for the United Nations, Stoup has worked with World Hope International and the Bill Gates Foundation to help empower the less fortunate. This past spring Ice Axe, with the help of Kid’s Talk Radio, delivered soccer uniforms, balls, and equipment to youth in Africa’s Ghana and Cape Verde Islands.

On the Desire to Help Others
Doug Stoup: Charitable work is not a matter of convenience or fashion. It’s the sincere desire to help others. My motives are simple. Through my expeditions and travels I have a great platform to help others. My company and I want to make an impact for awareness. We want to educate our clients and others to know that each of us can do our part. Hence, every expedition I lead I have expedition members raise money for the charity of their choice. Our 2008 South Pole Team raised over $700,000 for children’s charities in Canada. Two North Pole Expedition teams raised $100,000 for charities in the United Kingdom. For the upcoming Aconcagua climb in South America, my two clients are raising money for cancer.

These are great examples of how we can challenge ourselves both physically and mentally at the ends of the earth while making a difference in our communities.

On Man Vs. Mother Nature
DS: I’ve made successful trips to both Poles eight times, yet I remain very humbled by their environments. This past spring I made a mistake on the way to the North Pole, which resulted in me falling into the water and getting frostbite. Mother Nature always has the last say. There are a lot of risks in the things I do, but there are just as many in everyday life. I train hard and am very calculated in my preparation even when setting the bar higher. I never take anything for granted. I have a lot of dreams and a lot of future plans that I want to follow through with. I have no death wish. I want to live life. I’m very passionate about it.

On Global Warming
DS: I support climate change research. Every recognized scientist in the world has agreed that the planet is becoming endangered and that mankind is the reason.

Many of the smartest minds out there agree that global warming has created irreversible harm to the earth. There is no doubt that both white ecosystems are very complex. Personally, I see the effects of the warming of the water. I see differences in the ice. This past spring I broke through the ice 24 miles from the North Pole. My clients were so scared they were afraid to pee because the ice would break around them. There’s only a finite amount of years (left) to continue walking to the Pole.

On the Nature of Fear
DS: I never take on an objective without knowing that I can do it. It goes back to respecting the environment. However, because we’re pushing the envelope there is a bit of fear. Up in the Arctic there is what we call ‘whoomping’ effects. The ice is so thin that your weight alone can compress a sheet of ice for a mile. It scares the crap out of you. The bottom line is that you have to stay positive, even when nothing is going right. There are always going to be butterflies and unknowns. And believe me, although I’m confident from my years of experiences and belief in my equipment, I’ve retreated off mountains.

On Conflict and Failure
DS: Each one of us encounters defeat from time to time. It’s through the struggles and failures in life that we find much of our personal success. If you believe in something it is important to keep after it to make it work. Last year’s Ice Axe Expedition’s Ski Cruise to Antarctica was a complete disaster. We never even got the chance to attempt any of our goals. Because of the nature of the ship’s breakdown in port, many participants were left in limbo.

It was a tough situation for me, but all I could do was to stay positive. I went back to the drawing board and worked hard to make this (upcoming) trip happen. As a result, everything’s in place to try it again this November. It’s almost sold out and we have an incredible group of adventurers going.

On the Spirit of Adventure
DS: In Anchorage, Alaska, I once met Norman Vaughn. He was the last living member of Admiral Richard Byrd’s first Antarctic expedition. He’d helped establish the base camp Little America there. Eventually, Byrd named a mountain on the continent in his honor. In 1994, at age 88, Vaughn climbed the 10,302-foot Mount Vaughn. He competed in the 1932 Winter Olympics and 13 Iditarod sled dog races, winning twice. At age 100 he planned on climbing Mount Vinson, but passed before he could return to Antarctica. He was a hero to many others and myself. He had a saying which I live by: ‘Dream big and dare to fail.’

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  • Robert Frohlich

    Former writer

    1955 – 2010

    “If Lake Tahoe ain’t heaven, then heaven can wait.”
    ~ Fro fighting for his life

    “The next morning I arose early to watch the setting moon. The sun hadn’t quite broken out of the dreamy foliage of morning, and all was still: the blanketed dells, ridges, and granite domes. No sound. Something almost creepy hovered over the motionless surroundings. The landscape had a fierceness that made the Alps look tame.

    “There is a small stone fortress built in the 1920s that guards the actual point lookout. I noticed the fellow who’d bragged about skating the 11 miles in two hours. He was probably doing yoga, but he looked more like he was praying. Maybe he was praying not for his deliverance alone, but for mine, too, for our mutual enlightenment. Maybe he embodied the form that transcendent figures assume these days. I felt unaccountably cheered that this guy was a sort of postmodern angel, complete with a caption for people too dense like me to know a vision when they see one. How could it be otherwise? Many people wilt when their lives have been gutted. I’d refused to wilt. I’d been given a second life. In my first life I tried to do everything expected of me and had failed somewhat. Now in my second life I’d try to attempt things not expected of me.”

    ~ “Seeking Mojo at Glacier Point,” published in Moonshine Ink, March 8, 2010

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