BY KACY WRIGHT
North Tahoe High School’s freshman honors English class was given the assignment to write an article about someone’s journey, answering the question of why they go and what they seek, modeled after Jon Krakauer’s 1993 article “Into the Wild” for Outside Magazine. Moonshine Ink picked the winning story. Congrats to Kacy Wright!
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to ski down the highest peak in Antarctica, or to be the most traveled explorer? Tahoe local Doug Stoup, founder of Ice Axe Expeditions and a ski guide, would be able to tell you. He has been organizing expeditions for almost 20 years, leading anyone with the will and desire to join him on adventures to some of the remotest places on the planet in search of the experience of a lifetime. His expeditions have taken him and his clients around the world. He has endured everything from frostbite at the North Pole to mosquito bites on the Amazon River. He has traveled eight times to the Arctic Circle, 11 times to the Himalayas, 24 times to the Antarctic, and more than 10 times to each the North and South poles. His most recent trip was to the Brazilian Amazon in January 2013, where he explored the Rio Negro, the world’s largest blackwater river. This trip included night paddleboarding, fly-fishing, and flooded hikes, as well as delivering school supplies to native villages.
Before setting out on one of his journeys, Stoup prepares by undergoing extensive training and thorough preparations. He customizes his training plans depending on what type of physical preparation is needed for each expedition. One training technique Stoup is known for is pulling a 30-pound performance tire with high resistance up a hill, with the additional weight of one of his sons sitting on the tire. Other examples of his training methods include hiking, paddleboarding, dry land training, yoga, and even going to Woodward with his kids. Stoup trains up to eight hours a day in the months before they depart.
Along with his personal training, Stoup also has to make sure the team he is taking with him is prepared for the expedition that lies ahead. Beginning a year in advance, he first requires them to see a physician to get a complete check-up, making sure they are both healthy and stable. They are then started on a daily training and special diet to gain weight. While on their expedition they will burn up to 10,000 calories a day, and will eat one meal containing between 1,200 and 1,800 calories, so it is very important to prepare their bodies for the extreme impact of the resulting weight loss. The meals include freeze-dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, beef jerky, muesli, soup, chicken, and pasta, all of which are custom made by Stoup himself.
Despite being as prepared as possible, Stoup has experienced some physical accidents, including six concussions, a broken jaw and left arm, a broken femur, and frostbite on his nose, toes, and cheeks. He has also had more than a few close encounters with wildlife. One of his scariest expeditions was on his North Pole trip in 2005 when the ice was showing signs of melting and there were only five hours of sunlight each day. This expedition took 52 days to get to the pole in bitter cold weather. “Every day was a huge challenge and struggle to keep pushing,” Stoup said.
On that trip alone they experienced 19 polar bear encounters, including his friend’s run-in with a 12-foot polar bear on its hind legs in the early morning. Stoup heard him screaming, “He’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me!” and then unzipped his tent to see the bear was standing only 8 feet away from him. One of Stoup’s other friends crawled out of his sleeping bag just in time and grabbed his rifle. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any gloves on, and when he touched the gun, it ripped a whole layer of skin off his hands from the minus 50-degree weather. He finally shot the gun in the air with his bleeding hands and startled the bear, which then ran away. Stoup said these experiences help him prepare better for future trips and teach him how to react and adjust to tough situations.
Stoup’s expeditions are not all about thrill seeking. He requires his clients to raise money for charities that are meaningful to them; this can be anything from a nonprofit focused on cancer or Alzheimer’s. His fundraising efforts have raised over $8 million for environmental research. He also brings back data from his trips, including snow depth measurements, location of ice, and barometric pressure.
Stoup has experienced breathtaking adventures, pushed his and other’s physical limits, and made an extreme impact on the future through his charitableefforts. Additionally, he has been featured in five Warren Miller films, four other ski movies, and has received coverage by Time Magazine, CNN, Sports Illustrated, and National Geographic’s Traveler and Adventure magazines. Within the next year he has a book coming out on his past expeditions, which will include detailed maps and breathtaking pictures. However, his adventures are far from being over. “I still have many dreams to accomplish and territory to see,” Stoup said.
For more information on Stoup’s Ice Axe Expeditions, visit iceaxe.tv.
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