Solo to the Pole



Waiuku’s John Dennis is taking on a massive challenge.
He plans to be the first New Zealander to ski solo to the South Pole. In this month’s column he details his recent training programme.

Greetings to my friends, family and supporters in Waiuku. I’m proud to report I’ve just returned from an epic polar training course in Norway with two of the best polar guides on the planet – Hannah McKeand – Guinness world record holder for the most South Pole crossings and Carl Alvey, a hugely experienced guide in expedition kiting and polar guiding.
This has set me up really well for my journey later this year. I learnt to Nordic Ski and did a 16km solo expedition around the Hardangervidda National Park, where I was completely isolated and self-sufficient. The trek covered 280km and I spent 33 hours bedded down in the tent due to horrendous winds. Though tent bound, it was an awesome experience for the main event, as Antarctica is constantly windy, so I’ll have to deal with it.
My ascent was estimated at 6000m – Everest is 8800m (as a comparison) and I towed my pulk which weighed 65kg. My entire life was in that pulk, we became very close!
I’ve had many people ask me about the name of my quest – Dare 2 Express. It was a name I came upon at a time when darkness consumed me. It’s a name that is poignant and symbolic to me. Expression and depression really are polar opposites, so being able to express yourself through depression is vitally important. There is medical evidence to suggest that positive mental stimulation and exercise increase the all-important serotonin levels in your brain, and reduces the effects of depression. Taking the trek solo symbolises the isolation I felt while depressed. It’s a huge journey and I want people to feel that if I can achieve this, anyone can.
I recently received a message from an ex-Waiuku College friend, who said, “Thank you for sharing your journey with me. It has offered me hope and perhaps a chance to start something new.” That means so much to me and is the reason I am doing what I am doing,
It’s a hugely busy time. I’m getting close to crunch time in regards to fundraising and the struggle to fit in training in and around work and family is real. But I remain positive and eternally grateful for the support I receive and for what this journey is bringing me. Join me if you can and don’t forget to dare 2 express yourself.

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