Adventurer Pavel Sehnal - first Czech to reach both poles in gruelling Last Degree expeditions

Pavel Sehnal (third from the left) conquered the South Pole with six other adventurers on January 13, photo: Archive of Knowlimits

Fifty-four-year old financier, politician and adventurer Pavel Sehnal has become the first Czech to reach both the North and South pole in gruelling Last Degree expeditions. He conquered the South Pole with six other adventurers on January 13 of this year, less than two years after reaching the Arctic.

Pavel Sehnal  (third from the left) conquered  the South Pole with five other adventurers on January 13,  photo: Archive of Knowlimits
It’s not what you might expect of the owner of an insurance company, but Pavel Sehnal likes to stretch his resources to the limit. He is an enthusiastic cross-country skier who covers hundreds of kilometres on skis every winter. So his dream of reaching the North and South poles on skis was not as far-fetched as it might seem. In what was a challenging start to the year he set out on a Last Degree expedition to the South Pole along with nine other adventurers on a journey that lasted for eight days.

To travel the whole distance from the Antarctic coast to the Pole would take about 50 days. The Last Degree expedition involves flying to 89 degrees south to the Antarctic plateau and skiing across the final 120 km to the pole.

The group covered ten to twenty kilometres a day, depending on the conditions, skiing in temperatures between – 24 and -30 degrees Celsius. Only six of them reached their destination, the others had to return due to extreme exhaustion. Pavel Sehnal says that even for highly-trained sportspeople the Last Degree expedition is gruelling.

“The conditions are really tough and you have to battle against extreme exhaustion. We walked six to eight hours every day. After a while the freezing cold, the bitter wind and the emptiness ahead of you really get you down and you have to struggle hard to find the resolve to continue and complete the journey. “

Pavel Sehnal,  photo: Archive of Knowlimits
Pavel Sehnal says that when the going got hard the group told each other jokes in English in order to keep up their spirits. And they ate protein bars, nuts and dried fruits to keep up their strength. Every member of the team had to drink three litres of water a day. And since it is forbidden to leave any junk behind they had to carry all their waste as well. When the sun came out they would even undo the zipper on their jackets because sweating meant a risk of getting frostbite.

They finally reached their destination on January 13th, where they spent a few hours savouring their triumph before they were flown back to Chile where they had all met up.

The Antarctic is not blue as you would imagine – it is white – everything around you is dazzling white, even the sky, Pavel says.

He is already planning new adventures – a hot air balloon flight from Germany to Greece that lasts for several days or taking part in the famous Dakar Rally.

South Pole landscape,  photo: Archive of Knowlimits