On Dec. 21, 2016, Aron Anderson, a Swedish man, reached the South Pole by sit-ski in what is believed to be the second such journey by a paraplegic. Although many media outlets have reported that Anderson was the first, Grant Korgan, an L2 para, skied to the South Pole in 2012. Anderson, a wheelchair user as a result of childhood cancer, completed a 21-day journey that took him some 398 miles from the edge of the Antarctic continent to the geographic South Pole. He traveled in a custom cross-country sit-ski outfitted for the extreme conditions. The expedition aimed to raise money for children’s cancer treatment.
Anderson was joined and assisted by Doug Stoup, a longtime polar guide and explorer, whose website says he has “skied to both the North and South Poles more than anyone on the planet.” Stoup skied towing a sled that carried the pair’s gear and supplies.
Leaving Sweden on Nov. 19, Anderson — a four-time Paralympian, adventurer, and public speaker — flew to Punta Arenas, Chile, where he and his partner made final preparations for the journey before flying on to Union Glacier Camp in Antarctica.
The pair had originally planned to ski the entire distance from the Leverett Glacier, up to and across the Polar Plateau to the South Pole. Conditions and fatigue, spurred by an untimely stomach illness for Anderson, forced them to shorten the human-powered portion of the expedition. In total, Anderson managed to ski over 186 miles through temperatures that averaged -22 degrees.
Despite the hardships, Anderson remained upbeat about the journey. In a post-expedition interview, he told the BBC World Service: “I like to push myself, and see what’s possible because I enjoy the journey. Being to the South Pole was really, really hard, but it was also amazing.”
A survivor of childhood cancer, at the age of 9 an operation to remove the cancer from Anderson’s lower back left him with limited function in his lower body. The expedition, dubbed the “Pole of Hope” succeeded in reaching its goal to raise some 6.4 million Swedish Kroner (around $717,000 USD) for the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation.