Outdoor recreation grad Scott Kress (BSc’93/HBOR’93) knows what it is like to live life on the edge.
This alumnus and adventurer is the 51st Canadian to summit Mount Everest and the 18th Canadian to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents, along with mountains in the Rockies, Andes, Alps, and the Himalayas.
Scott’s outdoor rec roots are also apparent in his work organizing and guiding expeditions for True Patriot Love – a charity based in Toronto that seeks to help ill and injured Canadian soldiers and war veterans. In addition to mountaineering, Scott is a compelling storyteller, author, and team-building expert who runs Summit Team Building.
On March 10, Scott gave a talk called “Achieve the Outrageous” as part of Lakehead University’s Alumni Speaker Series. We invite all of our readers to click here to listen to Scott share the story of his punishing 44-day expedition across Antarctica – one of the most hostile places on the planet.
“Antarctica is teeming with life in specific areas, but it’s confined mostly to the coast. Once you move inland, there is nothing,” Scott says. “No animals, no humans, no plants, nothing.”
In 2016, he and three other explorers arrived there with the mission of skiing 1,000 km – unsupported and unassisted – to the South Pole.
“An unsupported expedition is one in which the explorers receive no re-supplies along the way,” explains Scott. “Each person must pull their expedition gear and enough food for 50 days in sleds weighing over 110 kilos.”
An unassisted expedition means that the explorers will use only human power for forward movement (no machines, dogs, or kites). “An unsupported and unassisted expedition is the purest form of expedition and harkens back to the early days of polar exploration,” he says.
Since the best way to train for any sport is to do that sport, Scott tried to mimic pulling a heavy sled by dragging truck tires around his neighborhood for hours each day. He also had mental and polar skills developed over decades of adventuring. But even the most arduous training regimen can’t compare to the real thing.
“The first few days are always tough as your body adjusts to the physical exertion and your mind adapts to the isolation,” Scott says.
The last few days are challenging too as you know you are almost done, and your body has just about had enough.
Because the expedition season runs from late November to mid-February during the short Antarctic summer, Scott had to cope with being away from his family during the holidays.
“Emotionally, Christmas was difficult. Sitting in the tent thousands of kilometres from home on Christmas Day is a lonely experience.”
The sense of isolation was compounded by brutal weather conditions. When Scott’s party arrived at the South Pole, the temperature dropped dramatically because they were at an altitude of 2,835 m.
“Initially, we were in the -15 C range and some of our coldest days on the Polar Plateau were in the -35 C range. Add in the windchill, and the temperature can drop even further. On many days, the wind speed exceeded 74 kilometres per hour, making travel difficult and uncomfortable.”
Now, Scott has a new achievement to be proud of – he was recently named a Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS). The Society was established in 1929 to make Canada better known to Canadians, and to the world.
The men and women chosen to be RCGS Fellows must have directly contributed to scientific knowledge in the fields of geography, geographical exploration, or allied sciences, or through teaching, academia, community service, and the arts. Scott was elected a Fellow based on his expedition and adventure background in Canada.
The first Fellows included trailblazers like Canadian scientist and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin, and Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson as well as explorers, anthropologists, and historians. What links RCGS Fellows is their common commitment to the Society’s longstanding tenets: “the determination to build, courage to explore and steadfast love of country.”
Lakehead congratulates Scott on being honoured by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and his death-defying adventures around the globe!