Veteran Japanese adventurer plans unassisted solo trek to South Pole

Kyodo

A 40-year-old Japanese adventurer will embark on an unassisted solo trek in mid-November journeying approximately 1,130 km across Antarctica to the South Pole.

If successful, Yasunaga Ogita will become the first Japanese to accomplish such a feat. He plans to pull a 100-kg sleigh loaded with a tent, food and fuel and reach the goal in about two months.

“I want to experience the excitement of seeing an unknown world,” said Ogita, who previously made two attempts at unassisted treks to the North Pole since 2012, but had been unsuccessful due to obstacles such as huge crevasses.

This time he will be trekking in summer from Hercules Inlet, a location in the Antarctic at 80 degrees south latitude, and when the temperature on the continent covered with a thick ice sheet will be around minus 35 degrees Celsius.

Ogita, who lives in the town of Takasu in Hokkaido, said unlike the Arctic, where explorers face challenges such as crevasses and walls of sea ice, adventures in Antarctica would not involve technical difficulties.

But he said the upcoming trek is expected to be physically demanding as he would constantly face strong highland winds in climbing to the South Pole, some 2,800 meters above sea level.

Ogita has collected through crowdfunding ¥3.7 million of the ¥20 million needed to fund the trek, including the costs of chartered flights to Antarctica.

A native of Kanagawa Prefecture, Ogita joined a trekking program for the first time in 2000 when he walked in the Arctic with Japanese adventurer Mitsuro Oba. At that time he said he had been “looking for a place to burn energy” after quitting his studies at Kanagawa Institute of Technology.

After that experience, he saved money from various part-time jobs and visited the Arctic 15 times, successfully trekking over 9,000 km in total.

Reflecting upon his adventures in the Arctic, Ogita said he had once shooed away polar bears that approached while he was asleep, and also suffered burns when his tent was set ablaze by a stove.

“In such adventures, you feel you are living and facing challenges with full force. I have gained experience in the Arctic, which I think makes it possible for me to reach the South Pole,” he said.