Kim Young-mi completed solo Antarctic exhibition with a little help from her friends
When mountaineer Kim Young-mi reached the South Pole alone after a 50-day journey through the most deserted place on Earth last month, she overcame the loneliness with the help of some pre-recorded clips of her favorite people and places.
Kim, 42, became the first ever Korean mountaineer to reach the South Pole unassisted on Jan. 17 after departing from Hercules Inlet in the Antarctic on Nov. 27.
“I went there with recordings of the voices of my college classmates from the mountaineering club, a clip of my friend’s child singing and the sound of water from a cave on Mount Seorak,” Kim said during an interview at a hotel in Jung District in central Seoul on Feb 14. “Carrying that feeling of space and coziness to the Antarctic was helpful.”
During her 50-day journey, Kim did not receive any equipment or food, but walked the 1,186.5 kilometers (737 miles) entirely on her own with a 100-kilogram (220-pound) sled.
“I purposefully gained five kilograms before going there, but I lost 14 kilograms as I walked 11 hours per day,” Kim said during the interview. “My mom said to me ‘thank you for coming back looking healthy’ when I arrived home in Pyeongchang after returning to Korea.”
Having become the youngest Korean Mountaineer to reach the apogees of the seven continents in 2008 at the age of 28, Kim decided to traverse the Antarctic after reading a book about two Norwegian women who crossed the continent using a kite.
She had originally planned to go to the South Pole with a friend, but embarked on her journey on her own after her friend got married.
One of the hardest parts of the journey was the extremely strong wind.
“The wind was the scariest,” Kim said.” I had to deal with 11 hours of crosswinds in weather that was minus 25 to minus 28 degrees Celsius (minus 13 to minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit),” Kim said. “The blizzard blew at the rate of 12 meters a second (23 knots) at the 83 and 84-degree south latitude.”
Kim also had to take care of her diet and equipment carefully in order to stay alive during the journey.
“Changing clothes was not a problem because I never had to and I was used to sleeping in a tent thanks to the 20 days of winter training I had done at the mountaineering club,” Kim said. “I ate 4,500 calories a day, just focusing on giving myself enough fuel. I had the same soup I froze with pork and beef every day.”
Kim also had to endure a great amount of neck pain during her journey because she always had to walk on the hard ice with nothing but a trekking pole.
“Climber Park Young-seok told me that the Arctic was hell on earth, but the Antarctic was, to borrow a line from the movie ‘The Way Back’, ‘prison,’” Kim said. “The only way to escape to the South was to move forward with full force.”
Despite the hardships she underwent in the Antarctic, Kim has not lost the desire to keep exploring and pushing her body to the limit.
“I think wherever I book a ticket to after recovering will be my next destination,” she said. “I want to be remembered as an honorable mountaineer. I want people to have that courage to move forward because I realized that humans are not weak.”
BY PARK RIN [email@example.com]