Cayman explorer Manning reaches the South Pole

Guy Manning stands at the South Pole on Jan. 13 after completing an eight-day trek across the polar plateau in sub-zero temperatures.

Adventurer Guy Manning is one step closer to completing the Explorers Grand Slam, and the Cayman Islands Cancer Society has about $70,000 more in its coffers.

Mr. Manning, 44, recently completed a trek to the South Pole, arriving at the Earth’s lower tip on Jan. 13. He has summited the highest peaks on all seven continents, so only a trip to the North Pole remains in order for him to complete the grand slam. He plans to tackle that in April 2020, again, as he has on most of his excursions, raising money for the Cancer Society. He said he is grateful to everyone who contributed to the most recent fundraising effort.

If he is successful in reaching the North Pole, he will be part of an exclusive club. To date, just 63 people have completed all nine challenges. He would be the first from the Cayman Islands to do so.

Mr. Manning, a partner at Campbells law firm, said enduring the weeks of cold necessary for scaling mountains such as Everest, Denali and Vinson helped prepare him for the polar temperatures that dipped as low as minus-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Windchill made it feel even colder.

“There were times when I was literally wearing everything I had and it was still cold,” he said. “You become aware how quickly the flesh can freeze.”

His did not, although he said he had to be constantly mindful not to expose even the smallest area of skin to the elements. A couple of people on the nine-member team that set out from the 89th parallel did get some frostnip on their faces, he said, but no one suffered any frostbite.

One of the biggest challenges of trekking across the polar plateau, he said, was the boredom. The group skied for 70-minute stretches six times a day. They traveled single file most of the time, so conversation was limited, and there was little to look at.

Guy Manning is one challenge away from achieving the Explorers Grand Slam. – Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

“It’s just white, featureless polar plateau as far as the eye can see,” he said. “It’s still impressive, because you can see for a long way, but it can get monotonous. You’ve got hours and hours and you’re completely disconnected.”

Cellphone service? No. Wifi? No. Just lots of white with the frigid whip of the wind and the sound of sliding skis.

“There is a lot of thinking time,” he said. His own thoughts turned to the home he’s planning to build. “I spent all the time designing the house in my mind. I have a few design features that I thought of.”

It was also strenuous. One of his team members estimated they were burning about 5,000 calories daily. Mr. Manning said he was only eating about 2,500 calories of reconstituted, freeze-dried food. Although he purposely put on an additional 10 pounds during the Christmas holidays, he came back 12 pounds lighter than when he left. He compared the weight loss regimen to the South Beach Diet.

“The South Pole Diet is quicker,” he said, “just a bit more expensive and a lot more miserable.”

Of the nine people who set out on the 69-mile journey, only six completed the trip. The other three fell victim to illness and/or exhaustion. In the old days, he said, they would have ended up perishing in the elements. But a satellite phone call to the pole brought two snowmobiles stationed there to pick up those needing assistance.

Reaching the pole on the eighth day, he said, was a rush.

“It’s a satisfying feeling after putting in all that training,” he said.

It gave him a new appreciation for what earlier explorers endured.

“Just thinking about the history of the South Pole and what people have gone through to explore the continent,” he said, especially original explorers such as Roald Amundsen, the first to make it to the South Pole and back, and Robert Falcon Scott, the second explorer to make it, but whose team lost a battle against the elements on the return trip. Those expeditions were in the winter of 1911-1912.

“In 1911, the zipper hadn’t even been invented,” Mr. Manning said, noting they only had tweed and wool to protect them instead of modern, synthetic insulating fabrics. “It’s just incredible what they went through.”

This was Mr. Manning’s third trip to Antarctica. He said he does not think he will return.

“Never say never,” he said, “but I think there are other challenges out there.”

If he’s successful in reaching the North Pole next year, he said, he may look into rowing across the Atlantic.

“There’s plenty out there to do,” he said.

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