National duathlete Shahrom Abdullah vies to be the first Malaysian to ski all the way to South Pole.
The peril of frostbite and cracking ice doesn’t terrorize the 36-year-old Shahrom Abdullah. His upcoming journey to the southernmost point on Earth is nothing but extreme adventure over 1000km of complete white-out conditions.
Running Malaysia finds out what went into his months of preparation and what’s coming before the start of his polar expedition on November 17.
I am the only athlete in the family—only me among eight of my siblings. I’ve been active since young, trying different sports like football and ping pong.
I got serious into cycling first before running that I was already representing the state in 1997, whereas, I picked up running for cross-training. It also became my favourite, as it complements my cycling well. You know when you’re mountain biking, there are certain points in the race that you have to get off the saddle and run while carrying your bike. It helps a lot right there!
A Matter of Strength and Sense of Balance
I approached the intensity of the kind of training my sports career goals require with a sense of balance. Malakoff has been very supportive of me as their employee. On top of giving me time to train, they were sponsoring me for twelve years for my races, covering my accommodation and travel expenses. This expedition though will be sponsored by Kelab Eksplorasi 7 Benua Malaysia (KE7B). The president of the club, also my friend, picked me for the challenge.
The Polar Challenge
I will start the expedition on November 17 from Messner in Antarctica. It’s something new to me! Something totally different! This KE7B’s challenge to ski to South Pole was launched as “South Pole All The Way Expedition 2015”. I hope to create history and raise the flag of Malaysia there.
The Game Plan
After finding out that I’m going for the expedition, we set the training plan right away on a few places. The first was in Nepal. I went with my training buddy Siti Hanisah, the youngest Malaysian woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest, whose goal is to climb the Seven Summits. We stayed there for almost two weeks.
After the Nepal trip, I went to Longyearbyen, Norway. We met Polar Explorers, the expedition organizer and trained for the real thing for ten days. We had to prepare all the things needed for the trek as if we’re going to South Pole already, including clothes and even got feedback from our guide. It was my first time to try skiing!
After Norway, I went back to Nepal to lead our KE7B cycling team of 13, as we were supposed to go on an expedition on Mount Everest. We arrived there Friday night and the quake happened Saturday as we were looking for amenities for the expedition. You could hear all the noises from the shaking buildings. I didn’t panic and stood in the middle of the road for safety. The team got together and stayed together. We’re thankful to be out in the open when the 7.8 magnitude quake struck. We had to sleep in an open area for two nights, as there were tremors that followed. All 13 of us returned home safely!
After the Nepal trip, the next phase of my training was set in Mount McKinley, North America’s highest mountain peak, located in the Alaska range. We started our five-day training in May 18. We learned about rescue and travel, among other important considerations. Siti joined me here. We’re the only two from Malaysia in our team of 12. After this short training, we moved on to the main journey. There were 4 camps in total, and it took roughly 8-10 hours to go to one camp from another. We had to carry everything on a sledge, weighing 25-40kg altogether. Though, of course, whenever we reached the camp, we would stay for a couple of days to send cash, rest and acclimatize. The organizers would really come up and down to deliver food. It got tougher when we had to go through a fixed line from Camp 3 to 4. The fixed line is just 200m, but we took 1.5hrs to go up. Don’t forget we’re carrying all our stuff, plus the wind! Most people would get frostbite here. During this attempt though, we didn’t get to the peak because of the bad weather. We only stayed at the high camp for 3 nights. From here, the peak is still a long way away. The trip spanned for 27 days in total. It was really tough! It was such a mental game. It was good trip as we were able to familiarize ourselves to extreme cold.
Mount McKinley was only one month. The South Pole expedition will take us over two months. But the most important thing is, my company would give me unrecorded leave. I can’t thank them enough for their moral and financial support.
We’re looking at Korea or Japan for some skiing as part of my training. It’s only a few months from now, and it’s just going to be me alone from Malaysia. We’ll travel with maybe two guides and another explorer from another country. There’s 4 of us in the team.
My family is a bit worried, but they know me. I want challenge, and I want something different. I just really have to always keep in mind my safety.