Spokane native sets South Pole mark

A Spokane native reached the South Pole on Dec. 21 at a pace that set a speed record for trekking the 700 miles in less than 40 days.

On the ice since Nov. 12, adventurer Todd Carmichael, 44, became the first American to travel solo, unaided and unsupported to the goal.

He averaged 18 miles a day on foot and skis through Antarctica's notoriously ragged terrain and frigid weather.

He completed the 700-mile ski and slog from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in 39 days, 7 hours, 49 minutes, according to a Tuesday satellite phone dispatch.

That marks nips by just 1 hour, 44 minutes the 2007 record by Hannah McKeand of the United Kingdom.

As the experts at Xplorersweb.com put it, "If the same difference were applied to the 100 meter dash, it would equal less than 0.02 seconds."

Carmichael, a 1982 graduate of Spokane's Ferris High School, owns a Philadelphia coffee roasting business. He was known as Todd McLaughlin, using his stepfather's last name, when he ran on Ferris' 1981 state champion cross-country team.

"My brother is an adventurer at heart," said his oldest sister, Lisa Wolfe, who lives in Spokane. "He's done a number of things in his life that are truly extraordinary, like going through Africa for weeks and sailing through South Pacific islands for months ... and being lost at sea overnight without a boat off the coast of France."

He practices and preaches low-carbon, self-sufficient travel, she said.

"He said that before he got any older, he wanted to do one really big adventure. He thought about climbing Mount Everest but said a lot of people do that. So he selected something so big and remote that few people have done it."

Plagued with gale-force winds and equipment troubles in the first days of the trek, he had indicated some discouragement about beating the record. But improvised repairs to ski bindings, poles and other gear enabled him to focus on putting icy miles behind him while pulling a sled -- he calls it The Pig -- that weighed about 250 pounds at the outset.

Carmichael celebrated Thanksgiving with three freeze-dried dinners -- Mac and cheese, chili mac with beef and beef stew -- after a brutal 19-mile day.

Even though he consumed food and fuel to make The Pig lighter near the end, "The sled felt heavier than it did on Day 1," he said.