Father-daughter duo from N.S. train for South Pole expedition
Published Tuesday, August 21, 2018 5:33PM ADT
It's impossible to create South Pole-like conditions in Stewiacke in August, but that doesn't stop 14-year-old Olivia Gourley from trying with her father Chris.
They pull tires to simulate the strain of pulling one hundred pounds of gear on a sledge.
Olivia weighs just 110 pounds herself.
The seeds of the Gourleys’ Antarctica dream came two years ago on a high-altitude adventure in the mountains of Peru.
“It was a five-day trip,” said Chris Gourley. “She did well every step of the way.”
Now the daughter-father duo has sights set on reaching the South Pole in 2019.
It will take two-to-three weeks on skis, travelling roughly 10 hours a day, depending on the weather.
“I have full faith that this is going to be possible, yeah,” Chris Gourley said.
If the Gourleys pull it off, Olivia would be the youngest person ever to reach the South Pole.
That’s an accomplishment that would be made more remarkable by the physical challenges she's already endured.
“My back was a little bit sore after a soccer practice, so I went to a chiropractor and as soon as I laid down on the table he said ‘you have scoliosis,’” Olivia Gourley said.
Olivia underwent groundbreaking spinal surgery at the IWK at age 11.
“It involved placing eight screws into my vertebrae on the right side and then attaching a flexible cord which would tether and correct my scoliosis over time,” Olivia Gourley said.
Chris Gourley is an experienced mountaineer who has climbed peaks on six continents.
He says this adventure combines brutal cold and varying snow conditions with the physical strain of high altitude -- over 10,000 feet.
“How do you train for that? You can't. You just gotta go do and see how you react,” Chris Gourley said.
Olivia realizes that conquering the mental challenges of the adventure is a huge part of succeeding.
“It’s long days just staring at the compass or the tip of your skis,” she said.
Chris Gourley he has doubts some nights while he’s lying in bed and wonders ‘what if?”
“You can’t live your life like that,” he said. “If something happens, I made a bad decision. But I'm going to do everything I can to mitigate those risks the best I can.”
The duo will be alone the entire way, but in communication with a rescue team if necessary.
As difficult as the physical preparation is, it's not the most difficult aspect of preparing for the trip. That would be the price tag, which is $100,000.
“We're looking for corporate sponsorships as well as private sponsorships.
Olivia says she enjoys challenging herself and wants to inspire other girls to dream big.
“Also, not falling into society's expectations of what you can do because that should be up to you,” she said.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jayson Baxter.