ExWeb interview with Max Chaya, “Crossing mile-wide open leads with thin ice was a terrifying experience”

01:54 pm CDT Jul 16, 2009
(ThePoles.com) In April 2009 Max Chaya from Lebanon bagged his Third Pole, the North Pole, after climbing Everest in 2006 and skiing to the South Pole in 2007.

Part of PolarExplorers Peary-Henson Centennial 2009 Expedition, in an interview with ExWeb’s Correne Coetzer, Max talked about the differences between his two polar expeditions.

Explorersweb: You have a weight problem, loosing too much. How did you control you weight loss on the North Pole ski and how much did you loose?

Max: My weight problem is not only “loosing too much” during an expedition but also, not being able to stock enough before!

To counter that problem, I devised an elaborate plan for stocking good fat reserves prior to the expedition, and decided to increase my daily calorie intake during the expedition.

We therefore carried and ate considerable quantities throughout the trip, hence the decision to have resupplies.

Explorersweb: What was your worst experience?

Max: Crossing mile-wide open leads with thin ice was a terrifying experience, especially that I knew that I was the heaviest member, carrying an equally heavy sled. I thank God that none have us went through the ice.

Explorersweb: And your best experience (except for 90°)?

Max: The whole expedition was very tough indeed, especially in the early stages when temperatures were constantly off the charts.

There were good moments though; and the fact that I was able to eat plenty was a blessing.

Best of all is the feeling you get after achieving the objective in the set time frame.

Explorersweb: How did your South Pole and North Pole experiences compare? Physically and mentally?

Max: Oddly enough, my South Pole experience was more difficult, both physically, and mentally than the much harder, and much more dangerous North Pole.

This is due to the fact that I was on a much larger calorie deficit in Antarctica, and I consequently lost a great deal of weight and power towards the end.

It should be noted here that my SP was unassisted and unsupported, where as my NP was only unsupported, and so we were resupplied twice. This meant more calories ingested every day, and no excessive weight loss or power shortage.

Explorersweb: Any advice you can give to potential skiers, NP or SP?

Max: Don’t ever think of attempting the NP before its southern counterpart. And for those attempting an “all the way”, especially if unsupported and unassisted, train well in advance, and don’t set off before you’re your body fat is above 22%. Anything less, and you’ll soon feel like a car with an empty fuel tank.

Explorersweb: What were the main differences in gear for the South Pole vs. North Pole?

Max: Regarding garments, I wore a Gore Tex Pro outer shell in Antarctica, while I had a much more breathable Supplex outer in the Arctic.

Also, some of my garments were down in Antarctica, while we used synthetic (Primloft) materials in the Arctic.

As for gear, I only had half skins on my skis down South, and full skins (even on the tips) up North.

Explorersweb: Future plans?

Max: I am currently proofreading a book that I have been writing for the past couple of years. “STEEP DREAMS: My Journey to the Top of the World” will be out on the shelves by October, and is turning out to be a fabulous coffee-table book.

As for my future adventure plans, although I have a couple of new ideas in mind, I haven’t yet had time to seriously think about them. Besides, I am still recovering from my NP ordeal!

Explorersweb: Anything you want to add?

Max: A word of thanks to all those who cheered and supported me on this long, arduous journey, and that includes you Correne, and the rest of the ExWeb team!

Lonnie Dupre (guide, USA), Stuart Smith (USA) and Max Chaya (Lebanon) arrived at the North Pole on 25 April 2009 after skiing 53 days from Cape Discovery, Canada. The expedition received resupplies and was organised by PolarExplorers.

Maxime Chaya was born in 1961 and lives in Lebanon. He became the first Lebanese who has skied to the Poles and have climbed the Seven Summits. His South Pole expedition was unassisted, unsupported.

Max is married with 2 kids, Edgard and Kelly. He works for Bank Audi Corporate Ambassador. His favourite book is his own book “STEEP DREAMS: My Journey to the Top of the World…” and his favourite movie is “Jungle Book“. Max likes to eat anything if he is hungry, and “not even my favourite pasta dish if I’m is not!“

Here’s a recap – in photos – of some technologies used on my recent North Pole Expedition:

Continue reading Technology at the Poles

I knew the North Pole challenge (the last of my Three Poles) was going to be very tough, and equally dangerous. I began serious preparations well in advance, and even skied the last degree to the North Pole proper, as far back as 2004. Still, it proved even tougher, and more dangerous than I ever imagined! Like I said to a South African reporter shortly before leaving in February 2009, almost all these long, hard endurance events are won in the mind rather than the body. Indeed, keeping the faith and remaining mentally strong throughout the expedition is what made it a success. I am extremely happy and relieved that we all made it back from the Arctic Ocean in good health, and that despite the tremendous challenges, we achieved the objective in the desired time. Last, we have a local saying here which seems appropriate: “To be remembered, but not repeated!”

Max Chaya June 2009

Written by May El Khalil

Our Lebanese Hero and dear BOT member, Maxime Chaya, has been elevated to a unique group of only 12 people in the world who have accomplished the 7 Summits (the highest summit on every continent) and the Three Poles, Mount Everest, the South Pole on foot unassisted, and the North Pole on foot unassisted.

What an incredible human achievement. Congratulations to Maxime for this amazing achievement and outstanding example of what the body can do when the mind is willing.

The BMA invited Maxime over to our offices upon his return to Lebanon to congratulate him, share cake and good fellowship. Max’s stories are mind blowing. His effort in physical and psychological terms defy reason. He slogged his way across the ice and frozen waters of the North Pole this spring to attain the holy grail of endurance, planting the nation’s flag on the most northerly point of this terrestrial ball. In his own humble way, Maxime seeks to understate the immense human effort that was required and the deep soul searching compounded by the extreme elements that he faced. Minus 60 degrees without the wind chill factor is just one fraction of the hardships that his body faced. Losing over 12kg of body weight and consuming an astounding 8,000 calories a day being just some of the obstacles. Eating blocks of butter to keep energy up and reaching a moment where food was running short and time was running out are more captivating than the best Hollywood thriller.

Probably the most difficult part of his journey was the unexpected swiftness of his return to normal life. after 53 days of nothing but ice, cold and the clock ticking against him; the ice moving away from the pole almost as fast as he was progressing towards it, causing precious meters to be eaten out of his progress at every rest stop, made the final days of 15 hours per day forward movement the most challenging. but almost as soon as he achieved his goal, he was on a plane back to Europe and home to Lebanon, leaving him with a reverse culture shock.

Max’s story makes the heart beat faster, the blood pump in your veins and destroy all the pathetic reasons that we come up with as to why we cannot get out and run a few km to achieve the victory we call the marathon.

Max, we are forever proud of you and grateful for your contribution to the legends of explorers. the epic journeys of great men and women who have conquered the world.

Well done and thank you for sharing your journey and adventures with us. We are inspired and awed.

We look forward to hearing what lies ahead and in the meantime, hope to run together on our humble roads and highways in Beirut in the coming months.

Maxime talks on Future TV’s Alam Al Sabah

Maxime Chaya talks on Bokra Ilna – OTV