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!“