The 3 Poles Challenge

January 14, 2021 / Posted by Marmot Mountain Europe GmbH

Hey guys, here we are: Mikko Vermas and Tero Teelahti, two cheerful middle-aged family men from southern Finland. Our lives have been relatively normal compared to our peers. Except that for some reason years ago we became addicted to expeditions and skiing in cold climates. We were part of an expedition to the North Pole – unsupported and unassisted – but even before that we had been on long journeys and high mountains.

The latest manifestation of this desire is now heading to Antarctica and the South Pole. Originally, we had planned to leave in December 2020, but due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the trip has now been postponed by a year. So it will now start in 2021.

The goals of the expedition

Our plan is to ski from the coast to the South Pole, unsupported and unassisted. This time there are only two of us and it will be a spectacular challenge. There are only a handful of people in the world – 12 to be exact – who have skied both poles unassisted. And since Mikko has also already climbed the third pole (Mount Everest), he becomes the ninth person on earth to have done all three poles!

The strict “rules” for these achievements have been worked out by the international expedition community and are available with the corresponding statistics at

Our way to the South Pole

We firmly believe that long distances should be divided into smaller sections. And then you divide them into even smaller parts again. Afterwards we calculate what it takes to cover one of these sections. Then we extrapolate to the total distance.

In reality, this means for us that we carefully measure what our base speed will be. During our skiing career we have adopted a system where we ski for 55 minutes and then rest for 5 minutes. During this break, we then make sure we have sufficient hydration and nutritional intake through snacks. This represents a “stage” for us. We increase the number of daily stages from seven initially to later ten and sometimes even more at the end of the tour. Finally, of course, we also make sure that we recover sufficiently by scheduling an appropriate number of rest days during the trip.

Once we know all the above parameters, we enter them into our pace calculator and then know:

  • how much time we need to reach the South Pole
  • how much food we need
  • and how much our sledge will weigh at a certain point in time.

Our working hypothesis is that with a sled take-off weight of 100kg, we will need a total of 45 days.

Our training

Put simply, our training has two goals: to increase base speed and to reduce the risk of long-term injuries that you get from continuous and prolonged extreme physical stress. We have different sports as hobbies, but for our expedition training we want to simulate the subsequent load as closely as possible. The creative solution: we pull a car tyre with additional weight. We have been doing this exactly once a week for over a year. We started with 2 hours and 20kg additional weight and increased it up to 4 hours at a stretch with 25kg additional weight. Depending on the surface, this is exactly the same as pulling a 100kg sledge on cold snow.

Since the human body adapts to any stimulus and the benefits you get from it diminish over time, we vary our training. We alternate periods of fast, super heavy or long training to add some variety. Now in winter with enough snow, we of course switch from tyre pulling to skiing and sledging.

In our next blog we will tell you about our equipment and our cooperation with Marmot. More background information and a live blog while skiing can be found on the website of the expedition:

Text & Photos:
Tero Teelahti

Mikko Vermans & Tero Teelahti
January, 2021
The Send