Adrian Rohnfelder of Germany has a truly unique and incredible adventure planned, to visit the highest volcano of every continent. Named the V7S Project, Adrian will visit the countries of Iran, Chile, Tanzania, Mexico, Papa New Guinea, Russia and Antartica. The volcano of Antartica, Mount Sidley, was the first volcano ticked off his list. Adrian has done what few other humans have done before, in fact just 30 people in all of recorded history have climbed Mount Sidley and now Adrian and his team have joined that list. So far Adrian has climbed Mount Sidley and cycled with an e-bike up Kilimanjaro. For now, we will talk to Adrian about Mount Sidley, and will be sure to check-in with him after every completed climb.
Q: Can you introduce the V7S project and how it all started?
Since 2008 I have been addicted to volcanoes and their related remote areas. At the end of 2015 I received an email from a friend with a link to the announcement of the Mount Sidley volcano expedition and I knew immediately: I have to join and I will finally be able to fulfil a childhood dream with. During further research I found out that Mount Sidley is part of the so-called Volcanic Seven Summits, the highest volcanoes of every continent. I didn't have to think about it for long and so I am now on the way to these volcanoes this year and next.
Q: How did you prepare for Mount Sidley? What were the conditions like on the hike?
Climbing in Antarctica is more than just a hike, it is real mountaineering.It was my biggest problem because I had almost no related experiences until then. I therefore did some training in the Alps especially with crampons, did some ice climbing and was camping at minus 20 degrees Celsius. These temperatures were also a new territory for me.
Q: Did you face any unexpected challenges on the trip?
The lack of experience I just mentioned quickly became apparent despite the training. I'm a photographer, not a mountaineer. We had to pull our luggage on sledges at minus 15 degree celsius, climb over extremely hard ice, go into rope teams due to the many crevasses, and I was constantly busy with my equipment. I was either too cold, too warm, and too moist - which was in total unexpectedly harder than expected.
Q: How long did the hike take?
From Union Glacier Camp we went to Mount Sidley by arctic plane and set up our base camp at about 2,000m (above sea level). Next day we ascended to the high camp (at about 2,800m) in about five hours. There we had to wait another day for better weather. The ascent on the following day took about 11 hours. But after two hours I had to turn back to high camp because of the above named lack of experience. I felt the risk too great for me and also I had been more interested in the clear landscape and fulfilling my dream as to reach the top at any cost. On the fifth day we had to descend to the base camp because of an incoming storm and to fly back to Union Glacier.
Q: Mount Sidley was first discovered in 1934 and first climbed in 1990, very few people must have climbed it since - did you ever feel that sense of walking where few people had been before, or feeling like you were in another world?
That has been the main reason for me to go on the trip. My childhood dream is actually to fly to the moon one day or to discover foreign planets. I also devoured the books of all the great discoverers in history. The almost unknown Mount Sidley, in fact there were no more than 30 people ever before us, located in the largest no-man's-land on earth was for me the possibility to get as close as possible to this dream on our planet.
It therefore was another reason for me not to climb the summit. I wanted to be able to enjoy this loneliness and uniqueness at that special place just alone.
Q: Although you didn't make it to the very summit, how did you feel with the overall experience?
I had opted for maximum loneliness and against the summit and did not regret that decision for any second. I could have cried for the beauty and never before have I experienced such a feeling of peace and freedom in my life. A dream. My dream.
But I must admit that I also was very happy when the rest of the group returned in healthy conditions from the summit - where the conditions had been very very bad with very strong winds, minus 30 degrees celsius and zero visibility. If something had happened to them during the climb, my rescue could have taken days or weeks.
Q: Which volcano will be the toughest challenge do you think?
The biggest challenge could definitely be Mount Sidley with its described conditions. However, the Ojos del Salado in Chile will probably be a similar challenge in February due to its height of almost 6,900m, the highest volcano on earth.
Q: Which volcano are you the most excited for?
This question is difficult to answer, all volcanoes and travels have their own charm: my childhood dream on Mount Sidley has been fulfilled, the e-Bike tour on Mount Kilimanjaro was absolutely unique, on Ojos del Salado you have the charm of the heights and then Damavand where I am looking forward to the fantastic land of Iran.
Visit Adrian's Website for more information about his incredible challenge.