Hank Van Weelden of Edmonton, Alberta, arrived home safely on Jan. 2, after a multi-day solo bike ride in Antarctica on a bike designed by Carver Bikes of Woolwich, Maine. Originally, Weelden planned for a much longer trip, but about six days into the ride, he decided to turn around, citing multiple reasons.
“There was some physical, some mental, some gear and some external factors that have all contributed to my decision to stop and turn around and come home,” Van Weelden said in a check-in by satellite phone on Dec. 25. “I got what I wanted out of this trip.”
The CEO of a remote-housing manufacturer and an experienced endurance cyclist, Van Weelden originally set out to bike from the South Pole more than 700 miles to the Hercules Inlet, a trip that he predicted would take him about 30 days to complete.
There is no record of a person ever biking solo from the South Pole to the coast of Antarctica. But from the beginning of the trip, Van Weelden made it clear that his goal wasn’t to set a record. In fact, he was considering an alternative route, one that would not have allowed for any record-setting, prior to starting his journey on Dec. 19.
In short, Van Weelden was there for an epic experience.
“Antarctica was a dream of mine,” Van Weelden said in the Dec. 25 message, “to come see this wonderful place and to understand what it’s like, what it was like to explore here, what it was like for Shackleton, and Scott and Atkinson, and for all the other ground explorers. And i got of taste of it — I got a taste, and I got my ass kicked by it, and that was part of the experience. I wanted to push myself, I wanted to take a big risk, and I did.”
Van Weelden’s family posted these phone updates on the “Hank’s Antarctic Adventure” Facebook page, www.facebook.com/hankadventure/. And now that Van Weelden is back home, he is adding videos and photos from the adventure to the page.
“I don’t need to get any record, I don’t need to do any coast to pole or vice versa,” Van Weelden said in the message. “I can use those next 26 days to go for coffee with my wife, or talk to a friend, or hold hands with my daughter as we walk through the river valley, or hang out with my sons, or go skiing with them. There’s so many things in life to do and I did this, and I lived, but this is done and it’s time to move on. Antarctica is a beautiful and challenging place.”
In the message, Van Weelden said that he didn’t seek sponsors or media attention for his ride because he wanted the freedom to quit at any time. Like any outdoor adventurer, Van Weelden had to weigh the risks and the rewards. And in a place as wild, remote and harsh as Antarctica, the risks are high.
The messages Van Weelden shared during his adventure were heartfelt, entertaining and educational. They are also humbling. Though his ride didn’t last as long as he’d hoped, it was absolutely a grand adventure, and one he survived to tell to his children.
“If there are people who think that I failed, well, you’re welcome to that opinion,” Van Weelden said. “I lived. I took a chance. I wanted to explore, and I did just that. And if someone wants to call that a failure, that’s there opinion. I want to squeeze every little bit out of this life, and I just did.”
To read about Van Weelden’s special four-tire, aluminum frame Carver fat bike, check out the story I wrote on Dec. 15, just before Weelden started his ride at the South Pole.