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Marty Fagan is shown pulling his sled during his journey to the South Pole with his wife Chris. (Chris and Marty Fagan photo)

North Bend couple share adventure of lifetime in South Pole journey

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Chris Fagan has been married to her husband Marty for 15 years. They have a beautiful home in North Bend, a 12-year-old son, and now they also share the adventure of a lifetime.

"One day, Marty comes into the room and says 'What do you think about going to Antarctica?'"

Chris said the idea had never even crossed her mind, but the spark became a flame.

Only about 100 people have ever traveled to the South Pole without a guide, so it took the Fagans nearly three years of researching, planning, and training for the trek.

They would each pull a sled with all the gear they would need to travel 600 miles from the coast of Antarctica.

"We knew it was going to be such a big mental, emotional, physical, cash sacrifice that we didn't want to fail," said Marty.

Marty quit his job and last November the couple took a plane halfway around the world. Then, they were left, alone on the ice.

"I think we were just completely overwhelmed that first night. Just 'Wow, here we are, we're unsupported, we're unguided, and we have almost 600 miles to go,'" said Marty.

It was 360-degrees of white. No people, not even an animal or a single bird for hundreds of miles.

"There's sticky snow and there's soft snow. There was never really hard-packed icy snow that was easy to pull on," Chris said. Not to mention the waves of frozen snow and whiteout conditions.

They traveled eight to 10 hours every day, trudging slowly through the snow, a harness around their waste attached to their sled.

They quickly figured out there was no room to bicker, Chris said.

"We can't really talk because we're in this wind, or we're cold, or we're trying to talk it through and you have this mask on. You can't hear."

With the sun up 24 hours a day, it was a balmy 40 degrees in the tent at night. But during the day it got down to 30 degrees below zero, with the wind chill making it feel even colder.

They had each gained about 15 pounds of muscle preparing for the trip, and during the trek they ate every couple of hours to maintain their strength.

But they slowed down as they began losing weight. The trip they thought would take 40 to 45 days took 48. That meant three more days on the torturous ice and three days of food they hadn't planned for.

Finally, they saw base camp at the South Pole.

"It's like Narnia walking through the closet and you're like 'Wow, I'm in another world,'" Chris said. All the cold, all the stress melted away in that moment. "I mean it was instant. It was amazing. It was awesome."

What's even more awesome is the way their journey has cemented their relationship.

Chris said Marty has always been on the quiet side. Through this test, she's learned how to be patient and let Marty communicate in his own way. And he had to learn how to help generate conversation.

They both agree the biggest lesson they've learned is they are very lucky to have such an amazing partner and such a solid marriage.

Kim Shepard, KIRO Radio Reporter
Kim Shepard is a news anchor and reporter for KIRO Radio and the office optimist. She's energetic, quick to laugh and has a positive outlook on life.
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