North Bend couple share adventure of lifetime in South Pole journey

Feb 12, 2014, 3:27 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2014, 1:16 pm
Marty Fagan is shown pulling his sled during his journey to the South Pole with his wife Chris. (Ch...
Marty Fagan is shown pulling his sled during his journey to the South Pole with his wife Chris. (Chris and Marty Fagan photo)
(Chris and Marty Fagan photo)
They call their expedition "3 Below Zero" to represent their team - Chris, Marty, and their friends and family back home. They kept an online diary during their trek. During the last couple of weeks, they say it was hard to keep an upbeat tone. At night, they would use a satellite phone to connect with family and friends back home. At one point they thought they saw animal tracks, but there are no plants or animals at the South Pole. Chris guesses it was just the wind making patterns in the snow. Marty says it would sometimes feel hot in the tent, at 40 degrees. They ate oatmeal, meal bars and dehydrated dinners. They took in about 4,500 calories a day, but still lost weight. They listened to soundtracks to keep them going. Marty says his favorites were "Man of Steel" and "The Hobbit". Chris says she liked them because they reminded her of her son. The toughest terrain was sastrugi, waves of snow that could at times be up to five feet tall. They would sometimes have to weave back and forth to get around them. Their sleds got lighter by the day, as they ate their food and drank their water. But, Chris and Marty also got lighter as they lost weight from the effort. Friends and family had written messages on their tent. Chris and Marty didn't get to read them until they were out on the ice. They used a compass as a guide, heading straight south. Their GPS wasn't always accurate. They generally traveled one in front of the other, taking turns as the lead. With temperatures dipping to 40 below zero and wind that often created white out conditions, it was difficult for Chris and Marty to be able to talk during the day. Only about 100 people have ever gone unaided from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. Chris and Marty Fagan are the first Americans to make the journey as a couple. Marty Fagan quit his job at F5 in Seattle to make the trek across Antarctica. The sun was up 24 hours a day, so it often got up to 40 degrees in the tent at night. Training for the trip included dragging two SUV tires along the Snoqualmie Trail to simulate pulling the sled. Marty says it was too daunting to think about what was ahead the following day. He had to take the trek one day at a time, and even one hour at a time, to keep going. Chris and Marty are the first American couple ever to travel by ground to the South Pole unaided by a guide. The Fagans are smiling in nearly every picture because they say when conditions became too severe their camera wouldn't work. It took Chris and Marty Fagan 48 days to make the 600 mile trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.

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.

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North Bend couple share adventure of lifetime in South Pole journey