- Zdenĕk Chvoj
- 71:302 year(s):day(s)
- Antarctica (South Pole)
The oldest person to ski to both Poles is Zdenĕk Chvoj (Czech Republic, b. 16 March 1948), who was aged 71 years 302 days when he skied to the South Pole on 12 January 2020.
When Zdenĕk returned from Antarctica, his feat attracted the attention not only of his friends, but also the media. He was labelled as the oldest Czech to ski to both Poles, so he decided to apply for a Guinness World Records title to see if his feat could be a world record, as well as a national one.
He searched the Guinness World Records website for the feats associated with age and the North and South Poles. "I found out there was a title 'Oldest person to ski to both Poles', that [didn't have a current record holder] yet, so I decided to hold the record" Zdenĕk explains.
When asked what motivated him to achieve this incredible record title, Zdenĕk said:
"I would have looked for motivation in my childhood. I was very interested in books devoted to discovering new worlds, climbing the highest mountains, adventures in the polar regions, and conquering poles. I am fortunate enough that, even in my lifetime, I was involved in the first ascent to Mt. Everest, the flight of the first human into space or the first steps of man on the moon. I've travelled a lot, loved the mountains and known new cultures and people around the world. 20 years ago, I also stayed on one island of Antarctica on a simple station. The climate, the atmosphere and the playful penguins impressed me. Antarctica has captivated me forever. As my seventies approached, I wondered how to celebrate this jubilee. It must have been dormant inside me, so I wondered how to look at the North Pole. I wanted to know the conditions and problems encountered by the first conquerors of both Poles. I like to set boundary targets, which will show me my boundaries, so I chose a ski expedition. I left nothing to chance and trained hard for a year. When I successfully reached the North Pole, I decided to try the South Pole again."
Zdenĕk said in order to endure the extreme arctic conditions, it's all about acclimatisation and proper equipment. However, despite this, he still suffered frostbite. Tasks such as building a tent, eating and taking pictures were particularly difficult, as you have to only wear thin gloves.
With regards to challenges, he said navigating the frozen northern icy ocean in the North Pole was particularly difficult, as well as bypassing open water and dodging polar bears to name a couple!
On the road to the South Pole, he said the journey was very challenging, due to heavy frosts, wind and high altitude.
However, the highlight of both expeditions was of course reaching the Poles! Zdenĕk states that the sense of hardship was finally over once and the goal was achieved. Alongside the beautiful adventure and the knowledge of what the road to the North Pole or the South Pole means, he says that the benefit of expeditions was the realisation that he was still able to stand up even in such challenging conditions!
We also asked Zdenĕk what he thinks is the secret to a long, healthy life: "that's hard to say. Maybe it's already given in our genes. I've been sporting all my life." He goes on to explain: "as for diet, I don't think [mine is] ideal. I eat a lot of meat, an average glass of good wine a day [...] I'm happy in my marriage, I have a daughter and son and 4 grandchildren."
Being a Guinness World Records title holder means a lot to Zdenĕk. Not only does he feel he's achieved something special, but he also wants to be inspiring to friends and family. He says: "it is possible to set more challenging goals and not be afraid of them. If we decide on something and persist, it will succeed."