Ignite possibilities

My South Pole Expedition: Finding Fire on Ice

South Pole Expedition On January 18, 2014, I stood at the South Pole with my husband Marty after 48-days of skiing across the cold, barren, windswept continent of Antarctica. Our South Pole expedition began with the spark of an idea three years earlier, during a casual conversation in which Marty asked, “What do you think about going to the South Pole?”

As I slowly processed his words, a neon DO NOT ENTER sign flashed through my mind. Who would care for our son? How long would we be gone? What about our jobs? How could we afford it? Isn’t it dangerous? How cold is it in Antarctica? What type of training is required?

Honestly, going so far out of my comfort zone frightened me, even though I frequently professed the benefits of getting out of your comfort zone in order to grow your business or foster self-discovery. But the more I researched and learned about the idea, the more excited I became. Soon I found myself standing squarely at the intersection of fear and excitement, and that is when I knew I would be heading to Antarctica.

Over the next few years as I worked through the intense planning and training for this journey, it dawned on me that I was in the midst of a Create with Fire Project, one that used the process I teach in SparkFire workshops and retreats. This process, which applies to both business and personal endeavors, addresses questions such as:

–        How can you ensure your projects, choices and actions align with your inner compass and fire?

–        What if you could train your mind to see possibilities instead of obstacles?

–        How can you learn to listen to the excitement of an idea instead of the fear behind it?

–        What if you could overcome all of the problems and concerns with an idea?

–        What if you had a process to systematically take you from idea to action?

–        What if you learned how to interject play along the way?

On the day that my husband and I arrived on the edge of Antarctica to begin our journey, we watched in awe as our ride, a small Twin Otter plane, disappeared onto the horizon. We were alone in piercing silence, surrounded by a blank white canvas. We each pulled 220 pound sleds filled with food and equipment, skiing an average of 9 hours a day for 570 miles. During our seven weeks on the ice we endured intense cold (up to 50 degrees below zero), white out conditions, waves of frozen snow (from two to five feet tall), and a shortage of food. Despite these challenges we also found intense joy, a purity of existence, an adventure inward to self-discovery, and a deepening of connection to family, friends and work.

South Pole Expedition KeynoteIn the end, my husband and I became the first American married couple to ski from the coast to the South Pole without a guide while carrying all of our own supplies. More importantly, this venture to the coldest place on earth ignited my inner creative fire and sparked kids and adults following along to imagine possibilities that they previously thought were beyond their reach. When I’ve presented this story to various companies, business groups, conferences, and schools, people tell me they walk away inspired. They question their own capabilities and self-imposed limitations, excited to put more fire into their business or life.

Chris Fagan is the President of SparkFire, an idea consultancy dedicated to unleashing your creative potential. Contact her at email hidden; JavaScript is required to learn how to bring the Fire on Ice or Create with Fire keynote, workshop or training to your company or organization. Learn more about her recent expedition to the South Pole at www.3belowzero.com.


  1. Amy Brown says:

    Totally awesome. Serious idea to action!
    Congrats on your successful journey.

  2. Michael Lindfield says:

    Congratulations!!! ‘Daring’ is a quality that brings the Fire of Inspiration into our lives so that it can burn brightly in the hearth of our humanity as a beacon to others. And in your case Chris, ‘daring’ connected the seemingly impossible with the possible. As Sir Winston Churchill remarked, “The impossible just takes a little longer”. Happy Inner and Outer Trails, Michael

    • Chris Fagan says:

      Thanks Michael and thanks for your insight. As Helen Keller said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.” When we step out and dare, we create ripple effects all around us and we all become more fully alive.

  3. Becky Nunn says:

    I’m seeing a TED Talk here!

    • Chris Fagan says:

      Thanks Becky. I’ll let you know if (or when) TED comes knocking 🙂 Seriously, I love sharing this story with whomever wants to listen!

  4. Dick Krissinger says:

    I am in awe of your courage and passion. I hope to hear the whole story one of these days. DK

    • Chris Fagan says:

      Thanks Dick, great to hear from you. I hope to share the story in Chicago sometime in the future. I’m in the process of writing a book about the experience too. All the best to you!

  5. Mare Schumacher says:

    Chris, this is fantastic. And I thought I was badass because I hiked from one Grand Canyon rim to the other. The only thing more challenging about mine was the heat. 🙂 I can’t wait to read the book. I love explornagraphy (e.g. Krakauer, The Essex, Captain Cook, etc.) Were you anywhere close to where Shackleton was?

    • Chris Fagan says:

      Thanks Mare! Your Grand Canyon hike is on my list! We were not close to where Shackleton was as we started on the opposite side of the continent from where he started. I love his Endurance story – amazing and inspiring.

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