PODCAST: Adventurer Mike Horn on his pole 2 pole crossing, 'When you drill holes in your frozen toenails you're out of your comfort zone'

2020-02-28 14:38 - Selene Brophy
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Mike Horn is a world-renowned explorer, TV personality and coach and has been described as France’s Bear Grylls. But after sitting down to my interview with him in the Media24 studio in Cape Town, it's clear he is so much more than that. 

Born in South Africa in 1966 and after serving in the South African Special Forces, Horn relocated to Switzerland. He has hosted the French reality television show The Island and in 2014 was the mental coach of Germany’s national soccer team, who won that year’s FIFA world cup. 

In 1991, he embarked on his first adventure, exploring the Peruvian Andes. He has swum the length of the Amazon and circumnavigated the South Pole, becoming the first man to do so unassisted - before finally embarking on his childhood dream to cross both Poles.

Horn says he has often been asked why he does the things he does and whether he is running away from life or his responsibilities. 

"You never feel more alive than when you feel close to death," says Horn as we talk about his latest book Dream of a Lifetime - Crossing Antarctica - the first part of his Pole2Pole expedition.

Horn recently returned from the North Pole, a mere six weeks before our interview. Listen to the full interview above as Horn shares more about his daredevil account of realising a crazy dream, showing what is possible when one is fuelled by the love and support of family and friends.  

And while there is a weathered look about him, his eyes tell the full story. For him the many adventures have not only been about pushing his limits but also about creating a voice for humans to catch a wake-up - about the planet we call home as well as to realise that we only have this one life to live. 

There's a knowing glint in his eyes when he tells me, "Mother Nature will fight back. And I don't think it's going to be comfortable for the humans." 

And if there is one thing Horn has honed during his 25 years of showcasing his extreme lifestyle, it's how to get out of his comfort zone. At the poles he has faced -40 degree temperatures, needing to drill holes into his toenails because his feet were that frozen. He describes how even his tent was a comfort zone he had to push through under those conditions. 

"Before long I was nothing but a block of petrified flesh in an upright position. The wind was blowing into my mask and my cheeks started to freeze. My nose and lips were cracked with scabs. My hands and arms, which were constantly raised to the sky to control my sail, no longer received any blood. My circulation had stopped functioning properly. As I made my way over the ice, a layer of fine powdery snow rose into the air, only to settle in my boots in an icy drizzle."   

 So while this story is one of many shocking setbacks – it is also one of overcoming adversity through sheer willpower. It is a deeply personal journey about a family that loved him enough to let him do the things he needed to do. After losing his wife to Cancer, he almost lost his focus for this adventure they were planning and preparing to do together. 

Listen to the full interview above as Horn shares more about his daredevil account of realising a crazy dream, showing what is possible when one is fuelled by the love and support of family and friends.   


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