A quest to trek the South Pole by training with ‘Denzil’ the tyre

During the work week, South African Jethro de Decker, 33, sits in the office of Citibank in Singapore just like a regular executive. On weekends, he laces up his running shoes and jogs with his partner “Denzil”.

(Photo: Jeremy Ho)

“Denzil” happens to be a 10kg Yokohama car tyre with a South Africa flag attached to it. The adventurer described meeting “Denzil” for the first time at a car garage in Bugis.

“I met Denzil on a hot Saturday afternoon when I was walking around… there was a big pile, 20 tyres in a big pile. (I picked) the ones that looked way more adventurous.”

The trusty tyre has been accompanying de Decker for the past two months and is key to his preparations for the biggest adventure of his life: trekking alone from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole.

(Photo: Amirah Haris)

With a budget of about US$100,000, de Decker aims to be one of the few people to complete the South Pole trek unassisted. To complete the feat, he will need to drag a pulk - a type of sled - that will contain his supplies. “Denzil” is used to mimic the load.

For his next training target, the South African aims to drag along “Denzil” at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore on 4 December. It will be his longest drag if he were to complete the 42-km marathon - so far, he has done up to 30 km.

Should he complete the marathon, he will move on to Canada for the Yukon Arctic Ultra in February 2017. There, he’ll be dragging a pulk over a distance of 300 miles (482 km) in eight days, at a temperature of minus twenty degrees Celsius to better simulate Antarctic conditions.

(De Decker at Baikal Ice Marathon, Siberia, 2016. Photo courtesy of Jeri Chua)

Calculated risk

Since moving to Singapore about two years ago, de Decker has explored the adventure scene here and scaled mountains in the region including Mount Kinabalu in Borneo and Mount Rinjani in Indonesia. As an actuary in the financial industry, de Decker knows about the concept of risk.

“The challenge is not necessarily doing it, but getting ready… So it’s kind of the challenge of the unknown, of not knowing what to expect and how to go about solving that problem,” said de Decker.

“There isn’t a guide book on how to do it. Which is one reason I want to do it.”

While he will be digging into his own savings for the South Pole expedition, he hopes to find sponsors. Separately, he is raising money for Conservascion Patagonica, an organisation that rehabilitates parts of Patagonia into a national park.

“I want to raise money for what’s important to me. Patagonia is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to and one of the more environmentally-aware places where people are doing a lot of things. A place that’s definitely worth saving and looking after.”

From Everest to Space

Born into a family of adventurers, de Decker was bitten by the adventure bug after a family expedition across Tibet, cycling from Lhasa to the Everest base camp.

Since then, his adventures have brought him around the world – cycling from Cairo to Cape Town in Africa, from the Andes to Patagonia in South America, and across a frozen Lake Baikal in Russia. He aims to venture off from his start point in Antarctica by December 2017.

When asked what is the next terrain that he will explore, he said it has to be out of this world.

“This century – and I think the first half of it – is about getting to space, and staying there. That’s exploring. When we have the technology, we will need people who can leap into this unknown.”

(Photo: Jeremy Ho)