Tag Archives: Expeditions

Calgary Herald: Albertan skis to South Pole for a cause, Jan 27, 2010

Albertan skis to South Pole for a cause
Cochrane doctor takes health care to the poor
Valerie Berenyi
Calgary Herald
Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I t’s not easy to sum up Dr. Bill Hanlon’s remarkable ski expedition to the South Pole in a single news story, so here are the Coles Notes:

The highs: the austere beauty of the Antarctic landscape; the camaraderie of three men pushing beyond their limits; the singular pleasure of sharing a can of Pringles on Christmas Day in a tent on a polar ice cap.

The lows: frostbite; constant headwinds adding to -40 C temperatures; repetitive strain injuries from pulling sleds laden with 54 kilograms of supplies across 1,200 kilometres of ice and snow for 47 long days.

After successfully reaching the South Pole on Jan. 2, Hanlon recently flew back from Chile to re-enter daily life as a family doctor in Cochrane. He’s also the founder and medical director of Basic Health International Foundation, a non-profit that brings health care to poor people living in remote, high-altitude places.

He’s still recovering from his physical ordeal, which involved skiing steadily upward from sea level at Hercules Inlet to the top of the South Pole at 2,835 metres. He did the trek with two companions, American explorer Eric Larsen and Dongsheng Liu, a Shanghai engineer.

The trio ate about 6,500 calories a day to fuel their eight-and 10-hour days: freeze-dried foods laced with butter and oil and as many chocolate bars as they could eat.

“I actually didn’t lose a lot of weight, only four pounds,” said Hanlon. “After some Chilean beer and steaks, I was back to normal.”

His frostbitten thumb has yet to fully heal. In their first week on the Antarctic ice — devoid of plant or animal life — the temperature plunged to -50 C and Hanlon wasn’t protected well enough against the extreme cold. It could have derailed the trip, but as trip physician he was able to treat himself, learn to use his left hand more and suck it up for daily tasks, such as lacing his boots, requiring both hands.

“It was definitely a wake-up call. That environment is very unforgiving.”

Although this was his first polar expedition, Hanlon knows about unforgiving places.

Two weeks before embarking on his Antarctic expedition, the seasoned adventurer was at the other end of the temperature spectrum when he summited Carstensz Pyramid in the hot jungle of Papua New Guinea.

There, he completed his 20-year quest to climb the tallest peaks on all the continents, including Mount Everest, which he tackled in May 2007. Only an estimated 200 climbers have achieved this mountaineering feat, known as the Seven Summits.

It was among the peaks that Hanlon found his passion: combining remote area medicine with physical challenges. It started about two decades ago, when he worked with Tibetans in the Darjeeling Himalayas. He was deeply touched by the people, the climbing and the geography.

Since then, he’s spent three or four months of every year volunteering to bring primary health care to those living in geographically isolated communities in countries such as India, Peru, Honduras, Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, Ethiopia and South Africa.

“These adventure trips are basically a way to promote some of our international medical work in remote areas,” he said, explaining that after each trip — paid for out of his own pocket — he gives talks to raise awareness and funds for Basic Health International Foundation.

His next talk, Medicine in High Places, is slated for Feb. 9 at the Banff Centre.

Hanlon’s experiences at the South Pole taught him a lot, said Hanlon, who is planning an expedition to the North Pole. Unlike the short, intense experience of climbing, this was more of a slow ultra-marathon: “a long plod.”

“It’s one of the few areas where middle age is an advantage,” the 55-year-old singleton said with a laugh.

If Hanlon went to Antarctica to promote awareness of medicine for the developing world, Larsen went to raise awareness of global warming with his Save the Poles expedition. Liu was there to fulfil a childhood dream of being the first person from China to reach the South Pole.

Despite the physical and mental challenges, the three men worked together well.

“I love the journey rather than the destination,” said Hanlon. “When we got to the South Pole, it was almost a letdown because it was over.

“It’s remote, you have to be completely self-reliant and rely a lot on teamwork. I love an expedition in the sense of being out there in the elements, working efficiently as a team, in that kind of harsh environment.

“It reminded me of how adaptable we are as a species.”


© Calgary Herald 2010

Reaching the South Pole , Cochrane Times, Date: Jan 2010

Reaching the South Pole
Posted By Brad Herron of The Cochrane Times


Reaching the South PoleThree small souls at the pole.

By Brad Herron

On. Jan. 2, a Cochrane doctor joined his childhood heroes like Ernest Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen as explorers of Antarctica.

For 47 days, Bill Hanlon braved temperatures that reached below -50 C and bitter winds to raise awareness for remote-area medicine.

With two other men — including one from China who became the first Chinese man to ski to the pole — Hanlon skied across Antarctica, guided only by a compass, to conquer a life goal and promote Basic Health International, his foundation.

And while he has accomplished many other feats, including climbing Mt. Everest in 2007 while serving as the expedition’s doctor, travelling across the frozen landscape provided unique challenges not seen in any other locale.

On days when the wind picked up, Hanlon said travel became something akin to being a ping pong ball inside a lottery machine; directionless and, at time, nearly lost.

“One day I was navigating where I couldn’t see my skies,” Hanlon said. “It can be nauseating at times, because when you are navigating in a complete white-out like that it is hard to know what’s what.”

While the trip was going to be a physical struggle from the beginning without added challenges, Hanlon received frostbite on his right thumb during the seventh day of the trek, something he now blames on not heating his core to an adequate temperature before leaving camp. Luckily, Hanlon packed along medication for just this reason, medicine he credits for “saving” his thumb. But enough though his thumb was saved, it made daily tasks difficult for the right-handed man and even two weeks later, the blackened thumb is still sensitive to temperature.

Putting pain aside — something each of the man did, as Hanlon said his fellow travelers often received large blisters on their feet — the crew travelled about 26 to 28 kilometres per day, extending their skiing to 42 kilometres one day and staying in camp due to weather another.

In constant sunlight, the men rose each morning at 6 a.m. and were on their skis by 8 a.m., travelling into the evening hours before pitching camp and starting the experience over.

“When your body is wanting to stop or feels that it is time to stop, you have to ignore those vibes and get going. It’s like having a Monday morning experience every day for 50 days,” Hanlon said.

Just maintaining a steady body weight is an arduous task, Hanlon explained. During the trip, Hanlon increased his diet to 6,500 calories per day, taking in as much high-calorie food as his 55-year-old body could handle, even mixing olive oil and large globs of butter into his oatmeal during breakfast.


“One of the few times in life when you can eat large quantities of chocolate, carbohydrates and fat without feeling guilty about it,” Hanlon chuckled, adding he lost four pounds during the trip, but quickly added them back by dining on Chilean steak and drinking a few celebratory beers.

After more than a month-and-a-half of travel, the trio spotted the South Pole — with consists of a ceremonial pole as well as a research station — nine km from where they had planned to camp. Feeling energized, they continued on and finished their journey.

Hanlon said it was a “very strange feeling” arriving at the pole, as members of the research team came outside to meet the men.

“Having travelled, just the three of us for 47 days without any animals or anything, it was very strange. The toughest part was adapting to the change,” he said,

Within two days, and after letting the icicles from this beard thaw, Hanlon and the others were on a plane to the edge of the continent. From there, they set out on a Russian aircraft that brought them back to Chile and civilization.

From his doctor’s office in Cochrane, Hanlon said the trip taught him new lessons in “teamwork and endurance,” lessons he believes he can use in his daily life and potentially pass on to others.

“One of the nice things I really love about expeditions is it really pares down the extra stuff in life and you are down to basics, like survival, food, shelter and a stove to melt snow,” Hanlon said.


Success! Trekkers make it to South Pole updated 9:56 a.m. MT, Sun., Jan. 10, 2010

Success! Trekkers make it to South Pole updated 9:56 a.m. MT, Sun., Jan. 10, 2010Three small souls at the pole.

Healthy Remote Communities / Save the Poles Expedition (Nov – Dec 2009)

Dong and Bill showing off their 'explorer's portions'. Soon it will be freeze dry, oatmeal and Clif bars.Dr. Hanlon is one of only three expedition members on the Antarctic leg of the Save the Poles Expedition beginning November 7, 2009.

See the South Pole / North Pole News and Guide for additional information.

This is a link to the start of the adventure on Eric Larsen’s (expedition lead) Trip Blog

ExWeb interview with Bill Hanlon, highlighting the health needs of remote communities

ExWeb interview with Bill Hanlon, highlighting the health needs of remote communities 12:12 am CST Nov 10, 2009

Trip Journal for Carstensz Pyramid, October 2009 (feed courtesy Mountain Trip)

Trip Journal for Carstensz Pyramid, October 2009 (feed courtesy Mountain Trip)

Mountain Trip Guiding Company

  • Back in Bali October 25, 2009
    I arrived in Bali this morning with Ben Swart and Elsie Bezuidenhout, the remainder of the Mountain Trip 2009 Carstensz Expedition. We are all happy to be heading home after a long, but ultimately successful trip.I had a beautiful 2nd summit day with Ben and Elsie, after a snowy 1st summit with Bill H. and Ephi G. I can't emphasize enough how hard it is […]
    Bill Allen
  • Out of the mountains! October 23, 2009
    Bill called last night to report that they were out of base camp, and headed for Nabire. They had stopped over at a small mining operation to refuel the helicopter.Everyone is thrilled with the outcome of this longer-than-anticipated expedition. I don't want to flog the proverbial dead horse, but tenacity and patience won the day on this trip. I should […]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Back at BC after the summit October 21, 2009
    Bill just called again to say that he, Ben and Elsie are all safely back in base camp.They awoke last night to a starry sky and headed to the summit in cold, but clear weather. There was some snow en route, but it quickly melted at the sun at 4 degrees below the equator rose higher in the clear blue sky.The clouds they encountered on the summit were intermit […]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Ben and Elsie reach the summit! October 21, 2009
    Bill called earlier today from the summit of Carstensz Pyramid!He said it had been a stunningly clear, blue sky day all the way up. He, Ben and Elsie made good time on the route, but just as they reached the top, a bank of clouds rolled in and obscured their view. They were descending in good, but cloudy weather and are hopeful that the helicopter will fly i […]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Getting ready for the summit October 20, 2009
    Bill called to say that he, Elsie and Ben have all spent an absolutely beautiful day around base camp, practicing some of the skills the team will need for a summit push. If the weather holds, the group will head up tonight!Ephi and Bill Hanlon are en route to Denpassar and should be heading home in the next day or so.We'd like to take a moment to compl […]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Snowy Summit! October 18, 2009
    Bill, Ephi and Bill Hanlon all stood on the summit on Friday! It was a very snowy day and they were fortunate that it was not more windy or they would have had to turn back.Sorry for the delay folks. I've been traveling and in meetings up in Alaska, and have posted updates via a new service from my phone, but apparently, they did not post. Better living […]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Going for the summit? October 15, 2009
    Bill called last night to report that the Kamov made a second attempt to get the rest of the team in to base camp, but turned back due to weather. Ben and Elsie are still trying to get in, but chris Davenport needs to return to the States due to other commitments. Bill, Ephi and Bill Hanlon are going to head up for a summit attempt today, and are probably pa […]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Waiting for the second flight October 14, 2009
    Bill called earlier to say that the weather was not good enough for the Kamov to make the second flight into base camp yesterday. Clouds and intermittent rain made for conditions that were just too marginal to fly.Everyone is still excited and committed to seeing this through, so as soon as the weather breaks, they'll be in the air.
    Todd Rutledge
  • At Base Camp! October 13, 2009
    Bill called from the Lakes Base Camp, just over the ridge from the start of their route up Carstensz Pyramid.Half the team flew into BC today, and the remainder might make it in, although Bill suspects that they will more realistically fly tomorrow. To reemphasize how... "dynamic" the situation is over there, when it came time to load up the huge, […]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Hoping to fly today! October 12, 2009
    The team made it to the small town of Nabire, on the NW coast of the island of Papua. They had to take a couple of additional days due to some delays, but are optimistic that they will fly to Base Camp today.The Bell helicopter has been repaired, but the Indonesian version of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has decided that it cannot fly until a th […]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Makassar October 8, 2009
    We made it one step closer to Papua yesterday. We are in Makassar on the southern tip of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The plan is to fly to Papua tonight arriving early tomorrow morning. We are staying in another comfortable hotel overlooking Losari beach right in downtown Makassar. I think I can safely say that we are all tired of comfort right now, a […]
    Bill Allen
  • Pic's October 7, 2009
    Chris and Ephi hiked to the top of Mt Batur here in Bali yesterday morning, they got an alpine start leaving the hotel at 3am to be at the summit for the sunrise. Their early morning efforts were rewarded with a beautiful clear day. It's not all sitting by the pool and going surfing here in Bali...We're off to the airport for our flights to Makassa […]
    Bill Allen
  • Leaving for Papua! October 6, 2009
    We're leaving Bali this afternoon on our way towards Papua and Carstensz Pyramid. We haven't been suffering too much so far on this expedition, a beautiful hotel on the beach in Bali doesn't really compare to sitting in a tent in a storm on a snowy mountain, but we have been delayed a couple of days. Today we are starting the move to Papua whi […]
    Bill Allen
  • The Team arrived in Bali! October 6, 2009
    We're all here on the beautiful, busy little island of Bali. We finally got the whole team together last night for a really nice welcome dinner. I'll post some pics a bit later when I get them off the camera. It was a lot of flying for everyone from their homes to meet in Indonesia for the trip and takes a day or two to recover. We have been enjoyi […]
    Bill Allen
  • Carstensz on Google Maps October 1, 2009
    [googlemaps https://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=-3.877956,136.50238&spn=1.556439,2.90863&t=p&z=9&output=embed&w=425&h=350]
    Todd Rutledge
  • Off To Indonesia! October 1, 2009
    Welcome to the expedition dispatch blog for Mountain Trip's October, 2009 Carstensz Pyramid climb.Carstensz Pyramid is the highest peak on the continent of Oceania and due to the complexities of accessing this 16,023 foot (4,884 m) limestone mountain, it is the most elusive of the famed Seven Summits. Political and economic pressure closed all access to […]
    Todd Rutledge

Man Conquers 7 Peaks (Oct. 2009)

8th October 2009, 3:13pm

COCHRANE – Medicine may be his calling, but a local doctor has reached a lifelong goal of climbing the highest mountain on every continent in the world.
Earlier this month Dr. Bill Hanlon, a Cochrane-based family doctor, completed his seven-summit project after 20 years.
Hanlon and three friends reached the 4,884-m summit of the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia on Oct. 16.
It snowed the entire climb, causing poor visibility and freezing up his rope grips. Hanlon rested at the summit for only 20 minutes before climbing back down.
“It was just really nice to get there,” said Hanlon, 55. “A lot of time accidents happen more often on the way down from a mountain, so one couldn’t relax too much.”
This was Hanlon’s second attempt climbing the mountain. Last year he got caught in a mudslide and broke four ribs before turning around.
“I think I learned more from the disappointment of not achieving goals because it does make one more humble,” said Hanlon.
As Hanlon did more international mountaineering he saw the medical needs of the people he met living in remote villages. These people inspired him to start Basic Health International Foundation, a not-for-profit group providing medical

care to those in the isolated mountain communities of Tibet, Mongolia, India, Ethiopia, Peru and Indonesia.

Article: Medicine in High Places: Living A Dream, A 20 year medical and personal journey.

Medicine in High Places: Living A Dream, A 20 year medical and personal journey.

University College Cork,
Medical Alumni Newsletter,
March/April 2009

Medicine in High Places: Living A Dream, A 20 year medical and personal journey.

Article: Medicine in High Places, Alpine Club of Canada Gazette, Vol 23, No.3, 2008, p.6-7

Medicine in High Places, Alpine Club of Canada Gazette, Vol 23, No.3, 2008, p.6-7

Medicine in High Places, Alpine Club of Canada Gazette

Everest 2007, Living a Dream June 2008 Presentation

Everest 2007, Living a Dream,
June 14 2008,
Waterton Lakes National Park,
Proceeds to: Basic Health International Foundation

Presentation Slide Show

Article: Rockies Member Hanlon Summits Everest, Alpine Club of Canada Gazette, Vol 23, No.1, 2008, p.4

Rockies Member Hanlon Summits Everest, Alpine Club of Canada Gazette, Vol 23, No.1, 2008, p.4

Alpine Club of Canada Gazette

Everest 2007, Living a Dream Oct 2007 Presentation

Everest 2007, Living a Dream,
Oct. 1 2007,
Enniscorthy, County Wexford,
Proceeds to: St. John’s Community Hospital, Enniscorthy

Presentation Slide Show

Everest 2007, Living a Dream Sept 2007 Presentation

Everest 2007, Living a Dream,
Sept. 21 2007,
Cochrane Ranche,
Proceeds to: Basic Health International Foundation

Presentation Slide Show

Article: On Top of The World – Dr. Bill Hanlon, Vital Signs, July 2007

On Top of The World – Dr. Bill Hanlon, Vital Signs, July 2007, p. 8-10

Vital Signs Everest Article

Anniversary of Everest ascent meaningful

by Larry Giles

The 50th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbing of Mt. Everest this Thursday is a big reason to celebrate for at least one Cochrane doctor.
Dr. Bill Hanlon travelled to the Kathmandu region of Nepal in April, working at a clinic in the capital city most widely known as the entry point for climbers planning an Everest ascent.
As an expedition to the summit can take more than two months factoring in time to acclimatize and the 10-day trek just to reach the base camp, Hanlon was there when many of the climbers planning to summit on the 50th anniversary were starting out.
But for the Cochrane physician, the first ascent on May 29, 1953 was a significant event, not just for the climb but also for the legacy Hillary and his sherpa TenZing Norgay have left.
Hillary is known in the region for his humanitarian efforts and has built medical facilities and schools in the country. Nepal has been isolated from the world for so long and is now struggling to catch up, says Hanlon who was intrigued by the two extremes of Nepal, which is actually one of the poorest countries in the world.
“It is a country where you can get an MRI scan in Kathmandu within 30 minutes if you can afford the $200 and yet have difficulty getting an aspirin in many of the rural communities outside of Kathmandu.”
The elevation, isolation and rapid change in Nepal makes it an interesting study for Hanlon, who enjoys learning about other cultures both socially and medically.
He was there during the initial outbreak of SARS, which caused great concern for the medical community in Kathmandu.
One of the primary access points to Nepal is via Hong Kong, which is where the virus has been a major problem.
The availability of masks and other preventative measures was of concern, but so were the ramifications of an actual case or worse yet, a larger outbreak.
“There are only two or three ventilators in the entire country…the infrastructure to support a patient (including a quarantine facility) is not really there.”
Hanlon’s recent trip to Nepal was not his first. He had trekked the area in the 1980s and at that time had made it to the base camp for Everest expeditions.
He finds the medical challenges in developing countries of interest and enjoys the similarities between the mountain communities west of Calgary and others around the world.
There are many medical ties between Calgary and Kathmandu including a few international development projects between the University of Calgary and Nepal’s Tribhuvan University. In fact the present head physician at the Nepal International Clinic completed some of his training at the U of C.
Many of the ailments at the clinic Hanlon was working at related to altitude sickness. The Cochrane townsite sits at an altitude of 3,500 feet and the top of the Big Hill at about 4,000 feet with some of the highest peaks in the Rockies reaching close to 12,000 feet.
In Nepal, many of the passes reached by trekkers are more than 14,00 feet above sea level with some of them as high as 16,000 feet, all of which is still below where any of the true mountain climbing actually begins.
“There is some challenging medicine coming off the mountain. Certainly altitude sickness takes its toll every year…people die on that mountain and they die just trekking there too.”
One of the issues that has been discussed in the area is setting up a clinic for the porters, which are the locals who carry the majority of supplies to Everest base camp and beyond. It is the porters who do the grunt work in a harsh environment for relatively little pay and one did die while Hanlon was in the area.
All the money generated in the region by tourism brings both positives and negatives, Hanlon says. The country is not heavily populated but the mountainous terrain means little land is available for agricultural purposes. As the tourism money is generated only in the Kathmandu valley and the popular trekking routes, it is difficult for an average family to advance beyond the basics of everyday necessities.
And yet people have a strong interest in education and will walk long distances to make sure their children get to school so that they may have a chance at a better life.
The people of Nepal are also extremely tolerant.
“It is a country where Buddhists, Hindus and Christians live together. Nepalis have accepted and live in harmony with Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees,” he says. Tradition-ally their culture has been deeply rooted in spirituality and less on the material.”
Before returning to Cochrane, Hanlon attended the International Society of Travel Medicine meeting in New York, but it was what he saw while in New York that struck him. The contrast between limousine travel in Manhattan to people sleeping in doorways in the lower East Village was huge for him.
“What is the true meaning of success in life and how do we define it,” he asks. “Is it getting to the top of the corporate ladder or the top of a mountain?
“In our efforts to climb our respective peaks in life we sometimes lose track of the price we have to pay to reach our goal…Just as the people of Nepal look to us for direction and change, we can also learn from them in the area of compassion, tolerance and generosity towards strangers as well as friends.”