It’s not everybody’s idea of heaven but some, like doug Stoup, will always be drawn to places where no man has ever dared to set foot.
No man has ever set foot on the highest section of the East Antarctic Plateau.
Scientists say this 620-mile, frozen mountain ridge, where temperatures can plummet below - 92°C (- 133.6 °F), is an inhospitable place where nothing really thrives or survives.
It’s so cold that a human’s eyes, nose and lungs could freeze within minutes.
“It is sort of otherworldly up there and it is what, I imagine, being on another planet is like,” says Ted Scambos, lead scientist from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
“It is extremely difficult to breathe. In fact, breathing can be painful. Nasal passages can feel a burning sensation and inhaling too quickly can nip parts of the throat and lungs.”
Polar explorer Doug Stoup knows more than most about hostile places, having explored the Antarctic more times than any other man alive.
“The Antarctic is my office,” he said as he spoke to INCH magazine while skiing in the backcountry of Lake Tahoe, California. “It is an inhospitable place but I don’t have a death wish. I want to come back safe.”
At 49, he’s considered something of a veteran, having travelled, climbed, skied and snowboarded in some of the remotest places on the planet.
So would he be tempted to climb this remote ice plateau which, in December, scientists revealed was home to the coldest place on Earth?
“Absolutely,” he said. “I have already been to so many places where no other human being has been, so the answer is ‘Yes. For sure. I love pushing myself to the limit and I have so many goals and dreams.”
At a mind-numbing - 93.2 °C (- 136 °F), it is almost twice as cold as the coldest place Doug has ever been. And he knows what that is like.
“You cannot stop,” he said. “It’s bitterly cold. You have to keep moving. When you are standing still, you burn calories just generating heat to stay alive. If you leave any skin exposed, frostbite sets in instantly.”
Scientists discovered the coldest spot on Earth as they analysed data from satellites that have been orbiting the planet for 32 years. The latest satellite, Landsat 8, was launched in February last year and has been taking about 550 pictures of the Earth from 438 miles (705km) every day.
“What we’ve got orbiting Earth right now is a very accurate and consistent sensor that can tell us all kinds of things about how the land surface of Earth is changing, how climate change is impacting on the surface of Earth, the Earth’s oceans and the icy areas, ” said Ted. “Finding the coldest place on Earth is just the beginning.”
Doug would agree with that.
“If you are mentally and physically prepared and have the right equipment, I believe anything is possible,” he said.
Doug has been guiding teams across the frozen Arctic Ocean to the North Pole and to the South Pole in Antarctica for more than 10 years.
“The journey to the North Pole is the hardest journey in the world,” he said. “As the ice moves, it opens up, and when you are sleeping in your tent, you can feel and hear the ice creaking, breaking up and moving beneath you.
Sometimes it sounds like a whistle. Other times like a train. And, then of course, there’s always the danger of encountering polar bears.”
Being mentally and physically prepared for what lies ahead is critical but, that alone, is not enough. Without the right clothing, many expeditions would fail.
“The chemical industry has played a huge part in helping to create the stuff that keeps people, like me, alive,” he said. “It makes performance fabrics and clothing possible, to help me to stay warm and dry in some pretty inhospitable places, when I’m not active, whilst at the same time helping control perspiration when I’m on the move.”
Doug, who has helped to design some of the high performance clothing for polar explorers, will soon be drawing on his experiences to help NASA in their quest to put a man on Mars.
He is due to travel to Devon Island in Canada, which is home to the largest uninhabited, desert island on Earth. It is cold, dry, desolate and home to a 15-mile wide impact crater that is 23 million years old. All of that means it is a very good environment for scientists studying what it would take to conduct a manned mission on Mars.
Experts are predicting that NASA could put a team of astronauts on Mars by the 2030s. Like Earth, Mars has polar ice caps, seasons, volcanoes, canyons and deserts.
But with temperatures falling to - 128 °C (- 198 °F ) at night, it a good degree colder.
“Mars is no place for the faint-hearted,” said a spokesman for the space agency.
That’s a word no one would ever use to describe Doug, who, in 2008, almost lost his life trying to cross a crevasse field during a 47-day, 738-mile trek to the South Pole via a route first attempted by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton.
Was he worried? ‘No,’ he says.
Has he ever been scared? “Yes,” he says. “I caught a cab once from Heathrow into the city of London. That was crazy.”