If I can help somebody else gain fitness and live a longer life, then it's all worthwhile. —Dan Burton
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A Utah County man will take off for Antarctica next week with plans to accomplish something he says has never been done.
Dan Burton aims to become the first person to ride a bicycle to the South pole.
"It will be a real challenge," Burton said, "because basically I'm alone for two months."
He’s doing the expedition to help promote active living through bicycling. Burton credits biking with saving his life.
Burton opened Epic Cycling in Saratoga Springs after a bad health checkup a dozen years ago. Being a computer programmer for 23 years, he spent a lot of time sitting and being inactive. His cholesterol numbers were bad, and his blood pressure was high. He was also a few pounds overweight.
"I figured I was about ready to die," he said. "I got into biking and figured it saved my life."
His cholesterol numbers improved to a healthy level, his blood pressure returned to normal and he lost the extra weight.
Burton said his mother died from a heart attack a year ago, and he wants to raise awareness for fitness as he pedals to the pole.
"If I can help somebody else gain fitness and live a longer life, then it's all worthwhile," he said.
It's roughly 750 miles from Hercules Inlet in Antarctica, where he'll start the ride, to the South pole, depending on how well he navigates.
Burton will saddle up and clip into his pedals for a potentially historic ride that never leaves the snow, promises consistent temperatures well below zero, dodges hidden crevasses and rises 9,000 feet.
"The high temperature is probably going to be in the minus-teens," he said.
From there, the mercury drops all the way down to (minus-_40.
While riding, Burton expects a 20- to 30-mph headwind most of the time. He expects to cover 20 to 30 miles each day.
But he won't ever ride in the dark. The sun does not set at the South pole this time of year.
"The sun came up a month or so ago, and it doesn't set again until March," Burton said, adding that "it's going to be one very long day."
He will be sleeping in a tent and cooking prepared meals. An expedition company will place three caches of food on his route and pick him up at the end.
Burton will have a satellite phone if something goes wrong or he needs to be evacuated.
He's been training on a mountain bike with fat tires and last winter rode across frozen Utah Lake to get a slight taste of his upcoming expedition.
It's a tough solo trek on a fat mountain bike with 4-inch knobby tires that perform well in the snow.
"I don't give in when I should," Burton said, “so I think I've got the ability to keep going and make it there."
He sent off his bike and supplies last week and boards a plane for Chile next Friday. He'll spend a week or two getting his supplies ready and acclimatizing to the environment. If all goes well, he’ll start rolling Nov. 30.
People can follow his progress on a map on his blog, epicsouthpole.blogspot.com.
A man tried to make the trek and failed last year. Burton said the man-made good progress and shared his insights with him.
He's trying to fund the trip through gofundme.com but had to take out a loan to pull off the expedition.
Burton expects the ride will take him 30 days. He has to be done by Jan. 23 to catch the last plane out of Antarctica for the season.