The tip of his nose blackened by frostbite, Douglas Stoup returned to his home in Santa Monica last Saturday 30 pounds lighter but otherwise no worse for wear.

“I’m feeling pretty fresh,” he said. “Actually, it’s a tough transition. Here you are, dealing with this daily routine in the middle of nowhere for so long, and then all of a sudden you’re thrown into a reality situation and having to deal with people and traffic and all of that kind of stuff.”

Stoup, 37, a former personal trainer trying to become a full-time adventurer, traded civilization and crowded roadways for howling blizzards more than two months ago to lead a blind man on a historic 730-mile skiing adventure across Antarctica, the highest, driest, coldest and windiest continent.


England’s Miles Hilton-Barber, however, was not able to fulfill his dream of becoming the first blind person to ski to the South Pole. He made it only 250 miles before frostbitten hands caused him to request a rescue plane from Patriot Hills in western Antarctica, not far from Stoup’s starting point at Hercules Inlet.

Stoup, though, was not to be denied in his quest to become the first American man to ski to the South Pole. (Ann Bancroft of Scandia, Minn., reached the South Pole days before Stoup on a skiing expedition--with the use of kites for sail power--across Antarctica with Liv Arnesen of Norway.)

Covering about 15 miles a day, with the sun constantly circling overhead and sub-freezing winds raging across a wintry wasteland, Stoup and his Australian partner, Damien Gidea, along with Hilton-Barber’s sight guide, Jon Cook, pushed into Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station, sleds in tow, on Jan. 20.

Their days of eating oatmeal and freeze-dried foods were finally over; they had arrived just in time for an afternoon brunch of pancakes, bacon and eggs.

“I did dream about food and some other things along the way,” Stoup said. “But mostly your mind just wanders out there. You go through your whole life and there’s a lot of introspective thought.”

For Stoup, the triumph over the Antarctic elements was a milestone that ranks high on a list that includes so many great adventures.


In 1999, he was part of a team of five to reach the 16,087-foot summit of Antarctica’s Mt. Vinson Massif, and he and fellow adventurer Stephen Koch performed the first snowboard descent.

Last February, Stoup and another team of five rode snowboards down several peaks in the South Shetland Islands and Graham Land in Antarctica, while traveling the region aboard a ship.

His latest exploit, his longest and perhaps most satisfying, was somewhat bittersweet. Stoup had hoped to return to base camp, alone and unassisted, on a customized ice bike, but delays caused by weather--winds in excess of 100 mph--and the rescue of Hilton-Barber prompted him to postpone his trip.

It was probably a good thing because, with all the weight loss, those winds might have literally blown him away.

“I didn’t have 30 pounds to lose,” Stoup acknowledged. “After two months of oatmeal and freeze-dry, your body would rather eat itself.”


Although Hilton-Barber was unable to complete his quest, blind mountaineer Erik Weihenmayer of Golden, Colo., last month took another step toward completing his by reaching the summit of Vinson Massif.


Weihenmayer, 32, is attempting to climb the highest point on each of the seven continents--a feat accomplished by fewer than 100 climbers. A noted rock and ice climber, he has also scaled the 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley in North America (Alaska), Kilimanjaro in Africa (19,340), and Aconcagua in South America (22,834).

His next attempt, as part of an expedition sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind, will be the world’s tallest peak, Asia’s Mt. Everest at 29,035 feet.

Expedition leader Pasquale Scaturro, who has climbed with Weihenmayer, says he has no qualms about having a blind man along for the 2001 NFB Everest expedition. “He’s more qualified than 90% of the people who have climbed Everest,” Scaturro said, explaining that Weihenmayer has acute hearing for communication and uses long poles to feel his way up and down the snowy terrain.

“He has all the fundamentals of a regular mountain climber, except of course his sight, but he’s right there with us, step by step,” Scaturro added. “The Sherpas [Himalayan guides] don’t even believe he’s blind. Every once in a while they’ll swing their arms in front of his face and try to get him to flinch. It’s pretty hilarious to watch.”

After Everest, Weihenmayer will try to conquer Mt. Elbrus in Europe (18,510) and Carstenz Pyramid in Indonesia (16,000).

(Some climbers regard Australia’s 7,310-foot Mt. Kosciusko as one of the “seven summits,” but most incorporate the region including New Zealand and Indonesia as the continent of “Australasia.”)



Irlene Mandrell of the singing Mandrell Sisters bagged the biggest buck for the second consecutive year--an eight-pointer--but promoters of the Buckmasters National Deer Classic in Montgomery, Ala., maintain that size doesn’t matter nearly as much as the message they’re trying to convey: Hunting is cool.

And who better to deliver this pitch than star baseball players?

“Everybody likes to do it,” said Wade Boggs, the retired ballplayer who most recently played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. “Major league baseball can be a stressful job, so I enjoy being in the woods, in nature, even when I don’t harvest an animal.”

When Boggs does bring down a deer, according to a Buckmasters news release, “he likes the venison marinated and served over rice with red wine and sauteed onions, thank you very much.”

In the Buckmasters lineup with Boggs, trading one field of dreams for another, were Rick Reed and Rick White of the New York Mets, Doug Creek of the Devil Rays and Herbert Perry of the Chicago White Sox.

Other celebrities were country singer Jeff Carson, rock ‘n’ roller Matt Roberts of 3 Doors Down and pro wrestlers Curt Henning and Rick Steiner, a.k.a. “the Dog-Faced Gremlin.”

Not all bagged bucks, but most were smooth with their deliveries.

Perry said hunting “teaches you that you’re small” and that “you realize that you’re not very important [in the overall scheme of nature].”


Roberts, his band riding high on the success of the hit song “Kryptonite,” said of those who claim hunting to be unethical: “I attribute that to a lack of knowledge about hunting. People associate guns with kids shooting up schools and that is a tragedy. That should not reflect badly on hunting.”

To this the petite Mandrell was on target again.

“Most people don’t realize that hunters are responsible for protecting so much of the environment and so many animals,” she said. “It wasn’t until I started hunting that I learned that white-tailed deer and turkeys were gone from many areas of the country, and it was hunters and their money that brought these species back.”

Though most non-hunters aren’t aware of it, the vast majority of funding for wildlife conservation is provided through license sales and a federal-aid program established by the passing in 1937 of the Pittman-Robertson Act, which placed an excise tax on the sale of hunting-related sporting goods.

Those funds--the Pittman-Robertson Act has generated $10 billion since 1937--are funneled back through state wildlife agencies for conservation programs.

Said Buckmasters founder Jackie Bushman: “Today’s celebrities have a great role to play in introducing our nation’s kids to a way of life that was central to our lives just one generation ago. With our increasing devotion to computers and simulated life on television, and our race from the rural landscape to the cities, we are rapidly losing our connection to the land, to each other, and to an understanding of our role in nature. It is something we cannot afford to lose.”


With good snow coverage across the local ranges, competition is fierce among the ski resorts and Mt. Baldy, with antiquated lifts but some of the most challenging terrain, has found a seemingly effective means of attracting its share of customers.


The ski area is offering half-price lift tickets ($20) for anyone possessing a season pass issued by any other resort.

“We’ve had about 200 people show us passes [from other resorts] every day since we announced this promotion [two weeks ago],” spokesman John Koulouris said. “It’s been a big boost for us because we’re getting people who have never been to Baldy before.”

Whether they return is anyone’s guess as Baldy, while offering one of the most enjoyable experiences when there’s lots of natural snow, offers one of the least enjoyable when there isn’t.

The ski area reportedly is planning to upgrade its facility--mainly its lift operations--next year.


There was the Super Bowl, and there is the “Super Bowl of boat shows.” The Southern California Boat Show on Saturday begins a nine-day run at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

In its 45th year, it has become the largest boat show on the West Coast and this year organizers will flood the floors with everything from folding Porta-Botes to multimillion-dollar yachts. More than 600 models and aisles of accessories will be on display.


Also planned are daily family-oriented activities in hopes of making this an exciting event for the public--which would put it one up on this year’s Super Bowl.

Show hours are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday and 1 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is $9 for adults and free for children 12 and younger.