CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — A West Virginia University graduate recently returned from a skiing adventure to the South Pole, but why on earth would you ever want to go there?
Frank Fumich, who studied Business Marketing at WVU and is even the nephew of Gramma and Ginga, is on a quest to complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam, a challenge to climb the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents, as well as ski to the North and South Poles.
Fumich, who is 55, said he became obsessed with pushing past his body’s limits when he started running at age 30. He was running a marathon when something in his head just clicked. He was fascinated at how the mind could make the body continue when it wanted to quit.
“It’s just a challenge more than anything. I mean, I hate cold weather even, so something like this is totally uncomfortable and miserable to me. But I’m intrigued by the challenge, and that’s one of the reasons I try to do it, just really to find my limits and see what I’m made of,” Fumich said in an interview.
Fumich said his trip to the South Pole had been 10 years in the making and traveled with a group from across the world—five different countries in all. Of course, such a trip is still very dangerous. Fumich said two members of his group, including their guide, had to return home due to altitude sickness, and Fumich along with a few others developed frostbite on their thumbs. As of right now, it’s unclear if Fumich’s injury will result in any permanent damage.
Aside from being part of the Explorer’s Grand Slam, the trip also held special personal significance to Fumich. While he was at the South Pole, Fumich was able to spread some of the ashes of Lilly Toxavidis, the daughter of his friend Vasilis. On October 28, 2019, Lilly Toxavidis passed away after a battle with Lymphoblastic lymphoma, only a few days before her 14th birthday.
While he was there, Fumich was able to bring pictures of several other children who died too young as a way to ensure their memories could live on, a tradition he hopes to continue in future climbs.
“So over the years, I’ve raised money for a number of children battling cancer and other causes too. And tragically, many of the children have passed away. And so it’s not really always about raising money, also about just letting these families know that myself and other people haven’t forgotten about their children. So I like to take their pictures, and I also have the ashes of a good friend of mine,” Fumich said.
When asked what his next stop would be for the Grand Slam, Fumich said the only thing left for him now is Mount Everest in Nepal. Besides being the highest point on earth, Mount Everest is known for being an extremely difficult and potentially deadly climb that has claimed more lives than any other mountain. However, being the highest peak makes it particularly attractive to many climbers each year.
“It’s a bit of a selfish decision, admittedly. So I need to balance my family, and I was trying to wait for my girls to get a little older without me getting too old. But right now, yeah. Of course, my wife has to sign off on that, so we’ll see,” Fumich said.
Fumich has been all over the world doing extreme races with what he calls his, “crazy adventure friends.” He’s done races in the Gobi and Sahara deserts, as well as completed the Race Across America, where participants have just 12 days to bike over 3,000 miles across 12 states. The race begins in Oceanside, California and ends in Annapolis, Maryland.
Fumich said that if all his extreme races and climbs have taught him one thing, it’s to never give up.
“If you give up, you don’t even know what could have been. And when I look back and I think of all the things that I could have given up on, and what happened because I didn’t, it’s amazing,” Fumich said.
If you want to see the full chronology of Fumich’s trip to the South Pole or want to see where he goes next, you can check out his Following Frank Facebook page.