Todd Carmichael’s Excellent Adventures

He’s worked for a Saudi prince, adopted three girls from Africa, trekked across Antarctica—and this month he’ll attempt a solo journey across Death Valley. So is Todd Carmichael—the man behind Philly coffee juggernaut La Colombe—living life to the fullest? Or just out of his freakin’ mind?

Before leaving this time, he’d arranged to bring a video camera. Nancy Glass’s production company in Bala Cynwyd specializes in reality TV and had Survivor honcho Mark Burnett interested. Reality shows can be more show than reality, though. Glass says tactfully that she and Carmichael “didn’t want to change [the expedition] for what a television network wanted.” Carmichael says, less tactfully: “We could have made some chintzy fuckin’ reality thing.” Instead they decided to make a movie. Glass is shopping Race to the Bottom of the World to film festivals now.Carmichael checked in daily from the big chill via satellite phone – calling Lauren and leaving audio messages for his blog:

Day 4: What’s left of my binding is destroyed. … Trying to jury-rig … to get this binding going … watchband, wire … I just keep telling myself it can’t be over. There’s gotta be a way to fix this. I got so much work into this thing, years of effort. Moving forward without a ski on your foot is almost impossible.

Day 7: Last night was probably the coldest night I’ve ever spent on Earth. It was just brutal [coughs]. Sorry. I stepped outside to find absolutely zero visibility. I mean, I couldn’t see a foot in front of my face. I waited for about an hour and then finally ventured out into it against my better judgment.

A month in, reduced to walking instead of skiing, he’d started referring to his supply sled as Betty the Pig and treating her as a travel companion. “You download all the things you don’t want to own yourself onto this object – worries, stresses, fears,” he explains. “You become the leader, and you constantly begin talking to the sled until it becomes an identity: No, you can’t come in here, the tent is just for humans, ha ha.”

Day 28: It’s Todd Carmichael and the famous pig. December 8. Strong day today for the pig and I. We’re a little bit physically beat up, but mentally we are there. We’re both focused and we’re ready. Soon we’ll make history.

 

By the time he had the Pole complex in sight, he was delirious. “I saw my grandfather’s house. Everything was green. I was walking in the fields,” he says. The snow was soft – not good. “I had no more food, my GPS was down, my telephones were down. I was on my last fricking breath. I made the decision to unhook from the pig. And I literally got on my knees to apologize.” When he reached the Pole, instead of jubilation, he announced, “I gotta go back for the pig.”

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