Georgia native first to cross Antarctica unassisted

It's just you and a partner, and the two of you have to pull everything you'll need to make the trek in temperatures as low as 50 degrees below zero.

Oh, and you've never cross-country skied before.

Ryan Waters, a 36-year-old east Cobb County native, has done just that. Waters and Norway's Cecilie Skog, 35, finished the 70-day expedition on Thursday, making them the first two people ever to cross the icy continent unassisted.

Although others have made the journey with the help of dogs or kites, Waters and Skog used only their own muscle power to make the trip. The pair began the journey in November each pulling 300 pounds of supplies behind them.

"The mental part was the most difficult part," Waters said when interviewed for an explorers Web site. "It was so many days of constant skiing and at times it was hard."

From Berkner Island in the Ronne/Filchner Sea to the South Pole, the two continued to the Ross Sea to complete a full traverse of the continent. They arrived at the South Pole on New Year's Eve.

With the use of a satellite phone, Waters kept his family and friends updated with postings on his Web site. Waters' parents, Alan and Kathy, also kept track of their oldest son on www.poles.com, a site dedicated to explorations.

Early Saturday morning, the Waters were able to talk to their son, who is spending a few days -- indoors -- in Patriot Hills, Antarctica. From there, Waters and Skog will fly to Chile and then Argentina before returning to their homes, Kathy Waters said.

The Wheeler High School graduate and former football standout now lives in Boulder, Colo., where he runs his own company called Mountain Professionals, according to his parents.

An avid outdoorsman, the Waters, who now live in Cumming, say their son has always had a sense of adventure. His passion for rock climbing as a teenager was only the beginning for the Ole Miss graduate. He worked as a geologist for several years before pursuing his true passion: exploration.

In May 2004, Waters became the second Georgian to reach the top of Mount Everest. He lived several years in South America, where he led over 30 expeditions through the Andes Mountains.

The Waters, who also have a younger son who lives in Florida, say they don't know what will be next for Ryan. But they're proud and amazed by his accomplishments. The family is planning a small reunion in February, Kathy Waters said.

The destination? Florida.

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