The 2011 North Pole Season Looms

March is here (Seriously?!? Already?!?) and that means that the 2011 North Polar season is about to get underway as well. It looks to be a fairly quiet season in the great white north, but even as I write this, there are several explorers preparing to hit the ice and start the long, cold, lonely march to 90ºN.

According to ExWeb however, those explorers aren’t going anywhere for at least a couple of days, as bad weather has prevented their start until at least March 5th. That doesn’t seem like it would have much of an impact, but the loss of just a few days already has some of the adventurers considering their options. Going to the North Pole requires a lot of discipline, dedication, and stamina. It also requires a healthy bit of luck too. The north polar ice caps have been thinning over the past few years, and larger areas of open water have been taking their place. That makes for a much more challenging journey for those that do elect to head to the Pole, who regularly have to don drysuits and take a plunge into the Arctic Ocean.

Amongst those hoping to stand at the top of the world this year are Matthew Stowers and Jules Weekes, two members of the British RAF who are hoping to go unassisted and unsupported. Their latest blog dispatch says that they are in a “hurry up and wait” situation, while they hope for the weather to improve by Saturday.

Another man keeping an eye on the clock, and the calendar, is Italian Michele Pontrandolfo, who is in Cape Discovery, along with Stowers and Weekes, and also hoping to get his trek under way. In his latest blog update, Michele is clearly worried about the season dropping from 60 days to 51. He says that a little luck is going to be needed in order to be successful, and ultimately it will be the arctic conditions that determine whether or not he’ll reach 90ºN.

The Irish team of Pat Falvey and Clare O’Leary are reporting that two cyclones have hit the Discovery Bay area, which has grounded all the planes while they wait for things to improve. The duo also scheduled 60 days to complete the journey and are now facing a shorter window of opportunity as well. They are nervous that any further delays could mean the cancellation of their expedition altogether.

Also returning to the arctic this season is Ben Saunders, who attempted to set a speed record for a solo and unassisted journey to the North Pole back in 2008. Ben’s dream came to an end less than two weeks into the expedition however, as he suffered critical equipment failure that forced him to abandon his quest. He hopes to hit the ice around the 16th of March.

Stay tuned for much more to come. Hopefully these delays won’t mean that expeditions have to call it quits before they ever get started. The North Pole season is always a good one, but I think that global climate change is really starting to have an impact on the place, and I suspect it won’t be too many more years before you won’t be able to complete the journey on foot at all.

Kraig Becker

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