We’ve barely put the Antarctic expedition season behind us and it is already time to start looking ahead to the North Pole season that will get underway in a few weeks. The past few years have proven that a journey to the top of the world is no walk in the park, as no one has completed the full length journey since 2011. But that hasn’t stopped anyone from trying, and this year will be no exception.
Veteran polar explorers Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters will be amongst those attempting to complete this very difficult and dangerous journey this year. The two men are preparing to set out from Ellesmere Island on March 1 for what they estimate will be a 500+ mile (800 km) crossing of the Arctic Ocean. As is typical for a polar journey, they’ll travel unassisted, on skis, while dragging 350 pound (158 kg) sleds filled with all of their gear and supplies behind them as they go.
As if a North Pole expedition isn’t challenging enough on its own, the duo hopes to break the record for skiing to that point on the globe. In order to do that, they’ll have to reach 90ºN in under 49 days. Both men have plenty of experience in challenging environments however. They climbed Denali together in 2009, and both have summited Everest. Waters has bagged all of the Seven Summits and skied to the South Pole as well. Larsen has gone to the North Pole on two previous occasions and has been to the South Pole as well.
They’ll need all of that experience if they hope to be successful this time out. Climate change is dramatically altering the Arctic and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to travel there. The ice is not as stable as it once was and large open areas of water are now common. Explorers need to ring a way to go around those obstacles or don a drysuit and swim across. Massive storms have also become more common in the Arctic, creating even more dangerous conditions for the skiers. Throw in the potential threat of polar bears and the constant battling against negative drift on the ice flows, and you being to understand the magnitude of the challenge ahead.
As the North Pole season gets underway, I’ll be following Eric and Ryan’s expedition closely. Expect to hear more about them and other expeditions that will be heading north soon. I am of the firm belief that soon, this type of journey will no longer be possible. Let’s hope this year that isn’t the case.
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