Tips for Skiing to the North Pole From Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters

Over the past four years, only one team of explorers has managed to make a full ski journey from Canada to the North Pole. That was accomplished this year by none other than Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters, who spent 53 days skiing from Cape Discovery to 90ºN. If you followed their adventure, you know that it was a long and difficult journey, to say the least, and as you can imagine, they learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Now, a month after they wrapped up that epic journey, they’re sharing some helpful tips with future arctic explorers as well.

yan and Eric each compiled a list of their top five North Pole tips, and shared them with ExWeb. These were things that they discovered while out on the ice that helped them to not only complete the expedition, but also stay grounded on a daily basis. While these tips are certainly helpful for anyone considering a polar journey, mostly they are just sound advice for anyone planning an expedition to just about anywhere.

Ryan’s tips include the following:

1. Do not try and make long term goals, just focus on each day.

2. Be mentally prepared to deal with the constant stress of a changing and difficult environment.

3. Do not pare down your supplies too much to try and go light, you would be surprised how much you need things when you think they are not that important.

4. Start saving your money two years ago…

5. And be prepared for a small logistics window.

Eric adds the following:

1. Plan and Prepare. Don’t rush into it. The Arctic Ocean is a very humbling environment, and in my opinion most people underestimate how difficult the journey is. Test gear/travel strategies in the Arctic in January or February the year before you plan on leaving. My motto: train hard, travel easy.

2. Choose your partners wisely. I wanted a three-person team but we couldn’t find the right person. While we were probably a bit slower as two people than I wanted to be, in the end we were both focused on the same goal (and didn’t want to give up) and understood each other’s perspectives, strengths and weaknesses and therefore, were able to work as an effective team. It is very easy to get on the Arctic Ocean and feel overwhelmed had we compromised and taken an untested third person, it’s quite likely that they might have given up.

3. Problem – Solution. It seems that no matter how much you plan and prepare for the Arctic Ocean, problems arise. From broken equipment, to travel strategies, to ice conditions, this expedition just seems to destroy all your best laid plans. In the moment, it can seem like everything is lost, but the key is to understand that you can find a solution. It may not be the first thing you try, but it’s there you just have to stick with it.

4. Don’t skimp and don’t take too much. There is obviously benefit in being light, but it can also come at a large cost. The environment is harsh enough on its own so being comfortable in the tent, having space to repair things and drying gear have substantial value as well and ultimately increase your chance of success. I called it The Polar Goldilocks Principle – not too much, not too little, but just the right amount.

5. Assess and Reassess. I think a lot of people get into trouble because they let their guard down and take short cuts. Efficiency (saving energy) is very important but it can’t come at the cost of doing the ‘right’ thing. Each day is different – the conditions are different, your physical and mental energy level is different and therefore you need to respond differently. If you find yourself saying – ‘well, I did this same thing yesterday, but I feel worse today’ and don’t change something you’re going to get into trouble.

Eric wraps things up by urging adventurers to be “honest and sincere.” He says that he believes there is a trend to make expeditions look harder than they actually are in order to draw attention. On a North Pole expedition, that isn’t necessary, but he feels it is important to be upfront with your expedition goals, spell out your mission clearly, and stay true to that plan. He also says that each story is unique, and that it doesn’t matter if your adventure has been done before, your story is new. Go do your expedition, and share your personal experiences without having to artificially hype it up.

Great advice all around from two men who know what they’re talking about.

Kraig Becker