The beginning of March will mark the start of the 2014 Arctic expedition season, during which a number of intrepid explorers will attempt to ski to the North Pole. Amongst them this year will be two Americans, who will brave one of the most brutal and unforgiving environments on the planet in an attempt to ski to the top of the world in record time. But the expedition will not be an easy one, as no one has managed to successfully complete such a journey in the past three years.
Colorado natives and veteran polar explorers Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen will begin their trek on March 1st, setting out from Cape Discovery on Ellesmere Island in Canada. From there, they’ll ski north across the Arctic Ocean, dragging sleds filled with enough gear and supplies to allow them to survive in the wild for weeks at time. They estimate those sleds will weigh in excess of 350 pounds when they start, which will make pulling them across the frozen landscapes a very difficult affair.
Both men have plenty of experience in adverse conditions however. For instance, Waters has climbed each of the Seven Summits, including Everest, and was part of an expedition that crossed Antarctica a few years back. Larsen, who also happens to be a Wenger Ambassador, has climbed Everest too, and his polar excursions have taken him to both the North and South Pole in the past. This could be their toughest challenge yet however, as they hope to reach 90°N in just 49 days, setting a new speed record in the process.
The duo knows that this won’t be an easy task. On their way to the Pole they’ll face massive blocks of ice – many the size of cars – that they’ll be forced to scramble around or over. They’ll also have to contend with large sections of the Arctic Ocean that will be unfrozen, creating a completely different obstacle. Of course, the weather is as unpredictable and challenging as any place on Earth, with sub-zero temperatures, extremely high winds, and frequent blizzards. Throw in a polar bear or two, and the constant struggle against negative drift – the natural tendency for arctic ice flow southward away from the Pole – and you begin to understand the challenge of the task they now face.
Ryan and Eric estimate that they’ll cover approximately 500 miles on their journey, which means they’ll need to average a little more than 10 miles a day if they hope to reach their goal in the allotted time. That might not seem like much, but considering how challenging the Arctic can be, there will probably be more than a few days where ten miles might as well be 100.
Environmental conditions have deteriorated in the Arctic over the past few years, which has made it more difficult for skiers to make this kind of journey. Wild and unpredictable storms have been the norm recently, and the breaking up of the ice has created all kinds of problems too. If they are to be successful, Ryan and Eric will not only need lots of skill and determination, but a bit of good luck as well.